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Studio 360: American Icons: The Great Gatsby | [Kurt Andersen]

Studio 360: American Icons: The Great Gatsby

How does F. Scott Fitzgerald's immensely popular, compact novel capture the essence of the American Dream? We travel from the tony suburbs of New York to the Midwest and back again to find out.
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Publisher's Summary

"Gatsby" has become shorthand for the decadent 1920s: glamorous parties, linen suits, the yellow car, the casual flouting of Prohibition. The high life is observed by Nick Carraway, a shy young man from the Midwest. Novelist Jonathan Franzen explains how his own upbringing was a lot like Nick's.

Kurt visits Princeton's Firestone Library, where F. Scott Fitzgerald's work is preserved, including his original manuscripts - and his telegrams begging to change the book's title. Kurt finds a surprise.

Novelist Patricia Hampl recalls Fitzgerald's notorious, black-sheep reputation in their shared home town, St. Paul. She thinks the critics underestimated him: when it comes to modern life, other novelists - even Hemingway - were "slow on the uptake."

Gatsby may be the first great novel set in a suburb. Andrew Lauren, son of designer Ralph, explains why he wrote a movie about a hip-hop Gatsby in real-life East Hampton. Scholar Ruth Prigozy drives us out to Great Neck, the model for Fitzgerald's "West Egg", to see the view of the bay. We get lost on the way.

Students in Garth Wolkoff's English class in Brooklyn admire Gatsby, and find Daisy suspiciously "chillax". Azar Nafisi, who taught the book in Tehran, recounts the time her university students put the book on trial. The decadent capitalist Jay Gatsby, she says, should be a warning for radical Islamists. [Broadcast Date: July 3, 2009]

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