Readers, historians, and lovers of all things Gatsby joined together Wednesday for the first "One Town, One Book" discussion at the Hicksville Community Center. Through music, photographs, and passage readings, the intimate group of listeners realized that The Great Gatsby was in fact one of the truest portraits of life on the Gold Coast in the 1920s.
As residents sipped non-alcoholic mint julips, Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia began the presentation by reading her favorite Gatsby passage.
He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.
"We can all put ourselves into Gatsby," she said. "I think we've all known somebody like that."
While readers were able to relate to the stories from Gatsby, they were then brought into the real life of the Gatsby era. The audience was moved from the beauty of F. Scott Fitzgerald's language to the reality of the book with historian and photographer Monica Randall, who presented photos and stories to help readers realize that The Great Gatsby was in fact historical fiction.
"A bottle of champagne back then cost about $100...Now, think of the Gatsby party with a few hundred people and imagine their liquor bill," said Randall, who retold stories of Gatsby-like galas and murders.
The audience went from awe to outrage as Randall presented photographs of mansions that were torn down, including the reported inspiration for the book, Land's End, which was demolished in 2011. Some in the audience began brainstorming on how to organize a Gold Coast tour around the island after the news.
The big finale to the inaugural One Town, One Book program is Aug. 22 at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library.