I believe that a book by a well-known author should be given a full-window display—I don’t believe a mixed-window display of four books for four days is nearly as effective as that of one book for one day. To attract attention it might be a coy idea to set all the books upside down and to have a man with large spectacles sitting in the midst of them, frantically engrossed in the perusal of a copy. He should have his eyes wide with rapt attention and his left hand on his heart.
Seriously, the above title puzzles me. If I were a bookseller I should probably push the most popular book of the season, whether it was trash or not.
The vogue of books like mine depends almost entirely on the stupendous critical power at present wielded by H. L. Mencken. And it is his influence at second hand that is particularly important. Such men as Weaver1 in The Brooklyn Eagle, Bishop2 in Vanity Fair, Boyd in the St. Paul News, and dozens of others show the liberal tendencies which Mencken has popularized.
The growing demand for likely American books is almost directly created by these men, who give no room to trash in their columns and, city by city, are making the work of living writers acceptable to the wavering and uncertain “better public.”
I did not know This Side of Paradise was a flapper book until George Jean Nathan, who had read parts of it before publication, told me it was. However, I do not consider any of my heroines typical of the average bob-skirted “Dulcy”3 who trips through the Biltmore lobby at tea time. My heroine is what the flapper would like to think she is—the actual flapper is a much duller and grayer proposition. I tried to set down different aspects of an individual—I was accused of creating a type.
I think that if I were a bookseller with a real interest in better books I would announce the new good books as the publisher announced them to me and take orders from customers in advance.
“See here,” I would say; “this is a novel by Fitzgerald; you know, the fella who started all that business about flappers. I understand that his new one is terribly sensational (the word ‘damn’ is in the title). Let me put you down for one.”
And this would be approximately true. I am not in love with sensationalism, but I must plead guilty to it in this instance. And I feel quite sure that, though my books may annoy many, they will bore no one.
1. Poet and book-reviewer John V. A. Weaver (1893-1938).
2. Fitzgerald’s Princeton classmate John Peale Bishop (1892-1944).
3. The title character in the 1921 play by Marc Connelly (1890-1980) and George S.Kaufman (1889-1961).
Published in Bookseller and Stationer magazine (15 January 1923).