The I.O.U.
by F. Scott Fitzgerald


The above is not my real name—the fellow it belongs to gave 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 colledge professors and others 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 need it. 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“


[…the rest of manuscript is unavailable; аttached to the manuscript of this story is a short, typed synopsis by Harold Ober, which reads: “Cleverly written story. Almost a satire on publishing business. Told by a publisher. He brings out book by famous psychic research man, purporting to be communication with his nephew killed in War [WW1]. Publisher goes to Ohio to visit author. The nephew who has been in prison camp arrives at same time. Girl he was engaged to also there. Both are angry at author & publisher. Book is selling at great rate. Shows nephew dancing with angels in filmy garments. Publisher offers them money to keep quiet for a while—but native of town arrives. Recognizes nephew because he owes him $3.85 lost at poker. Publisher decides to publish only love stories and mysteries. HO.”]


About nine months after beginning his association with the Paul Revere Reynolds agency and his relationship as a client of Harold Ober, Fitzgerald sent a manuscript with a letter to Ober. In this letter of 2 June 1920, Fitzgerald indicated that this story was “a plot that Sell particularly wanted for Harps. Baz and which I promised him.” Someone in the Reynolds office identified the story as “The I. O. U.” There is no evidence that the story was actually offered to Harper's Bazaar, and that magazine published no Fitzgerald stories during his lifetime. Ober obviously offered it other places, because on 17 July 1920, Fitzgerald wrote concerning the story again: “If ‘The I. O. U.’ comes back from the Post I wish you'd return it to me as I think I can change it so there'll be no trouble selling it.” No correspondence survives indicating whether Fitzgerald resubmitted the story in a new version or with a new title. There is not even a record of what magazines Ober offered it to. However, the manuscript and a typescript survive, and a note attached to the typescript shows that at some time (probably after Fitzgerald's death) Ober reworked or considered reworking the story in an attempt to make it salable.

Unfortunately Ober's assessment of “The I. O. U.” is not one of his better judgments. He seems to have read more complexity and subtlety into the story than actually exists. While it could be considered a “clever” story, and perhaps could have been worked up into a salable story, “The I. O. U.” is truly one of Fitzgerald's inconsequential efforts. The characters lack the charm of his flappers and the appeal of his young men in such stories as “Head and Shoulders,” “The Offshore Pirate,” or “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” — all published in The Saturday Evening Post in the same year. No, this time the magazine editors seem to have been more perceptive than Mr. Ober.
Note by Judith Boughman.


Перевод: Долг чести (А.Б. Руднев).