Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel

Scarecrow. 2013. 272p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780810891951. $45; ebk. ISBN 9780810891968. LIT
Batchelor (James Pedas Professor, communication, Thiel Coll., Greenville, PA; Cult Pop Culture: How the Fringe Became Mainstream) seeks to capitalize on the success of director Baz Luhrmann's recent Gatsby film adaptation with this exploration of the ways in which F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby has been employed in American culture. The book works best when it sticks to examining concrete uses of the book throughout the years. For example, it features a brief but intriguing discussion of how David Lynch included a passage from the novel in a late 1980s television ad for Calvin Klein. Batchelor does a good job of neatly summarizing the details surrounding the novel's composition and initial reception. Unfortunately, his numerous digressions on tangentially related topics such as the importance of literature, the decline of critical thinking skills in contemporary society, and the perils of corporate greed detract from these strengths. Although these issues are clearly important to the author, they hold less immediate appeal for those chiefly interested in reading about The Great Gatsby.
VERDICT While fans of Fitzgerald's work would be better served by Matthew Bruccoli's excellent biography Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, this title may still interest those wanting to investigate further the novel's enduring appeal.

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