Scott Fitzgerald Here on Vacation; “Rests” by Outlining New Novels
by Thomas Alexander Boyd

Mandarin-like, slow, but with a decided accent very hard on the heels was the descent of F. Scott Fitzgerald from the authorish and presumably supernal regions of the house which he is inhabiting at Dellwood, White Bear Lake.

A pair of pajamas, robin’s egg blue, carefully and tightly girded in at the waist; above the jacket a smooth straight neck supported a face that the girls would call terribly beautiful.

The agreeable countenance of a young person who cheerfully regards himself as the center of everything, Scott Fitzgerald is not unlike Amory Blaine, the romantic egotist. His eyes are blue and domineering; nose is Grecian and pleasantly snippy; mouth, “spoiled and alluring” like one of his own yellowhaired heroines; and he parts his wavy fair hair in the middle, as Amory Blaine decided that all “slickers” should do.

Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald have taken the home of Mackey Thompson at Dellwood for three months. They have just returned from a short visit to Europe. Fitzgerald is hard at work on some short stories which will be published in popular magazines. He has three new novels planned, he says.

We talked about books and contemporary authors. H. L. Mencken, the Baltimore critic, reminds him of a red-faced, good-natured, German beer- drinker who loves to sit around in his shirt sleeves and his stocking feet.

Here are some of the quaint sayings, fascinating facts and literary gems that fell from the Fitzgerald lips:

“Carl Sandburg came into prominence as a poet because the great city of Chicago felt the need of a representative poet, and pinned the badge on Carl because nobody else was around!”

“Floyd Dell has reached the depth of banality in his book, Moon-Calf.”

“Charlie Chaplin is one of the greatest men in the world. You might as well protest against a Cunarder[9] as to protest against the movies.” “The war was nothing but a natural disturbance| and is eclipsed in importance by the income tax.”

“Sherwood Anderson gets his effects in spite of his style which is very bad.”

“I am looking forward to the new books this fall by Ben Hecht, John Dos Passos, and Charles Norris. The latter’s novel, Brass, has been sent me by the Bookman for review[10].”

“I don’t care much for Joseph Hergesheimer. My new novel is a work something like Linda Condon.”

I was surprised to learn that Mr. Mencken was not known to Mr. Fitzgerald at the time he wrote his novel, This Side of Paradise. It seemed to me that Mr. Mencken’s influence on both This Side of Paradise and on Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, was too obvious to be overlooked. However, Mr. Fitzgerald says that a young man at college, from whom Burne Holiday is modeled, was the greatest influence in his writing[11].

“Hugh Walpole[12] was the man who really started me writing. One day I picked up one of his books when I was riding on a train. I thought, ‘If this fellow can get away with it as an author, I can too.’ His book seemed to me to be as bad as possible, but I knew they sold like hot cakes. The principal thing he did was to make unessentials seem important. I dug in after that and wrote my first novel.

“Europe made very little impression on me. I rather liked London, but France and Italy represent a decaying civilization. In Italy, the house where Keats died—a close, dismal hole which looked out on a cluttered, squalid street through which diseased children ran[13]—was to me a compendium of the affectation that people have for Italy. When Anatole France dies there will be nothing left of La Belle France.”

I pray God and Mr. Fitzgerald to forgive me for inaccuracies!

Scott Fitzgerald is a youth that American literature will have to reckon with. To how great an extent depends upon himself. He has definitely shown that he can write first-rate stuff. As a literary craftsman he is admirable.

Yet, we have an odious number of literary craftsmen writing for popular magazines today. Perhaps there is no nation in the world where the technic of writing so abounds as it does in our country. But, almost to the last man, these writers tell their audience nothing new. In this strife to reach the bestseller class, contemplation so necessary to serious and lasting work is neglected. Hand-painted bowls filled with air.

Technical difficulties which must be faced by the young writer are enormous. In an attempt to master these difficulties he often loses sight of the real purpose of writing. So, we have Robert W. Chambers, fine literary craftsman, Richard Harding Davis, teller of the dashing type of short story, and a hundred others, who twenty or thirty years ago were promising young men as Scott Fitzgerald is today.

They are now frustrated artistic figures with paunches for souls.

Critics and other knowing persons have placed great hopes in Mr. Fitzgerald. At his early age he has already developed a lucid style, he has a brilliant gift for phrasing, a trick of picturization, a talent for unearthing that which lies just below the obvious.

I had the advantage of reading This Side of Paradise before I had ever seen any of Mr. Fitzgerald's short stories. I have no doubt he wrote the story of Amory Blaine solely to please himself. The book has a deep ring that comes from sincerity. I can imagine him chuckling gayly as he set down certain passages in it. But malice was not permitted to get the upper hand of honesty.

His short stories, almost without exception, show that there was one thing uppermost in his mind when he was writing them and that was no more nor less than $350. No thought was required to write “The Cut Glass Bowl” and “The Four Fists,” These stories have been done more competently in many languages. “Head and Shoulders” and “The Offshore Pirate” are mere titillations for oafs and lumpheads. “Dalrymple Goes Wrong” was the only story in Flappers and Philosophers I cared for. Each short story is competently phrased.

Now Mr. Fitzgerald has written another novel, The Beautiful and Damned, which is being published in one of our popular gaudy magazines. After a careful perusal of the first installment I gasped. The characteristics that made Amory Blaine so attractive have been assiduously woven into his new hero’s makeup. His paragraphs sparkle like well-cut, many-faceted gems, but he has not nearly sounded the depths.

However, I found the original manuscript to be much better. It will be printed by Scribner’s without the deletions which mar the serial. The editors to whom the manuscript was submitted cut out every third line that was not sensational. They chopped it down from 130,000 to 90,000 words. An especially good description of Anthony Patch was torn out.


[9] Vessel owned by the Cunard Line.

[10] Fitzgerald’s review appeared as “Poor Old Marriage,” The Bookman (November 1921).

[11] Character in This Side of Paradise partly based on Henry Strater.

[12] English social novelist.

[13] The Keats-Shelley Memorial is at the Spanish Steps in Rome, which was not a slum.

Published in St. Paul Daily News newspaper (28 August 1921, p. E6). Fitzgerald sent Boyd’s novel Through the Wheat to Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins; it was published in 1923.

Not illustrated.