August 25, 2012
The New Yorker publishes the F. Scott Fitzgerald story it rejected 76 years ago
by Nick Davies
By the mid-1930s, F. Scott Fitzgerald had published some of his best known works—This Side of Paradise in 1920, The Great Gatsby in 1925, and Tender Is the Night in 1934. But in 1936, his work didn’t prove good enough for the New Yorker, which rejected his story, “Thank You for the Light.”
The Huffington Post reports that Fitzgerald’s grandchildren were the ones who came across the unpublished story, when they went into “the vault” while preparing some of his papers to include for an auction at Sotheby’s.
James West, a Fitzgerald scholar, got the piece to an agent of his estate, giving the New Yorker a second chance to print it, which it did in this week’s issue.
“Thank You for the Light,” is a very brief story about Mrs. Hanson, “a pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty, who sold corsets and girdles” and who finds that the people in her new selling territory disapprove, for the most part, of her smoking habit. She’s denied the opportunity to light up at every turn, and Fitzgerald captures her growing dissatisfaction and desperation. It’s really interesting to see such an early depiction of anti-smoking sentiment, from a time when cigarettes were so prevalent. In fact, the Los Angeles Times suggests that it might be a metaphor for Fitzgerald and alcohol.
The New Yorker’s “Book Bench” blog also posted passages this week from the magazine’s 1926 profile of Fitzgerald that aren’t exactly flattering. It’s called “That Sad Young Man,” and it criticizes Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda for their carelessness with money:
[His] popularity on two continents may explain something of the financial mystery which so appalls him. Ever since “This Side of Paradise,” money has poured in upon this young couple, thousands and thousands a month. And just as fast it has poured out. Where it goes, no one seems to know. Least of all evidently, the Fitzgeralds. They complain that nothing is left to show for it. Mrs. Fitzgerald hasn’t even a pearl necklace.
The full profile is available to New Yorker subscribers online here.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.