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Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the…

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby

by Sarah Churchwell

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Would have liked it more had it not dragged as much as it did in the middle. I also found the connection to the unsolved murder a little tenuous, at best. However, it did make me want to reread [b:The Great Gatsby|4671|The Great Gatsby|F. Scott Fitzgerald|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361191055s/4671.jpg|245494] quite a bit. I do enjoy reading criticism of books I didn't particularly enjoy! ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
If you think Gatsby is one of the greatest 20th century novels as I do, then this is a very useful companion to it. Some excellent analysis of the novel well interspersed with biographical details and social history - although perhaps rather too much on the notorious murder case which may have influenced the novel. ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
I love true crime, and I love The Great Gatsby (I think its concluding sentences are honestly some of the finest ever written), so that I would love this book seemed like a given. And I did love this book, even more than I expected.

Churchwell explores the fascinating, heartbreaking, scandalous. and, yes, careless, lives of the Fitzgeralds. From Scott and Zelda's seemingly never-ending alcohol consumption and partying, to Scott's deep felt disappointment at the lack of commercial success for what he considered his finest writing, and Zelda's descent into a series of heartrending breakdowns, Churchwell makes their world and the time period they lived in come alive in vivid color.

Churchwell also expertly weaves in the still-unsolved Hall-Mills murder case, and how its scandal, adultery, and immediacy as (tabloid) newspaper fodder may have influenced The Great Gatsby.

History, mystery, and literary theory all combine to make for a fascinating non-fiction read. ( )
  seasonsoflove | Mar 24, 2016 |
In late 1922, twenty-six year old F. Scott Fitzgerald returns to New York to begin planning his novel The Great Gatsby. At the same time, in nearby New Jersey, a horrific double murder is followed by a botched police investigation and frenzied media circus. In Careless People, Fitzgerald scholar Sarah Churchwell follows Fitzgerald as he plans to write his most famous novel and investigates the impact of the events around him on the pages of The Great Gatsby.

The description of the Mills-Hall murders and the suggestion that they influenced Fitzgerald's writing was one of the first things that caught my attention when reading early summaries of Careless People. Yet, Churchwell's careful balance in detailing the atmosphere of the 1920's alongside the biographies of the Fitzgeralds is regularly weighed down by interruptions to describe the investigation into the murders. I found the sections that focused on Mills-Hall and their connection to The Great Gatsby to be somewhat distracting from the book as a whole and often wished they made up much less of the story.

But there is still much to appreciate in the pages of Careless People. Churchwell's research is meticulous, and her ability to blend history, biography and fiction into a single narrative is quite impressive. Careless People is a wonderful reminder of all the dynamics that come into play when writing a novel, as well as how far-reaching a piece of writing can be.

Read more at: www.rivercityreading.com ( )
  rivercityreading | Aug 10, 2015 |
Having recently read Z, I had high hopes for this book. While I found it interesting, with a lot of interesting historical detail from the 20s, it was not an easy read. It got to the point I felt like I was reading a doctoral dissertation. I would recommend it to anyone who is an avid fan of Fitzgerald and the Gatsby era. ( )
1 vote Jcambridge | Nov 16, 2014 |
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" Tracing the genesis of a masterpiece, a Fitzgerald scholar follows the novelist as he begins work on The Great Gatsby. The autumn of 1922 found F. Scott Fitzgerald at the height of his fame, days from turning twenty-six years old, and returning to New York for the publication of his fourth book, Tales of the Jazz Age. A spokesman for America's carefree younger generation, Fitzgerald found a home in the glamorous and reckless streets of New York. Here, in the final incredible months of 1922, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald drank and quarreled and partied amid financial scandals, literary milestones, car crashes, and celebrity disgraces. Yet the Fitzgeralds' triumphant return to New York coincided with another event: the discovery of a brutal double murder in nearby New Jersey, a crime made all the more horrible by the farce of a police investigation-which failed to accomplish anything beyond generating enormous publicity for the newfound celebrity participants. Proclaimed the "crime of the decade" even as its proceedings dragged on for years, the Mills-Hall murder has been wholly forgotten today. But the enormous impact of this bizarre crime can still be felt in The Great Gatsby, a novel Fitzgerald began planning that autumn of 1922 and whose plot he ultimately set within that fateful year. Careless People is a unique literary investigation: a gripping double narrative that combines a forensic search for clues to an unsolved crime and a quest for the roots of America's best loved novel. Overturning much of the received wisdom of the period, Careless People blends biography and history with lost newspaper accounts, letters, and newly discovered archival materials. With great wit and insight, acclaimed scholar of American literature Sarah Churchwell reconstructs the events of that pivotal autumn, revealing in the process new ways of thinking about Fitzgerald's masterpiece. Interweaving the biographical story of the Fitzgeralds with the unfolding investigation into the murder of Hall and Mills, Careless People is a thrilling combination of literary history and murder mystery, a mesmerizing journey into the dark heart of Jazz Age America"--"Since its publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby has become one of the world's best-loved books, delighting readers across the world. Careless People tells the true story behind F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, exploring in newly rich detail the relation of Fitzgerald's classic to the chaotic world he in which he lived. Fitzgerald set his novel in 1922, and Careless People carefully reconstructs the crucial months during which Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald returned to New York in the autumn of 1922 - the parties, the drunken weekends at Great Neck, Long Island, the drives back into the city to the jazz clubs and speakeasies, the casual intersection of high society and organized crime, and the growth of celebrity culture of which the Fitzgeralds themselves were the epitome. And for the first time it returns to the story of Gatsby and the high-profile murder that provided a crucial inspiration for Fitzgerald's tale. With wit and insight, Sarah Churchwell traces the genesis of a masterpiece, discovering where fiction comes from, and how it takes shape in the mind of a genius. Blending biography and history with lost and forgotten newspaper accounts, letters, and newly discovered archival material, Careless People is the biography of a book, telling the extraordinary tale of how F. Scott Fitzgerald created a classic and in the process discovered modern America"--… (more)

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