Tuesday, November 20, 2018

the last book I ever read (Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, excerpt five)

from Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell:

The cheating Black Sox, Rosy Rosenthal, and Charles Becker are all transposed directly into the fictional world, where they anchor The Great Gatsby in an actual American history of murderous corruption. He divagated over Gatsby’s various vices, but Fitzgerald always knew that his central character was a gangster: this is a story about cheating. Gatsby admits to Nick that he has been in the drug business and the oil business: by 1925, both enterprises were notoriously corrupt. The oil industry was at the heart of the scandal that would bring President Harding’s administration crashing down in 1923. Gatsby is implicated in the era’s widespread financial swindles as well: eventually Nick learns that he was fencing stolen bonds. In the drafts of Gatsby, Nick reports hearing that Wolfsheim was later “tried (but not convicted) on charges of grand larceny, forgery, bribery, and dealing in stolen bonds.”

Gatsby’s crimes are not merely an array of prohibition-era get-rich-quick schemes, although they are that. They are swindles, frauds, and deceptions, suggesting fakery and dishonesty. Everything about Gatsby is synthetic, including his gin—everything except his fidelity.

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