The Great American Novel Turns Ninety
Editor’s Note: Today marks the ninetieth anniversary of Scribner’s publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. First published on April 10, 1925, Fitzgerald’s third book stands as the supreme achievement of his career.
To celebrate this occasion, Scribner has collected comments from writers on how Gatsby has influenced their work, their favorite lines from the book, and their thoughts on this enduring classic. Here is Scribner editor and associate marketing director Kara Watson on her relationship to this remarkable novel.
During my junior year of high school, my English teacher spent several weeks preparing us for the honor of reading The Great Gatsby. I’d had the same teacher for tenth-grade English and in those many months under his tutelage, studying Chaucer and Shakespeare, Hemingway and Hawthorne, I had never known him to speak so reverently of a text. Chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, he dazzlingly brought Fitzgerald’s book to life, and for the first time I grasped the link between literature and society and learned firsthand how an excellent teacher can change the course of one’s life. I had always been a committed reader, but my academic fate as an English major and my professional future in publishing was pretty much sealed with that class.
In college, a Scribner paperback edition of The Great Gatsby was my most prized possession. Heavily underlined and annotated, the book had girlish stars in the margins alongside favorite quotes such as, “I like large parties. They’re so intimate.” My then-boyfriend repeatedly asked if I would give him this priceless copy, and in what I considered to be a romantic gesture, I thrust it into his hands on graduation day and never saw my beloved book again. I learned to guard my heart and my library much more closely.
A friend who later became my husband walked me home on a moonless night. With the Sawtooth Mountains looming behind us, we lingered at the foot of my driveway. We worked together at the local bookstore and had spent months talking almost exclusively about books. But we had shied away from the subject of our personal favorites. “Tender Is the Night,” I then declared, having decided that Gatsby was too generic a response. He, who reads more widely than anyone I have ever known, considered this. “But wouldn’t you agree The Great Gatsby was the true masterpiece?”
Nine years ago, I started working at Scribner. Here I have the unbelievable good fortune and somewhat anachronistic distinction of being listed as the “editor” of Fitzgerald’s works, including my official favorite book. While the job mostly consists of hunting down pirated editions and confirming the number of millions of copies in print, it has also given me the opportunity to meet the keepers of the flame at Fitzgerald’s former literary agency, Harold Ober Associates, and to introduce Gatsby to new audiences. My belief in the green light is unwavering.
I proudly invite you to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of The Great Gatsby along with Jennifer Egan, Anthony Doerr, Ann Beattie, Michael Cunningham, and many others. You can read more at Scribner Magazine.