In an all-too-brief professional career of approximately twenty years, Fitzgerald wrote 178 short stories, most of them for sale to commercial magazines of the 1920s and 1930s. Thirty-nine of these stories were collected in four separate volumes, one accompanying each of the four novels which Scribners published during Fitzgerald’s lifetime: Flappers and Philosophers (1920) was the companion volume for This Side of Paradise (1920); Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) for The Beautiful and Damned (1922); All the Sad Young Men (1926) for The Great Gatsby (1925); and Taps at Reveille (I935) for Tender is the Night (1934). In addition, he wrote a play, The Vegetable, published by Scribners in 1923, and scores of nonfiction pieces, many of which appeared in commercial magazines during his lifetime. At the time of his death he was working on an elaborately conceived novel, The Last Tycoon,which was published posthumously in I94I as a fragment with Fitzgerald’s own notes. When he was not writing for publication, Fitzgerald wrote about his life and about his observations on life in his ledger and in his notebooks, both of which are now available in book form. In spare moments he wrote letters—letters to Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribners; letters to his literary agent Harold Ober; letters to literary acquaintances, friends, and family—letters, often about his writing, which now fill four substantial volumes. Above all else Fitzgerald was a writer, a literary artist, who early shared with Edmund Wilson his immodest goal of becoming “one of the greatest writers who ever lived” (Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, 70).
By “one of the greatest writers,” Fitzgerald seems at least at the beginning to have meant “one of the greatest novelists,” regarding the writing of short stories as something that he had to do to support himself while he wrote the novels that, as he saw it, would be his main literary legacy and the primary exhibit of his greatness as a writer. In 1925 Fitzgerald explained to Ernest Hemingway that writing short stories for popular magazines was “whoring but that he had to do it as he made his money from the magazines to have money ahead to write decent books” (Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, 153). He soon learned, of course, that short story writing could be quite profitable. As he remarked to Ober in 1922, “By God + Lorimer [editor of the Saturday Evening Post, which published most of Fitzgerald’s stories in the twenties], I’m going to make a fortune yet” (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 36), a prediction that in retrospect was not far off the mark. In 1925, for example, he earned over $11,000 from short stories, nearly three times as much as he made from book royalties during that year; in 1930, his income from stories was over $25,000, which accounted for more than 80 percent of his total earnings for the year. His lifetime earnings from the sale of stories to magazines amounted to approximately $250,000, over half the amount of his total earnings from all sources, including royalties and scriptwriting in Hollywood, combined.1 Understandably, he complained off and on all of his life to friends and acquaintances that his “popular” efforts earned such disproportionately high prices in relation to his “serious” fiction.
However, Fitzgerald’s public attitude toward his story-writing reflected in comments like those above to Ober and Hemingway was in fact misleading, perhaps deliberately so, in its depreciation of the value of his stories, the writing of which played such an extraordinary role in the development of his talent as a literary artist. Partly because of his attitude, but also because the four story collections that Scribners published as companion volumes to his novels contained stories from slick popular magazines that had paid Fitzgerald handsomely for his contributions, contemporary critics were quick to find weaknesses in his story collections, frequently damning individual stories as potboilers. For example, H. L. Mencken, who often praised Fitzgerald and who published some of his best early stories in the Smart Set, referred to the flapper “confections.”2 A frequent refrain in the reviews of the second collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, was that Fitzgerald had already received high prices for many of the stories contained in the volume, a view expressed in one reviewer’s observation that Fitzgerald was making “financial hay while the popular sun is shining.”3 And though the contemporary reception of All the Sad Young Men was much more favorable than that of any preceding Fitzgerald story volume, the litany of such phrases as “uneven,” “popular magazine fiction,” and “money-making” continued to appear, unfairly so, it seems, for this extraordinary collection, particularly in view of the fact that Fitzgerald had taken pains to exclude his most popular stories from the volume. In a similar vein, Taps at Reveille, the final collection of stories, elicited backhanded compliments including one which praised Fitzgerald for being “entertaining… [and] slickly so.”4 With each collection of stories, praise for occasional brilliant performances, as in the case of such stories as “May Day,” “The Ice Palace,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “The Rich Boy,” “Winter Dreams,” and “Babylon Revisited,” was typically diluted with criticism of the slickness of other selections. After Fitzgerald’s death the myth—originating, among other places, in contemporary reviews of his story volumes—that there was “Fitzgerald A,” who was the serious writer, and “Fitzgerald B,” who brought “home the necessary bacon,” persisted.5 And even a decade after Fitzgerald’s death, Arthur Mizener in his The Far Side of Paradise (1951), maintained that the stories were Fitzgerald’s inferior output, the creation of which had presented moral conflicts that would “haunt his career from beginning to end” (Mizener, Far Side, 94).
Now, over a century after Fitzgerald’s birth and nearly a half-century after Mizener’s pioneering critical biography, virtually all of Fitzgerald’s 178 stories have been collected in hardbound volumes, six books devoted exclusively to his short fiction have been published, and more than a hundred articles or chapters devoted to the stories have appeared in books and scholarly journals. And whereas Matthew J. Bruccoli could observe accurately in 1979 in his introduction to The Price Was High: The Last Uncollected Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald that “the role of the stories in Fitzgerald’s development as a writer is still not properly understood”;6 and whereas Jackson R. Bryer in his The Short Stories of F Scott Fitzgerald: New Approaches in Criticism (1982) could properly lament the dearth of scholarly attention that the stories had received to that point (xi), the last decade of Fitzgerald scholarship has established a solid foundation upon which one can begin to make an accurate appraisal of Fitzgerald’s short story canon. This relatively brief time of intensified scrutiny of the stories has firmly established a number of well-documented conclusions about the stories, some of them rather predictable, some much less so. First, many of the stories praised in Fitzgerald’s lifetime for their artistic brilliance have been shown to be, if anything, more carefully conceived and artfully crafted than they had been thought by Fitzgerald’s contemporaries to be. Alice Hall Petry, for example, in her book-length study of the stories collected in the four volumes during Fitzgerald’s lifetime, discovers layers of complexity in such stories as “The Ice Palace,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” and “May Day,” as well as in such well-known, but less often examined ones as “Benediction” and “The Adjuster” (Petry, Fitzgerald’s Craft of Short Fiction, xi), complexities like those which John A. Higgins began to explore in his F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study of the Stories (1971). And in a somewhat different vein, new studies, particularly those contained in Bryer’s New Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Neglected Stories, have pointed to underexamined and undervalued performances, among them, “The Spire and the Gargoyle,” “Dalrymple Goes Wrong,” “Benediction,” “Outside the Cabinet Maker’s,” and “Jacob’s Ladder.”
Also in the course of analyses such as those contained in Bryer’s The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Approaches in Criticism, a number of scholars have begun to examine subtle connections between related stories not obviously connected to each other. While some individual stories were conceived of as part of a series (those in the Basil Duke Lee and Josephine Perry series, or the Pat Hobby series, for example), others are connected less directly, and their connections had for decades after Fitzgerald’s death been largely overlooked. Lawrence Buell’s study of Fitzgerald’s “fantasy stories,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “The Adjuster,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons,” and others, is one of a number of studies which have explored subtle, previously ignored connections between stories, as is C. Hugh Holman’s analysis of the Tarleton, Georgia, trilogy, including “The Ice Palace,” “The Jelly-Bean,” and “The Last of the Belles” (Bryer, New Approaches, 23-38; 53-64). And finally, the stories have entered the era of post-structuralist analysis and gender studies, revealing further evidence of their timeless value in documenting the degree to which they address, sometimes with surprisingly post-modernist vision, enduring aspects of the human condition. Susan F. Beegel, for instance, applying to the short stories a perspective used earlier by Sarah Beebe Fryer in her study of the novels, Fitzgerald’s New Women: Harbingers of Change, examines the degree to which a story often regarded as simply “humorist” like “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” provides in fact a serious contribution to the discourse in contemporary women’s studies (Bryer, New Essays, 58-73).
Any examination of Fitzgerald’s short story canon must, of course, take into account those issues referred to above, many of them prompted as they have been by careful analysis undertaken in light of late twentieth-century critical theory; it must acknowledge the richness of Fitzgerald’s very best stories; it must search for undiscovered strengths in the neglected stories; it must find connections in those stories not ordinarily connected in an effort to examine tropes that wind through the body of Fitzgerald’s fiction, short and long; and it must examine the degree to which Fitzgerald’s short fiction, often through subtext, both deconstructs post-World War I values and also speaks to issues that transcend the modern. Any thorough study, however, must also be undertaken with an eye on inclusiveness: it must account for, or at least be able to account for, the place of every single story, the weakest and the strongest, in Fitzgerald’s overall development as a professional writer and literary artist. Ultimately it must work toward reconciling the existence of “Fitzgerald A” and “Fitzgerald B,” and finally keep open the possibility that the two Fitzgeralds, the short story writer and the novelist, may finally have been in much closer touch with each other than conventional wisdom has thus far placed them.
It is thus important in considering Fitzgerald’s short stories to acknowledge from the beginning that he was a literary artist who was also a professional writer. The relationship between his short story writing and his novel writing in the development of his literary artistry could easily serve as a paradigm for the central dilemma of professional authorship, described by William Charvat in The Profession of Authorship in America in this way:
The terms of professional writing are these: that it provides a living for the author, like any other job; that it is a main and prolonged, rather than intermittent or sporadic, resource for the writer; that it is produced with the hope of extended sale in the open market, like any article of commerce; and that it is written with reference to buyers’ tastes and reading habits. The problem of the professional writer is not identical with that of the literary artist; but when a literary artist is also a professional writer, he cannot solve the problems of the one function without reference to the other. (Charvat, Profession, 3)
Early in his career Fitzgerald grasped the seemingly conflicting demands on the literary artist who is also a professional writer, and he spent much of his life reconciling them.7
Indeed, in a retrospective look at his career immediately preceding the publication of This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald notes the point at which he recalls becoming aware of the required structure of a professional author’s life: “While I waited for the novel to appear, the metamorphosis of amateur into professional began to take place… the stitching together of your life in such a way that the end of one job automatically becomes the beginning of the next” (Crack-Up, 86). In practical terms this meant, for the moment, that Fitzgerald, until This Side of Paradise began earning money, needed to support himself by writing short stories that would pay his bills. With this realization, he began a cycle that would continue until his death: he would write stories to sustain himself and his family between novels—novels, as it turns out, whose royalties rarely provided him more than a brief respite from story writing. On one level, then, throughout his life Fitzgerald continued writing stories, as he told Hemingway, “to have money ahead to write decent books” (Hemingway, Moveable Feast, 153). On another level, he came to what was perhaps the even more important realization that he could use the stories as a workshop for subjects, themes, and techniques that he would continue to develop in later stories and novels. The foundation for this use of the magazines as a workshop for later works was established long before This Side of Paradise went to press in the earliest years of his apprenticeship.
Fitzgerald’s apprenticeship began when he was thirteen, with the 1909 publication in St. Paul’s Academy’s Now and Then of a detective story, “The Mystery of the Raymond Mortgage”; it ended with the 1917 publication in Princeton’s Nassau Literary Magazine of what is clearly the most complex of his juvenile pieces, “The Pierian Springs and the Last Straw.” The thirteen stories of Fitzgerald’s apprenticeship were scattered among Now and Then, the Newman News (the Newman School’s literary magazine), and the Nassau Literary Magazine. Few would argue that there are neglected masterpieces among Fitzgerald’s apprenticeship stories though there are clearly brilliant moments in many of them. Nor would one likely suggest that there are startling connections between any single juvenile story and Fitzgerald’s best mature work, a point noted by John Kuehl in his introduction to The Apprentice Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “the points of similarity… are scattered rather than clustered; no one juvenile work shares themes, characters, and techniques with any single work written during maturity” (Apprentice Fiction, 15). What one can see by following the apprenticeship stories chronologically, however, is Fitzgerald’s intuitive development in rather clear stages of the talent that would reach its high point in The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, as well as in many of the extraordinary stories that cluster around these novels.
The four earliest stories, which appeared in Now and Then, show a young Fitzgerald experimenting with first-and third-person points of view, and managing particularly well in the first-person narratives such as “The Room with the Green Blinds” to approach what Malcolm Cowley referred to as “double vision” (Kazin, F Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work, 146): his ability to immerse the reader in experience at an emotional and sensory level, while at the same time allowing him to stand back at a distance and criticize the experience intellectually. In the three Newman News stories, on the other hand, Fitzgerald seems less concerned with technical matters than with developing the leisure-class material that will later become his trademark, focusing particularly in two of the stories, “A Luckless Santa Claus” and “The Trail of the Duke,” on the femme fatale, who will figure prominently in This Side of Paradise and in such flapper stories as “The Offshore Pirate” and “Rags Martin-Jones and the Pr-nce of W-les,” to name two of more than a dozen. While all three of the Newman News stories have trivial plots, they are important in marking the point in Fitzgerald’s life when he laid claim to what he came to consider his material: youth, wealth, and beauty; and they are noteworthy in pointing ahead to the kind of brilliant prose passages that were the saving grace of even his weakest stories, prose that would lead Dorothy Parker to comment that, though Fitzgerald could write a bad story, he could not write badly. Even the earliest stories of his apprenticeship contain such passages, among them this one from “The Trail of the Duke”: “Inside, through screen, window and door fled the bugs and gathered around the lights like so many humans at a carnival, buzzing, thugging, whirring… In the flats that line upper New York, pianos (sweatting [sic] ebony perspiration) ground out ragtime tunes of last winter and here and there a wan woman sang the air in a hot soprano” (Apprentice Fiction, 54).
Not surprising, of course, is the fact that Fitzgerald’s most sophisticated apprenticeship stories are the ones he wrote while an undergraduate at Princeton, those six stories that appeared in the Nassau Literary Magazine, several of which were later revised and published in the Smart Set (e.g., “Tarquin of Cheepside,” “The Ordeal,” “Babes in the Woods”) and some of which were incorporated with changes into This Side of Paradise after their publication in both the Nassau Lit and the Smart Set (e.g., “Babes in the Woods”). Though the Nassau Lit stories reveal a developing writer aware of intricacies of point of view and a writer, by this time, settled already into his leisure-class subject matter, they are perhaps distinguishable from the earlier stories mainly in their possessing a characteristic attitude that Fitzgerald would later take toward his material, an attitude that he would call his “stamp” of “[t]aking things hard”: “That’s the stamp that goes into my books so that people can read it blind like Braille,” he later remarked (Bruccoli et al., Romantic Egoists, 27). This stamp is most evident in two of the best of these stories, “The Spire and the Gargoyle” and “Sentiment and the Use of Rouge,” in which main characters “take hard” the lack of money and the transient quality of beauty.
It is, of course, unlikely that Fitzgerald consciously set out during the various phases of his apprenticeship to focus narrowly and systematically on a single aspect of his talent such as experimentation with subtleties of viewpoint; it is furthermore unlikely that he then proceeded to another, such as the claiming of an exclusive domain of material—youth, wealth, and beauty; or that he finally and knowingly marked all that he wrote with his “stamp” of “taking things hard.” It is true, however, that by the time he made the transition from amateur to professional, by the time he sold his first novel to Scribners and his first stories to the Smart Set and the Saturday Evening Post, the foundations of his mature talent—double vision, his material, and his stamp—were in place, granted of course that they would require and receive much refinement in the years to follow. In retrospect Fitzgerald had established with his apprenticeship stories a pattern by which he would develop themes, subjects, and techniques in his short stories that he would later experiment with and refine in novels and other stories. His extensive borrowing and reworking of earlier material for This Side of Paradise, in fact, led one critic to refer to the novel as “The Collected Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald” (Bryer, Critical Reception, 22). As he became more sophisticated, especially during and after the composition of The Great Gatsby, the “borrowing” became more subtle, as in the case of a story like “Winter Dreams,” which he referred to as “A sort of 1st draft of the Gatsby idea” (Dear Scott/Dear Max, 112). Later, as his alcoholism dulled the edge of his ability to compose freshly, particularly in the instance of his numerous revisions of Tender is the Night, he actually lifted complete passages from the cluster stories and used them unaltered in the novel, a fact which ultimately strengthened the novel as it limited the number of stories that he could consider including in Taps at Reveille, since he did not want to be accused of selling warmed-over fare.
From beginning to end, the relationship between Fitzgerald the short story writer and Fitzgerald the novelist was complex and integral. But about this relationship one is safe in making this general observation: he was at his best as a novelist during the time he was also writing his best short stories, during those periods when solving the problems of the professional writer seemed quite often to coincide with solving the problems of the literary artist. In the months during which Fitzgerald waited for This Side of Paradise to appear, and indeed during the two-year period leading through the publication of the first and second story collections, Flappers and Philosophers and Tales of the Jazz Age, the problems of the one did not seem to coincide with the problems of the other, and Fitzgerald’s transition into the profession of authorship was bumpy, a period of uncertainty regarding the audience for which he was writing and about the suitability of various subjects that he wished to explore in his short stories. Clearly he was buoyed up by the sale of his gimmicky flapper story, “Head and Shoulders,” to the Post and even more excited by the sale of its movie rights for $2,500, but he was frustrated by the fact that “The Ice Palace,” the second story bought by the Post and perhaps his best story to date, was delayed in its publication, apparently on hold until the magazine was able to sandwich it between the lighter flapper stories, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” and “The Offshore Pirate.” He was also baffled that Ober, who had become his agent in November 1919, had difficulty placing such “realistic” stories as “The Smilers” even with serious publications like Scribner’s Magazine. His frustration led him to write Ober, asking, “Is there any market at all for the cynical or pessimistic story except the Smart Set or does realism bar a story from any well-paying magazine no matter how cleverly it’s done?” (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 7). His difficulty in placing his excellent “realistic” story, “May Day,” which he finally sold to the Smart Set for a mere $200, must have provided a sobering answer, to which would be added the frustration he experienced when Ober had no luck selling the brilliant story, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” for a good price to a popular magazine like the Post and Fitzgerald virtually had to give it to the Smart Set for $300.
The obvious lesson regarding his short story writing that Fitzgerald was learning during this early period of exploration was that the magazines paying the highest prices for his stories, like the Post, preferred, with some exceptions, his light, entertaining, gimmicky stories, particularly his flapper stories. The more serious stories, especially those that had a naturalistic bent like “May Day” and the weak but deterministic “Dalrymple Goes Wrong,” could be sold, but usually only to low-paying, if more prestigious, publications like the Smart Set; and it was these stories, again with some exceptions, that such magazines preferred. The literary implications of these facts are clear: first, in order to earn money Fitzgerald appropriated subjects and settings with which he had always been comfortable—youth, the wealthy, and the glamorous—and packaged them in stories that would entertain a middle-brow reading audience, stories like “Myra Meets His Family,” “The Camel’s Back,” and “The Popular Girl.” But secondly, in order to please the audience he regarded as highbrow, those who might read the Smart Set and not coincidentally Mencken, who edited it, Fitzgerald experimented with literary naturalism, moving toward a “meaninglessness of life” philosophy that he seemed never able to embrace fully. His flirtation with naturalism led him to produce perhaps a half-dozen stories, among them “The Four Fists,” “The Smilers,” “The Lees of Happiness,” and “May Day,” this latter the sole triumph of his experimentation with naturalism. It finally led to what is usually regarded as his weakest novel, The Beautiful and Damned.
Of the thirteen published stories available for inclusion in Flappers and Philosophers, Fitzgerald selected eight that accurately represented the range of stories he had written in the first year of his professional career, and consequently the volume sharply underscored the tension between the popular audience for which he had been writing and the “literary” one. Two of the stories were from the Smart Set: “Benediction,” a reworked version of “The Ordeal” from the Nassau Lit and one of the best stories in the collection; and “Dalrymple Goes Wrong,” a weak naturalistic tale that Fitzgerald, usually a very good judge of the quality of his work, thought of at the time as “the best story I ever wrote” (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 5). Two of the stories, “The Cut Glass Bowl” and “The Four Fists,” were from Scribner’s Magazine, and are both serious, but self-consciously symbolic and overly didactic. The remaining four are from the Post: three of them, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” “The Offshore Pirate,” and “Head and Shoulders,” are ingenious flapper stories, and at least the first is worthy of the serious critical scrutiny it has, in fact, begun to receive; and finally “The Ice Palace” is a masterful North-South contrast, the first of what will be a trilogy set in Tarleton, Georgia, and unquestionably the best story in the volume.
It is fair to say that Fitzgerald during the year of the publication of This Side of Paradise, the year leading up to Flappers and Philosophers, was more sharply focused on the concern of the professional writer to earn a living than that of the literary artist to create works of lasting merit. As he struggled with the novel that would become The Beautiful and Damned he entered a dark, thankfully brief, period of his story writing, working under the spell of “the meaninglessness of life” philosophy that was for most of 1920 and 1921 the guiding light of his stories and of the novel in progress. “May Day” is the single great artistic triumph of his flirtation with naturalism, which also accounts for such relatively weak stories as “The Lees of Happiness,” “His Russet Witch,” and “Two for a Cent.” Even “The Jelly-Bean,” an underestimated piece and the second of his three Tarleton stories, was weakened by the deterministic philosophy. “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” which Fitzgerald wrote “utterly for my own amusement,” escapes the spell of naturalism and stands with “May Day” as the saving grace of the 1920-1 period.
When the moment came to assemble stories for Tales of the Jazz Age he was able to anchor the volume with “May Day” and “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” but he was forced to dip into the cache of his undergraduate pieces for “Jemina,” “Tarquin of Cheepside,” and “Porcelain and Pink,” and into the previously uncollected store of his earliest flapper stories, retrieving from it the light, frothy “The Camel’s Back,” which he perhaps saw as balancing such darker stories as “The Jelly-Bean,” “His Russet Witch,” and “Two for a Cent” (all written for Metropolitan Magazine under contract), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” (rejected by Metropolitan and published in Collier’s), and “The Lees of Happiness,” a story from the Chicago Tribune which chronicled a popular writer’s decline into a vegetable state. The bright side of this bleak period, from which came The Beautiful and Damned and his weakest story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age, is that he had during this time returned to a serious consideration of his role as literary artist, trying out what he regarded as a coherent theory for literary art and human behavior subscribed to by Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser, among other naturalists admired by Fitzgerald, though as it turned out, this was a theory not well suited to Fitzgerald either artistically or temperamentally. Ironically, by trading on the early popularity of his stories about flappers and young love, he had gained a measure of financial freedom and the security of knowing that Metropolitan would buy a fixed number of his 1920-1 stories before they could know, of course, that these stories were leading Fitzgerald toward a literary dead end. There has been much critical debate about the process that led the author of The Beautiful and Damned and of the stories in Tales of the Jazz Age to make what seems to have been an almost magical leap in three short years to the composition of his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. Granted there was energy and originality in This Side of Paradise; there were also isolated bursts of virtuosity in stories like “The Ice Palace,” leading up to the first story collection, Flappers and Philosophers; and there were extended works of extraordinary promise from the group of stories that finally worked their way into Tales of the Jazz Age, most notably “May Day” and “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.” Nevertheless, Fitzgerald’s early stories had only been related loosely to his novels, and then primarily in shared general subject, philosophy, and mood. After the publication of Tales of the Jazz Age, he began to reconcile the demands of professional writer and literary artist, skillfully using the stories he wrote for commercial magazines as a proving ground for ideas for novels, and also drawing upon narrative strategies and themes from his novels for subsequent stories, as he does, for example, in the case of “The Rich Boy,” which immediately follows The Great Gatsby and whose point of view and subject matter clearly grow out of the novel. Perhaps the most important story for understanding the leap that Fitzgerald was about to make in the direction of The Great Gatsby after All the Sad Young Men is “Winter Dreams,” written in September 1922 and the final story published under the terms of his contract with Metropolitan before that magazine went into receivership. With this story Fitzgerald began his break from the dark, deterministic stories that surrounded The Beautiful and Damned and began to look forward to The Great Gatsby, which he would complete in 1925. This “1st draft” of The Great Gatsby is a pivotal story in Fitzgerald’s use of the popular magazines as a workshop for his novels, demonstrating as it does his growing awareness of the fact that he can experiment with ideas in his stories that will be developed and refined later in longer works.
With few exceptions, the eighteen stories that lie between “Winter Dreams” and “The Rich Boy” show Fitzgerald using the commercial magazines in precisely this way; on the one hand earning from them enough money to carry him through the publication of The Great Gatsby, while on the other using them as a place to experiment with his evolving ideas, particularly those about romantic illusions and the American Dream. For this purpose he used two major short story markets he had cultivated in his first two years as a professional writer: the contract market, which he had discovered through his experience with Metropolitan, and the Saturday Evening Post, which had essentially been outbid by Metropolitan for Fitzgerald’s stories and which had not published one of his stories for two years. In December 1922 Fitzgerald signed a contract with the Hearst organization, by which he was paid $1,500 for an option on his 1923 story output with a guarantee that Hearst’s would buy at least six stories at $1,875 per story. Of the six stories Fitzgerald wrote under the terms of this contract, the two that most clearly illustrate his working through of ideas he would refine in The Great Gatsby are “Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar,” and “‘The Sensible Thing’” (bought by Hearst’s, but exchanged for another story and finally published in Liberty). In the first of these, Jim Powell of Tarleton, Georgia, embarks on a quixotic quest to rescue Amanthis from what he sees (wrongly as it turns out) as her loneliness, and is told by her at the end that “You’re better than all of them put together, Jim” (Price, 63), a comment similar to one that Nick makes to Gatsby near the end of the novel. In the second, “‘The Sensible Thing’,” George must leave Jonquil at what he perceives to be the irrecoverable golden age of their love to earn the money that will let him come back into her life. When he returns, he discovers that the original love is lost, never to be regained, a situation clearly anticipating Fitzgerald’s treatment of Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy. Typically, and again with few exceptions, the 1923 stories written with Hearst’s in mind are serious ones in which Fitzgerald treats, with varying degrees of success, serious, novel-related topics. In 1924 he returned for the first time in two years to the Saturday Evening Post and published in that magazine four stories dealing with success and American business. In these stories, “Gretchen’s Forty Winks,” “The Third Casket,” “The Unspeakable Egg,” and “John Jackson’s Arcady,” Fitzgerald became the Post’s resident expert on the American Dream, trying out in them ideas that would inform not only Gatsby’s experiences in the novel, but also George Wilson’s and Mr. Gatz’s as well. A third market for the Gatsby cluster stories was the American Mercury, a glossier version of the by-then-defunct Smart Set, which published “Absolution,” one of the most important stories of the period and the one referred to by Fitzgerald as a “prologue” to The Great Gatsby (Piper, F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Critical Portrait, 104). The publication of this story illustrates how committed Fitzgerald had become to the idea of using all of his work-in-progress, in this case a discarded prologue to a very early draft, which does not survive, of the novel that would become The Great Gatsby. The main exceptions to Fitzgerald’s advances in reconciling the conflicting demands of professional authorship and literary artistry during this period bounded by Tales of the Jazz Age and All the Sad Young Men come near the end of his completion of the novel, a time during which he reverted to old, tried material and produced such weak stories as “The Pusher in the Face,” “One of My Oldest Friends,” and “Not in the Guidebook” for Woman’s Home Companion.
What can be known for certain is that by the end of the crucial 1923-5 period, devoted to the time-consuming writing and producing of his play, The Vegetable, and also writing and publishing some twenty short stories, Fitzgerald had managed also to create his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. This novel succeeds in large part because he had developed a mastery of his craft far exceeding that in evidence in his first two novels. In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald constructs a story that operates on many levels and at varying levels of abstraction. On one level it is the simple story of Jay Gatsby’s love for Daisy Buchanan, a love story reminiscent of the one in “ ‘The Sensible Thing’ ”; on another it is a story of the American Dream, of the infinite promise that with hard work one can achieve the best that America has to offer, a subject he had dealt with in the Post success stories; and on another, it is a story of the ideal quest, which he had worked with earlier in “Winter Dreams.” Through skillful use of narrative point of view Fitzgerald manages in the novel to sustain the tension in the various levels of the story and communicate to the reader the kind of double vision that he himself had. And through his use of unforgettable images such as the eyes of T. J. Eckleburg and the Valley of Ashes he was able through the novel to convey, in Maxwell Perkins’s words, a “sort of sense of eternity” (Dear Scott/Dear Max, 84).
There are various schools of thought regarding Fitzgerald’s maturation as an artist during this time, particularly regarding the role of the short stories in his progress toward The Great Gatsby. One school, of which James E. Miller is a spokesman, attributes the leap largely to conscious aesthetic considerations such as Fitzgerald’s decision to abandon the artistic principle of “saturation” (evidenced in This Side of Paradise and in early, expansive stories) in favor of the Jamesian principle of “selected incident,” or to his absorption of Conradian principles related to point of view (Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald: His Art and His Technique). Another line of thought articulated by Milton R. Stern, among others, attributes the leap both to Fitzgerald’s increased aesthetic awareness and to a growth spurt in Fitzgerald’s maturity as well as a general broadening of his vision (Stern, The Golden Moment). This latter argument is elaborated upon with particular application to the short stories by Petry, who focuses sharply on “Fitzgerald’s changing perception of his wife and his increasingly astute understanding of his own responsibility for their troubled relationship [which] had a direct and immediate impact on his art” (Petry, Fitzgerald’s Craft, 6). This changing perception, as Petry sees it, accounts in large part for the radical improvement in the stories in All the Sad Young Men over those in Tales of the Jazz Age. To these observations must be added another, perhaps in part an extension of the ideas mentioned above, but worth emphasizing in regard to the stories. Fitzgerald, during the 1922-5 period, began for the first time in his professional career to see the demands of the professional writer to be, if not precisely the same as, then at least not entirely incompatible with, those of the literary artist, as the stories selected for inclusion in All the Sad Young Men clearly demonstrate. Four of the stories, “Winter Dreams,” “Absolution,” “ ‘The Sensible Thing’,” and “The Rich Boy,” have direct ties to The Great Gatsby and are among the strongest of Fitzgerald’s 178 stories. Four additional ones, “Hot & Cold Blood,” “Gretchen’s Forty Winks,” “The Baby Party,” and “The Adjuster,” though weaker, all deal with serious, Gatsby-related subjects such as lost ideals, strained marriages, and material success. Conspicuously absent from All the Sad Young Men are the gimmicky flapper stories so often singled out for criticism in reviews of earlier volumes, a consideration which no doubt figured in Fitzgerald’s decision to omit “Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar,” an important, though at least on its surface, commercial, Gatsby cluster story, from All the Sad Young Men.
In the years separating this third collection from his fourth and final one, Taps at Reveille—years during which Fitzgerald carried Tender is the Night through eighteen complete drafts to publication in 1934, during which his wife suffered two major mental breakdowns, and during which Fitzgerald himself battled on and off with alcoholism—he managed to publish an astonishing fifty-six stories, all but eight of them in the Saturday Evening Post, and many of them, including “Babylon Revisited,” among the finest of his career. Having shopped around for markets for his stories in the six years leading up to The Great Gatsby and All the Sad Young Men, Fitzgerald, during the period leading up to Taps at Reveille, settled into a sustained relationship with the Post, which was the mouthpiece of middle America during the 1920s and 1930s. He became, according to Ober, a virtual employee of the Post, primarily because it paid the highest prices for fiction of any magazine in America (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 192). During these years Fitzgerald earned prices ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 per story from the Post, and it came to serve as an ideal, predictable, and lucrative workshop for ideas, characters, and settings that he was developing for Tender is the Night.
The seventeen Tender is the Night cluster stories that appeared in the Post indeed reflect the extraordinary complexity of the novel itself, which explores through shifting viewpoints the intersecting stories of the American psychiatrist Dick Diver and his schizophrenic wife Nicole, tracing Dick’s tragic decline into emotional bankruptcy as it simultaneously documents Nicole’s ascent to greater emotional stability and independence. In five of the stories, “Love in the Night,” “A Penny Spent,” “Majesty,” “The Bridal Party,” and “The Hotel Child,” Fitzgerald develops the European setting, particularly the French Riviera, that will provide the backdrop for much of the novel. In some cases, as in “Love in the Night,” he experiments with specific scenes such as the Privateer yacht scene in the story that he will develop into the T. F. Golding yacht episode in the novel, an important one in which Nicole meets Tommy Barban again for the first time in five years. Eight other stories, “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Magnetism,” “The Rough Crossing,” “The Swimmers,” “Two Wrongs,” “One Trip Abroad,” “Indecision,” and “A New Leaf,” are essentially dress rehearsals for characters in Tender is the Night, in which Fitzgerald explores interactions between characters in the Dick-Nicole-Rosemary and Dick-Nicole-Tommy triangles in the novel. An additional group of four stories, “The Love Boat,” “At Your Age,” “Babylon Revisited,” and “On Schedule,” are close thematically to the novel, sharing particularly, as in “Babylon Revisited,” the novel’s mood of loss and regret, and in the other three stories the sadness of lost youth brought into high relief through relationships between older men and younger women, explored in the novel in the Dick-Rosemary relationship.
The Tender is the Night cluster stories are perhaps the most significant group of stories that Fitzgerald ever wrote when they are considered together and in the context of his uniting in them the concerns of the professional writer and literary artist. They show him in many cases walking a thin line between the demands of contemporary popular readers and discriminating critics, a feat all the more impressive given typical biases of his Post readers in the 1920s and 1930s against frank treatment of such subjects as alcoholism and suicide (“The Swimmers”); expatriation (“Majesty”); disillusionment (“The Love Boat”); and dissipation (“One Trip Abroad”), among others. But Fitzgerald, who had already written in The Great Gatsby one of the strongest indictments of American materialism and who was about to write in Tender is the Night a poignant prophesy of the decline of Western civilization, had indeed developed by the time of these stories a mastery of the craft that enabled him at least at times in magazine stories like many of these to write honestly, as his artistic conscience dictated, and at the same time to entertain an audience that seems in retrospect a rather unlikely one upon whom to try out his serious Tender is the Night subjects and themes.
The stories that cluster around Tender is the Night, of course, account for only seventeen of Fitzgerald’s Post contributions in the Taps at Reveille period; and the story of his success with this magazine, which reached a high point around 1930 with “Babylon Revisited,” as well as his gradual loss of it, marked in 1937 by his final Post story, “ ‘Trouble’,” is complex. In the first several years of the period, during which he was publishing the serious novel-related stories such as “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Magnetism” in the Post, Fitzgerald also began working on a group of retrospective stories dealing with the subject of adolescence. Among these are “Presumption,” “The Adolescent Marriage,” “A Short Trip Home,” and “The Bowl.” And though none of them, arguably with the exception of “The Bowl,” ranks high in his story canon, these stories, all containing young protagonists, foreshadow and, in fact, pave the way for the Basil Duke Lee-Josephine Perry stories, which were unquestionably popular successes, and in the cases of several individual stories, artistic triumphs.
The eight Basil Duke Lee stories taken together comprise a novelette of growth, chronicling the social and moral development of a resourceful boy, a romantic hero, not unlike Amory Blaine in This Side of Paradise (or Fitzgerald for that matter) in his adolescence. Typically, Basil’s adventures involve a beautiful, rich girl, Basil’s arch rival, and usually a situation that leads him to some conclusion about life that he has not thought about before. In one instance from “The Captured Shadow,” for example, Basil knowingly allows a small boy to catch the mumps so that the boy’s family—in particular, his attractive sister, who is scheduled to play the lead in one of Basil’s plays—will not be able to leave town on vacation; and though Basil is successful with his plotting, he comes through the experience wiser, as he does in virtually all of the stories. Fitzgerald’s success in this series comes mainly from his ability to entertain with the ingenious and hilarious situations in which he places Basil. As Ober told him, “I shall never be satisfied until I hear more about Basil, and I think everyone who reads the stories feels the same way” (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 116). But the stories succeed also because Fitzgerald is able to distance himself aesthetically from his subject in a way he had not been able to do with Amory Blaine, whom Basil in superficial ways resembles. Fitzgerald maintains this same kind of ironic stance in relation to Josephine Perry, the adolescent protagonist of five Post stories that chronologically follow the Basil series, though Josephine is by no means simply a female version of Basil. Whereas Basil was largely a sympathetic figure, who progressively endeared himself to the reader as he grew toward self-knowledge in episode after episode, Josephine is a spoiled rich girl who moves step by step toward the condition referred to in the title of the final story of the series, “Emotional Bankruptcy,” a state of emotional depletion which most readers will agree she has earned through her snobbishness and insensitivity to others.
In addition to the unquestionable artistic value of these stories is the fact that they played an important role in Fitzgerald’s maintaining the Post as a workshop for his novel. The early adolescence stories were scattered among the early Tender is the Night cluster stories; the Basil stories, published as they were almost back-to-back in 1928, in effect provide audiences with a one-year break from the dark novel-related stories such as “The Rough Crossing” and “The Swimmers”; and the Josephine stories appear in a kind of alternating pattern with the bleakest of the Tender is the Night stories such as “One Trip Abroad,” and “A New Leaf.” While there is no correspondence that reveals why Fitzgerald, in the midst of composing Tender is the Night, suddenly also began writing retrospective stories about adolescence, a partial explanation is that he knew these stories would be acceptable to Post editors because they would be popular with the magazine’s readers, a fact that he could not count on with the novel-related stories, which often pushed the limits of what was acceptable for a popular magazine. Thus these adolescence stories gave Fitzgerald a guaranteed income during an important period of the composition of the novel, and they allowed him to practice his craft, particularly that part of it related to narrative viewpoint and aesthetic distance, considerations of great significance in his most ambitious novel, Tender is the Night.
With the final Josephine story, “Emotional Bankruptcy,” Fitzgerald had begun to blend the serious concept of emotional depletion that is at the heart of Dick Diver’s story in the novel with his entertaining narratives about adolescence, and from approximately the time of this story forward he seemed, for whatever combination of reasons, to lose a sense of the tastes of his popular magazine audience that he was never able fully to regain. Between “Emotional Bankruptcy” and the publication of Taps at Reveille, he published twenty more stories in the Post, but virtually all of them lacked the spark of his Tender is the Night cluster stories and the Basil and Josephine stories. Most of the works of the period of Fitzgerald’s declining popularity with the Post are characterized by a retrospective quality that had, even as recently as 1928, worked to Fitzgerald’s advantage, as is evidenced by “The Last of the Belles,” in which Fitzgerald reached back into his early Tarleton, Georgia, series (including “The Ice Palace,” “The Jelly-Bean,” and “Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar”) and retrieved Ailie Calhoun, one of his most memorable heroines. But by 1933, even the best of his retrospective stories such as “More than Just a House,” lack freshness and are characterized by blurred focus and multiple plots, not always clearly related to each other. There is about his stories in the years immediately preceding Tender is the Night an almost desperate quality that one senses results from Fitzgerald’s searching for stories that he once wrote with such seeming effortlessness, stories that he could not now quite find. He attempted, for example, a series of loosely related stories involving the medical profession, including “Her Last Case,” “Zone of Accident,” and “One Interne,” but was unable to sustain it. The Post began rejecting more and more of his submissions, and his prices for individual stories began steadily dropping from $4,000 to $3,500 to $2,500, and finally to $2,000, which was the price he earned for his last Post story.
With the disappointment of his gradual but inevitable loss of the Post and the even more devastating critical reception of Tender is the Night (published in 1934), Fitzgerald clearly wanted to assemble the strongest possible story collection to serve as a companion volume for the novel. The Fitzgerald-Perkins correspondence outlines several alternatives for constructing what would become Taps at Reveille, including the possibility that it could be an omnibus volume containing strong selections from the three previous story volumes, supplemented by the best of his work since the last one (Dear Scott/Dear Max, 195-201). Finally, following the precedent set by those three volumes, they agreed to use only stories from the fifty-six published since 1926. Perkins favored a collection consisting primarily of Basil and Josephine stories, an idea that Fitzgerald opposed since he did not want critics to consider the book as his next novel. He also objected to filling the volume with his Tender is the Night cluster stories, since many of them had been stripped of scenes and passages that had been included in the novel, and would, if included, leave him open to criticism that he was recycling material. The two finally agreed on a volume that would include some of the Basil and Josephine stories (to be scattered through the volume rather than run as units), a few Tender is the Night cluster stories, and assorted selections representing the magazine work that Fitzgerald had done outside those two groups since All the Sad Young Men.
The volume that was finally published contained four Tender is the Night cluster stories: “Babylon Revisited,” which was unquestionably the strongest story in the collection; and “Majesty,” “Two Wrongs,” and “Crazy Sunday,” the last of these a strong story with ties both to Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon. Interestingly, “Majesty” and “Two Wrongs” are among the weakest of the novel-related stories, and there is no question that the inclusion of “One Trip Abroad,” “The Swimmers,” or “The Rough Crossing,” all too clearly linked to Tender is the Night in Fitzgerald’s eyes, in the place of either of them would have strengthened the volume. Five of the eight Basil stories were included, as were three of the five Josephine stories, which meant that they occupied more than half the volume. Outside of these groups Fitzgerald understandably chose “The Last of the Belles,” his beautifully nostalgic farewell to the South. The remaining choices, however, are curious: “One Interne,” from the aborted series of Post stories about the medical profession; “Family in the Wind,” one of the long rambling stories that manifests the lack of focus and disjointedness that caused Fitzgerald to lose the Post; “A Short Trip Home,” one of the adolescence stories which precedes the Basil and Josephine stories and weaker than “The Bowl,” which might have replaced it; and finally, “The Night Before Chancellorsville” and “The Fiend,” two relatively short pieces that had appeared in Esquire, for which Fitzgerald had just begun to write—stories exhibiting what would become known as his sparser, more economical “new manner,” but nevertheless stories weaker than numerous ones whose place they took in Taps at Reveille.
Whether by accident or design Fitzgerald had assembled each of his short story volumes in such a way that it would be representative of the various kinds of stories he had been writing since the volume that preceded it. In this, Taps at Reveille clearly is no exception; it does, however, differ from earlier volumes in foreshadowing, perhaps eerily so, the direction that his short story writing career would take in the years leading up to his death in December 1940. Taps at Reveille had been published in March 1935. As it went to press, Fitzgerald completed work on “Zone of Accident,” which would be the dead end of his series about the medical profession, represented in Taps at Reveille by “One Interne.” Also, while the collection was in press, he devoted two months to writing “The Passionate Eskimo” and “The Intimate Strangers,” the first two of what would become a group of stories written for the Post but rejected because of weaknesses evident in such Taps at Reveille stories as “Family in the Wind” and published finally in slick magazines such as McCall’s, Liberty and Collier’s, generally considered a step down from the Post. Then in December, he tried to launch a new series of stories about Gwen Bowers, a young girl approximately his own daughter’s age, a series clearly inspired by his success with the Josephine Perry stories. The Post bought the first two stories but rejected the third, in effect ending the series. His last success with the Post was bittersweet, a pilot for a series of stories about a nurse whose nickname, “Trouble,” provided the title for the first story and with sad irony predicted the series’ fate. There would be no sequel to this story, which earned for Fitzgerald only his 1925 price of $2,000; and though he would try many times after “‘Trouble’” to regain his favorite popular audience, he was never again able to write a story the Post would accept.
The two Esquire selections in Taps at Reveille (“The Fiend” and “The Night Before Chancellorsville”) point to what would emerge as the dominant force in Fitzgerald’s career as a short story writer in the last years of his life. Fitzgerald had sent these two stories to Esquire after its editor, Arnold Gingrich, had accepted a collaborative essay, largely the work of Zelda Fitzgerald, in early 1934. And Gingrich, who had long been an admirer of Fitzgerald’s work, encouraged him to send virtually anything he wrote for publication in Esquire. He would pay Fitzgerald “[$]200-250 for a mere appearance (1,000 to 2,000 words in any genre),” Fitzgerald reported to Ober (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 291). In the years that followed, Fitzgerald’s work would appear in Esquire forty-five times, thirty-six of these in the form of what could loosely be called short stories. All of these stories were written in Fitzgerald’s “later style,” which was characterized by pared-down prose, uncomplicated story lines, and generally sparse description—in essence all of those things that his Post stories had not been. While the Post stories, for example, had averaged 6,000 words, the Esquire stories were typically 2,000 words. And while the Post stories were heavily plotted and neatly resolved at the end, the Esquire stories were often built around a single, simple episode which was often left unresolved. In effect, Fitzgerald was able in the stories that he wrote with Esquire in mind to write as he chose to, knowing that his work would be published. The final effect of this latitude on Fitzgerald’s artistic development is debatable, but some of the immediate results were positive. In one of the shorter of these sketches, the 1,200-word “The Lost Decade,” Fitzgerald artfully captures his main character’s feeling of disorientation after he has come back from being “every-which-way drunk” for a decade by rendering his sensory experience of feeling a building’s granite and the texture of his own coat. In the longer “Design in Plaster,” he focuses on a single night in the life of Martin Harris, whose extraordinary frustrations in life are brought into high relief by the immediate dilemma of his having a broken shoulder. Thus with these two stories, to which can be added two others, “Financing Finnegan” and the later Pat Hobby story, “A Patriotic Short,” Fitzgerald added good stories to the body of his work. Unfortunately these strong stories are the exception, and far more of the Esquire sketches lack redeeming value, as in the case of one of the weakest, “Shaggy’s Morning,” a stream of consciousness narration from a dog’s point of view which fails utterly to make it clear why his reflections are worth reading about.
In the final year of his life Fitzgerald conceived of the idea of writing a series of stories about a “scenario hack” named Pat Hobby, whose sad predicament represented a caricature of what Fitzgerald feared he himself might become. The seventeen stories he developed in this series probably stand, if considered together, as Fitzgerald’s most worthwhile artistic achievement to emerge from his Esquire contributions. The individual Pat Hobby stories typically follow a pattern in which Pat starts at a low point in his life, finds an angle that seems worth pursuing to improve his plight, and then sinks again into failure. In a characteristic story, “Pat Hobby’s Secret,” for example, Pat comes close to success when he becomes the only one who knows the secret ending for a script whose writer has just been murdered; but his success is undermined when he develops amnesia, in part because he has witnessed the murder of the writer, and thus he loses the contract that he would have had if he had recalled the ending. In the strongest story of the Pat Hobby series and one of the best of his Esquire pieces, “A Patriotic Short,” Fitzgerald uncharacteristically gives Pat a past, which effectively draws the reader into his character much more deeply than usual, and in the process hints at what Fitzgerald might have done with this series if he had not been so reliant on turning the stories out quickly for the $250 that he seemed always to need so desperately in that last year.
Gingrich, understandably, defended the Pat Hobby stories as evidence that Fitzgerald was turning out “good copy” in the year before his death, and that these stories were his “last word from his last home” (PH, ix-xxiii). There is no question that Esquire provided an outlet for his story writing that he seemed unable to find elsewhere. However, if one takes a broad view of Fitzgerald’s twenty-year career, it becomes clear that the close relationship between his short story writing and his novel writing that he had spent his entire professional life developing is absent during the Esquire years. The composition dates of the Pat Hobby stories, after all, coincide with the composition period of The Last Tycoon, which Fitzgerald was laboriously working on when he died. Yet all that the Pat Hobby stories share with the novel is their Hollywood setting, whose particulars never seem to overlap. And clearly, there are no dress rehearsals for Monroe Stahr, Kathleen, or Cecelia Brady in the Esquire stories, as there were many dress rehearsals for Dick and Nicole Diver and Rosemary Hoyt in the stories leading up to Tender is the Night.
One might reasonably conclude, with only the thirty-six Esquire stories and The Last Tycoon fragment on which to form a judgment, that Fitzgerald himself ultimately gave up on reconciling the roles of professional author and literary artist that seemed for so much of his life to be a primary goal. The Pat Hobby stories, however, do not turn out to be Fitzgerald’s only “last word from his last home,” and there is good reason to believe that in that final year, more diligently than he had since his Tender is the Night cluster stories, Fitzgerald was working to reestablish the popular magazines as his “more orderly writer’s notebooks” for The Last Tycoon. Two stories, written in 1939 and 1940 and published posthumously, show him with vintage sparkle shaping for a popular audience other than Esquire his serious material from The Last Tycoon: “Discard,” published by Harper’s Bazaar in 1948, presents a convincing study of the corrupt Hollywood that Stahr was to be up against in the novel, and “Last Kiss,” billed by Collier’s as a story that “contain[s] the seed that grew into the novel The Last Tycoon, which Fitzgerald was writing when he died,”8 indeed contains counterparts to Stahr and Kathleen, as well as echoes of their lost love. There is no correspondence to suggest how Fitzgerald planned to market “Last Kiss,” but his exchanges with Ober concerning “Discard” indicate that he wrote this story for Collier’s, which declined it, and then rewrote it for the Post, which also finally rejected it for the reason, Ober concluded, that it was still too subtle for a popular audience (As Ever, Scott Fitz, 410-16). But, of course, he would continue to work on it, Fitzgerald must have promised, and they would, of course, continue to hope that he might succeed—that he might be at last what he had long ago become, and what even his short stories alone have probably made him, “one of the greatest writers who ever lived.”
1 All figures related to Fitzgerald’s earnings are taken from his Ledger.
2 H. L. Mencken, Smart Set (December 1920), 40. Reprinted in Jackson Bryer, ed., F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Critical Reception, 48.
3 “Too Much Fire Water,” Minneapolis Journal (December 10, 1922), 12. Reprinted in Bryer, ed., The Critical Reception, 162.
4 Arthur Coleman, “Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald Are Merely Entertaining,” Dallas Morning News, March 24, 1935, 8. Reprinted in Bryer, ed., The Critical Reception, 339.
5 T. S. Matthews, New Republic (April 10, 1935). Reprinted in Alfred Kazin, ed., F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work, i08.
6 Page xii. Bruccoli was first to develop the “cluster story” concept and explore it in his The Composition of “Tender Is the Night”
7 For a full discussion of the role of the popular magazines in Fitzgerald’s literary career, see Bryant Mangum, A Fortune Yet: Money in the Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Short Stories.
8 “Last Kiss,” Collier’s (April 16, 1949), 16.
AA Afternoon of An Author
ATSYM All the Sad Young Men
B&D The Beautiful and Damned
B&J The Basil and Josephine Stories
F&P Flappers and Philosophers
GG The Great Gatsby
LT The Last Tycoon
LOTLT Love of the Last Tycoon
PH The Pat Hobby Stories
TJA Tales of the Jazz Age
TITN Tender is the Night
TSOP This Side of Paradise
Apprentice Fiction The Apprentice Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Kuehl)
As Ever, Scott Fitz As Ever, Scott Fitz: Letters Between F. Scott Fitzgerald and His Literary Agent, Harold Ober 1919-1940 (ed. Bruccoli and McCabe Atkinson)
Bits Bits of Paradise
Correspondence The Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Bruccoli and Duggan)
Crack-Up The Crack-Up (ed. Wilson)
Dear Scott/Dear Max Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence (ed. Kuehl and Bryer)
Ledger F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Ledger (ed. Bruccoli)
Letters The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Turnbull)
Life in Letters F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters (ed. Bruccoli)
Notebooks The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Bruccoli)
Price The Price Was High: The Last Uncollected Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Bruccoli)
Short Stories The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection (ed. Bruccoli)
Stories The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Bryant Mangum is Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. He is the author of A Fortune Yet: Money in the Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Short Stories (1991). His essays have appeared in The Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual, New Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Neglected Stories, America Literary Realism, Reader’s Guide to Literature in English and many other journals.
Published in The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald edited by Ruth Prigozy (Cambridge University Press 2002).