Great Gatsby

Meg Waite Clayton, claims The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, is considered Fitzgerald’s finest work. While he achieved limited success in his lifetime, he is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

The then-29-year-old Fitzgerald wrote of the novel before it was published, “It represents about a year’s work and I think it’s about ten years better than anything I’ve done.”

The New York Times called it “a curious book, a mystical, glamorous story of today.” But others weren’t enamored. The New York World ran a review under the headline “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Latest Dud” (ouch!), and Perkins wrote at the time that so many people attacked him over the book that he felt “bruised.”

Veterans of WWI #

America entered the first world war reluctantly and its veterans did not receive a warm welcome home.

At the start of 1920 the US entered a sharp deflationary recession lasting eighteen months. In 1919 labor and racial unrest, as well as political uncertainty, had provoked riots and the so-called Red Summer, which led to a draconian crackdown ending in the Palmer Raids of January 1920, during which at least three thousand people were arrested, almost all of whom were immigrants, accused of being leftists.

Articles with headlines such as “Raids Drive ‘Reds’ to Cover” on the front pages of Hearst’s papers reported that hundreds of “aliens” and “radicals” were being summarily deported, beneath a masthead reading “America First!” That slogan had dominated the presidential campaign of 1916, helped persuade America to vote against joining the League of Nations, and remained so popular that Warren G. Harding rode it to the White House in November 1920.

On May 1, in cities across America, returning veterans attacked socialist groups celebrating the Bolshevik revolution; in New York, homemade bombs were discovered addressed to politicians, while thousands of servicemen roamed the streets in search of “reds” and raided meeting places, including the offices of a socialist daily, The Call, where a man jumped twenty-five feet from a window to escape the mob.

During Hoover’s rule, veterans of WWI, demand money promised for time served. When denied, they camped out for five weeks. Hoover declares the veterans a communist front. Tanks and infantry men attacked the veterans with 54 injured and 134 arrested.

It was World War II, though, that gave “The Great Gatsby” a real boost in readership. As the war came to a close, 150,000 pocket-sized “Armed Services Edition” paperbacks were sent to soldiers, men who were perhaps left dreaming of swapping their uniforms for all those monogrammed shirts, and almost certainly of Daisy. The paperback was reprinted five times by 1954.