The BBC Culture website recently picked 1925 as “the greatest year for books ever”. 1925 was the year Ernest Hemingway’s collection In Our Time, Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece Mrs Dalloway and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby were released. Moreover, Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy came out the same year.
In her article on the BBC website, journalist Jane Ciabattari explained that she arrived at this conclusion by searching for a cluster of landmark books, debut books and major masterpieces published that year then evaluating their lasting charm on readers and if they explored human dilemmas and joys in memorable ways. She also examined whether the said books altered the course of literature by influencing literary form or content and introducing key stylistic innovations.
‘‘All the aforementioned books certainly fulfill these criteria. But 1925 was also special because it brought “a vibrant cultural outpouring, multiple landmark books and a paradigm shift in prose style”, explained Ciabattari. “Literary work that year reflected a world in the aftermath of tremendous upheaval,” she wrote, referring to the first world war traumas reflected in Mrs Dalloway. Stein’s experiments with language, the foundation of the New Yorker magazine, and the general American postwar cultural excitement of what Fitzgerald dubbed “the Jazz Age” also graced 1925.
The definitive proof, according to Ciabattari, is the “shape-shifting’’ the novel has undergone, still based on these early inspirations – and the continuing resonance of Nick Adams, Jay Gatsby and Clarissa Dalloway”.