Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 03 August 2012 00:00
The Town of Oyster Bay got it right with its “One Town, One Book” program, namely in choosing the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, The Great Gatsby. First, the novel has a Long Island setting with “West Egg” as the fictional name for Great Neck, plus it tells the ancient story of wealth, desire and ruin. T. S. Eliot called the novel “the first step forward in American literature since Henry James,” and indeed, Fitzgerald’s own career was a turning point. When Scribners published his first novel, The Beautiful and The Damned, it promptly took American literature in the twentieth century. Fitzgerald was a kind man who enjoyed promoting the work of others, including his friend, Ernest Hemingway who was also, at Fitzgerald’s urging, published at Scribners. So with The Great Gatsby, readers are not only introduced to an American classic, but also to the Golden Age of American Literature: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Eliot, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Hart Crane and others. Such creative outbursts only happen once or twice in the history of any civilization.