The New Yorker has published a previously unpublished short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald called The I.O.U.
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.
Where did the story come from and how was it rediscovered?
He wrote “The I.O.U.” in the late spring of 1920, evidently after a specific request from Henry Blackman Sell, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Fitzgerald dropped the story off at Ober’s offices in New York, reminding him, “This is the plot that Sell particularly wanted for Harps. Baz and which I promised him. I think it is pretty good.” In July, Ober sent the story on to the Saturday Evening Post, but Fitzgerald asked for it back because he wanted to revise it. Ober returned the manuscript and typescript to Fitzgerald, who set it aside and concentrated instead on his second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned,” telling Ober “there will probably be no more short stories this summer.” Lost in the sparkling shuffle of Fitzgerald’s first fame, the story remained the property of the Trustees of the Fitzgerald Estate until it was rediscovered and sold to Yale University’s Beinecke Library in 2012.
This story, as well as several other previously unpublished stories of Scott’s will appear in a book called I’d Die For You: And Other Lost Stories that comes out in April.
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
Attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but was actually written by screenwriter Eric Roth for the film adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Who knew that a long article about F Scott Fitzgerald’s tax returns could be so interesting?
The five months of furious short-story writing in 1923-24 had left him with a stake of $7,000. In Great Neck, that would only cover two and a half months of expenses. How could he stretch the $7,000 to gain the time to finish Gatsby? Earlier, as he was struggling to save, a friend wrote from France to suggest that Fitz-gerald join the many Americans living well in Europe on the strong American dollar. The friend wrote that it cost one-tenth as much to live in Europe: he had just finished “a meal fit for a king, washed down with champagne, for the absurd sum of sixty-one cents.” Fitzgerald thought, based on the friend’s recommendation, living expenses on the off-season Riviera would be low enough to let him finish Gatsby without any short-story interruptions.
At the risk turning into a Benjamin Button fan site (gallery featuring 250 hi-res photos of Brad Pitt scanned from magazines coming soon!), here’s one more little bit of info. Jonathan McNicol has taken the text of Fitzgerald’s short story and will be serializing nicely-designed and proofread PDFs of the story on his site for the next 11 days. Chapter one has been posted and it’s a beaut.
Trailer for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. David Fincher, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pitt’s character starts off as an old man and ages backwards. Is it possible to buy tickets for this *right now*? BTW, the full text of the Fitzgerald short story on which the film is based is available online.
Not wanting to drag my current hardcover with me to the beach, I grabbed The Great Gatsby off the shelf as I left the apartment this morning. I cracked it open on the platform as I waited for the subway and continued reading on the train. Once I arrived at Rockaway Beach, I had a quick lunch and walked down the boardwalk to find a good spot for me and my blanket. Between swims and relaxing naps in the sun, I continued reading. A few hours later, I got back on the train toward Manhattan, reading all the way. As the train slowed for its stop at 14th Street, I read the final paragraph, closed the book, and stood just in time for the doors to snap open in front of me. Fitzgerald, some 80 years ago, must have written the book just for my trip today.