"The I.O.U." by F. Scott Fitzgerald Originally published in the March 20, 2017 issue of The New Yorker.
A few of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “lost” stories have popped up of late. The New Yorker published “Thank You for the Light,” published in August 2012 (see our post here), and there is a new collection of these stories coming out in late April called I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories. If you’re interested in learning how this collection came to be and how these stories have been found over the years (and it is fascinating!), you should read this interview between Deborah Treisman and Anne Margaret Daniel, the editor of the new collection.
I’m a fan of Fitzgerald’s work, so I’m always up to give these a try. Rarely, though, do I think we have been given a lost gem. Indeed, it shows that some wisdom may have been involved when the thing was not published in the first place. Still, they are welcome, especially when accompanied by an illustration by Seth.
And especially when they begin with this kind of verve:
The above is not my real name — the fellow it belongs to gave me his permission to sign it to this story. My real name I shall not divulge. I am a publisher. I accept long novels about young love written by old maids in South Dakota, detective stories concerning wealthy clubmen and female apaches with “wide dark eyes,” essays about the menace of this and that and the color of the moon in Tahiti by college professors and other unemployed. I accept no novels by authors under fifteen years old. All the columnists and communists (I can never get these two words straight) abuse me because they say I want money. I do — I want it terribly. My wife needs it. My children use it all the time. If someone offered me all the money in New York I should not refuse it. I would rather bring out a book that had an advance sale of five hundred thousand copies than have discovered Samuel Butler, Theodore Dreiser, and James Branch Cabell in one year. So would you if you were a publisher.
This one was originally written in 1920, toward the beginning of Fitzgerald’s career (he was only 23 but already a celebrity author with enough experience to have an embittered relationship with the publishing industry) and the beginning of that tumultuous decade that has always been associated with Fitzgerald’s work and life every since. The interview I linked to above tells how this story got lost in the first place, and it seems to have a bit to do with this new fame. Again, the interview is great stuff!
Also included with this week’s story is “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Imperfect Romance with The New Yorker,” by Erin Overbey and Joshua Rothman (here).
Anway, to the story! I look forward to your thoughts below!