Jeff Giles
February 05, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

Careless People

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Sarah Churchwell
publisher
The Penguin Press
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it an A-

If you put all the books about F. Scott Fitzgerald in a stack, the resulting tower would be — apologies for the scientific jargon — really, really tall. In fact, it would almost certainly fall over. So it takes a bold writer to try tossing another one on the pile — and here comes one now! Sarah Churchwell’s Careless People concerns the writing of The Great Gatsby and the cultural and societal forces that inspired its superdrunk author. The book’s an unusual mix of criticism, biography, and true crime, all of it bound together by Churchwell’s lyrical prose and, frankly, the sheer force of her will. Not everything is new here (how could it be?), but it’s an evocative read. It belongs on the tower, even if somebody else’s book has to come off. A-

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