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The Cultural History of the Great American Novel

Bob Batchelor

In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald produced his third novel, a slim work for which he had high expectations. Despite such hopes, the novel received mixed reviews and lackluster sales. Over the decades, however, the reputation of The Great Gatsby has grown and millions of copies have been sold. One of the bestselling novels of all time, it is also considered one of the most significant achievements in twentieth-century fiction. But what makes Gatsby great? Why do we still care about this book more than eighty-five years after it was published? And how does Gatsby help us make sense of our own lives and times?

Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel, Bob Batchelor explores the birth, life, and enduring influence of The Great Gatsby—from the book’s publication in 1925 through today’s headlines filled with celebrity intrigue, corporate greed, and a roller-coaster economy. A cultural historian, Batchelor explains why and how the novel has become part of the fiber of the American ethos and an important tool in helping readers to better comprehend their lives and the broader world around them.

A “biography” of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, this book examines
The Great Gatsby’s evolution from a nearly-forgotten 1920s time capsule to a revered cultural touchstone. Batchelor explores how this embodiment of the American Dream has become an iconic part of our national folklore, how the central themes and ideas emerging from the book—from the fulfillment of the American Dream to the role of wealth in society—resonate with contemporary readers who struggle with similar uncertainties today. By exploring the timeless elements of reinvention, romanticism, and relentless pursuit of the unattainable, Batchelor confirms the novel’s status as “The Great American Novel” and, more importantly, explains to students, scholars, and fans alike what makes Gatsby so great.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 316Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8108-9195-1 • Hardback • November 2013 • $45.00 • (£27.95)
978-1-4422-4907-3 • Paperback • March 2015 • $25.00 • (£15.95)
978-0-8108-9196-8 • eBook • November 2013 • $44.99 • (£27.95)
Bob Batchelor is James Pedas Endowed Chair in Communication and executive director of the James Pedas Communication Center at Thiel College. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including: The 1900s; The 1980s; The 2000s; and American Pop: Popular Culture Decade by Decade (4 volumes), Cult Pop Culture (3 volumes) and John Updike: A Critical Biography (2013). He is founding editor of the Popular Culture Studies Journal and editor of the Contemporary American Literature series published by Rowman & Littlefield.
Few are bold enough to use the term "great American novel" anymore. Fewer still are those who can make a compelling case for its application. . . .Batchelor claims this status for The Great Gatsby, and his arguments are captivating, readable, and convincing. His embrace of didactic purpose for literature is daring. . . .Putting the genie of postmodernism back in the bottle is impossible--even if one wanted to--but a return to appreciation of the worth of "deep" reading in the development of critical thinking skills would have salutary results in the general reading population as well as the critical realm. To that end, Batchelor asserts early on that Fitzgerald's "inherent ambiguity enables readers to use the novel as a barometer for measuring their own lives and the culture they inhabit." He demonstrates how Gatsby accomplishes this feat by carrying enough intellectual freight to defy categorization and to remain relevant to American society. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers.

Batchelor seeks to capitalize on the success of Baz Luhrmann's recent Gatsby film adaption 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.
Library Journal

In what seems to be the first in the Contemporary American Literature series, Bob Batchelor, James Pedas Professor of Communication and executive director of the James Pedas Communication Center at Thiel College, author or editor of more than 20 books, founding editor of the Popular Culture Studies Journal, and editor of the Contemporary American Literature series, gives a narrative history of the critical and cultural fortunes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the novel The Great Gatsby from its publication in 1925 until 2013, when a new movie version starring Leonardo DiCaprio was released. The author includes extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index. . . .Batchelor covers the ground well, pointing up the similarities between the 1920s and the 2010s in America—the culture of fame, the gap between rich and poor, and the conspicuous consumption of the rich. . . .There have been numerous book-length studies about the novel, including those by Fitzgerald experts such as Matthew J. Bruccoli, but this is the most up-to-date source on its reputation and relevance for our times. This work . . . could be assigned to the reserve rooms or reserve shelves in high school or college libraries where The Great Gatsby is taught.
American Reference Books Annual