Thursday, August 11, 2016

Read This, Then That Vol. 1

The Great GatsbyFirst, let me introduce what this is: Read This, Then That is a new series I'll be doing from time to time with book pairings that complement each other.  They might be two fiction books, or a fiction and a nonfiction; two different portrayals of the same event, or the background information on the fiction, or just books that are thematically similar.  What gave me this idea was how similar Mary Chamberlain's The Dressmaker's War felt to Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, and how reading them together could be a very good pairing.  But for this first edition, I'm going to focus my attentions on a book that's famous to the world: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Read This...
Most people know about Gatsby.  He's obsessed with the green light across the way, the light that signifies, to him, his true love Daisy.  A story of a man who's not all he seems to be, seen through the eyes of an interloper on the scene, The Great Gatsby is known for its fantastical parties, starcrossed lovers, and ultimately how futile and hollow the lives these people have been living seem.  It's easily Fitzgerald's most famous book, and has become a sort of icon for fiction set in the 1920s, when "paper millionaires" abounded and life, for many, was very, very good.  This is definitely a book you've at least heard of.  There's a good chance you've already read it.  If not, give it a read, take it in...

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby...Then That
And then read about some of the things occurring in the world that Fitzgerald encountered while writing Gatsby. Sarah Churchwell's Careless People is both the story of the Fitzgeralds, both F. Scott and Zelda, during the time in which F. Scott was writing Gatsby, and of a double homicide that occurred and which very well might have inspired large chunks of the story.  It's nonfiction, but a riveting one, and seeks to not only portray the frantic partying of the Fitzgeralds but also plays with solving the double murder.  I really pondered the order in which to put these two books: which one to read first?  Ultimately, however, I decided that Gatsby should come first.  It lets you take in the story as a whole, without fishing around in for the details that come out in Careless People.  Reading Careless People second gives you the chance to follow along for the points of the "plot" that were paralleled in Gatsby, as well as fill in the background of the time period in which Gatsby was written and view the literary work with new eyes.  Careless People is definitely a longer book than Gatsby, but I think the writing is very engaging and that it's a worthy use of your time if you're at all interested in Fitzgerald, Gatsby, historical crimes, or the Roaring Twenties as a whole.


  1. Just want to say how much I'm enjoying this!! This is my second read of Gatsby and Im pairing it with a chapter of Careless People. After not being particularly blown away with the first reading of Fitzgeralds masterpiece, it's now turned into a very enjoyable read and I understand it so much better. Brilliant idea and I can't wait for the next pairing!!

    1. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it! I read Gatsby when I was in high school and, like you, wasn't terribly impressed. Reading Careless People later gave me a much bigger appreciation for Gatsby!