Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are You The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby hit theatres a week ago and its appearance stirs a number of thoughts.  By the way, I thought the movie was good but short of the greatness the trailer promised.

When I reflect back on high school and even junior high school (now called “middle school”), I recall reading classics that I enjoyed thoroughly- Catch 22, The Invisible Man, Lord of the Flies, 1984, Hamlet, The Assistant, Crime & Punishment, and others.  But there were also books I really didn’t understand or fully appreciate, quite simply because what made them so good is lost on teenagers.

Books with deep thought, reflection, and vision come about because the writer has experienced something or dreamed obsessively about something – or both.  But what does a 15-year-old know of the world and its dark secrets, its struggles and challenges, its excruciating disappointments and its broken dreams? Good literature, though it should be shared with our youth, is, to some degree, lost on them.

The Great Gatsby was one such book for me.  I read it in high school but didn’t really tap into what it meant until I saw it unfold on a movie screen three decades later.

Maybe I wasn’t alone.  It turns out when F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best–selling classic was released in 1925 it was to mixed reviews and disappointing sales.  In fact, when the author died in 1940, he thought the book was a failure.  It really was a generation after the first printing that the book caught on and later became a staple on high school reading lists. The book has sold 25 million copies worldwide and by 1960 it was selling 50,000 copies annually.  Now, it averages 500,000 copies a year and Scribner’s says it is their top-selling title – 88 years after its original publication.

What’s also interesting about The Great Gatsby is that it only caught fire when others championed it.  In 1941 the book was republished by a respected writer of the day and sparked renewed interest in the work.  A year later the newly formed Council on Books in Wartime was distributed155,000 copies of the book for free to soldiers overseas.  This spurred the media to write about Fitzgerald in a different light.  Then, in 1945, Armed Services Editions gave away 150,000 copies to its military personnel.

Is there another Great Gatsby already out there, waiting to be discovered and championed? I have no doubt they exist and will always exist. 

Are you The Great Gatsby?


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2013 

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