ONE LONG SWEET LIE

A new book col­lects the ‘lost sto­ries’ of F. Scott Fitzger­ald. Fol­low­ing is one of them, which he wrote in 1920, aged 23. The story was never pub­lished. Five years later he de­liv­ered The Great Gatsby

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Extract -

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.

Six months ago I con­tracted for a book that was un­doubt­edly a sure thing. It was by Har­den, the psy­chic re­search man — Dr Har­den. His first book — I pub­lished it in 1913 — had taken hold like a Long Is­land sand-crab and at that time psy­chic re­search had nowhere near the vogue it has at present. We ad­ver­tised this new one as be­ing a fifty heart-power doc­u­ment. His nephew had been killed in the war and Dr Har­den had writ­ten with dis­tinc­tion and ret­i­cence an ac­count of his psy­chic com­mu­nion through var­i­ous medi­ums with this nephew, Cos­grove Har­den. Dr Har­den was no in­tel­lec­tual up­start. He was a dis­tin­guished psy­chol­o­gist, Ph.D Vi­enna, LLD Ox­ford and late vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Ohio. His book was nei­ther cal­lous nor cred­u­lous. There was a fun­da­men­tal se­ri­ous­ness un­der­ly­ing his at­ti­tude. For ex­am­ple he had men­tioned in his book that one young man named Wilkins had come to his door claim­ing that the de­ceased had owed him three dol­lars and eighty cents. He had asked Dr Har­den to find out what this de­ceased wanted done about it. This Dr Har­den had stead­fastly re­fused to do. He con­sid­ered that such a re­quest was com­pa­ra­ble to pray­ing to the saints about a lost um­brella.

For ninety days we pre­pared for pub­li­ca­tion. The first page of the book was set up in three al­ter­na­tive kinds of type and two draw­ings each were or­dered from five sky-priced artists be­fore the jacket par ex­cel­lence was se­lected. The fi­nal proof was read by no less than seven ex­pert proof-read­ers lest the slight­est trem­ble in the tail of a comma or the faintest cast in a cap­i­tal eye should of­fend the fas­tid­i­ous eyes of the Great Amer­i­can Pub­lic.

Four weeks be­fore the day set for pub­li­ca­tion huge crates went out to a thou­sand points of the lit­er­ate com­pass. To Chicago alone went twenty-seven thou­sand. To Galve­ston, Texas, went seven thou­sand. One hun­dred copies apiece were hurled with sighs into Bis­bee, Ari­zona, Red­wing, Min­nesota and At­lanta, Ge­or­gia. The larger cities hav­ing been ac­counted for stray lots of twenty and thirty and forty were dropped here and there across the con­ti­nent as a san­dartist fills in his nearly com­pleted pic­ture by fine drift­ings from his hand.

The ac­tual num­ber of books in the first print­ing was three hun­dred thou­sand.

Mean­while the ad­ver­tis­ing de­part­ment were busy from nine to five six days of the week, ital­i­ciz­ing, un­der­lin­ing, cap­i­tal­iz­ing, dou­ble-cap­i­tal­iz­ing; pre­par­ing slo­gans, head­lines, per­sonal ar­ti­cles and in­ter­views; se­lect­ing pho­to­graphs show­ing Dr Har­den think­ing, mus­ing and con­tem­plat­ing; choos­ing snap­shots of him with a ten­nis racket, with a golf stick, with a sis­ter-in­law, with an ocean. Lit­er­ary notes were pre­pared by the gross. Gift copies were piled in stacks, ad­dressed to the crit­ics of a thou­sand news­pa­pers and week­lies.

The date set was April 15th. On the four­teenth a breath­less hush per­vaded the of­fices and be­low in the re­tail de­part­ment the clerks were glanc­ing ner­vously at the va­cant spa­ces where the stacks were to rest and at the empty front win­dows where three ex­pert win­dow dressers were to work all evening ar­rang­ing the book in squares and mounds and heaps and cir­cles and hearts and stars and par­al­lel­o­grams.

On the morn­ing of April 15th at five min­utes to nine Miss Jor­dan, the head stenog­ra­pher, fainted from ex­cite­ment into the arms of my ju­nior part­ner. On the stroke of nine an old gen­tle­man with Dun­dreary whiskers pur­chased the first copy of The Aris­toc­racy of the Spirit World. The great book was out.

It was three weeks af­ter this that I de­cided to run out to Joliet, Ohio, to see Dr Har­den. This was a case of Mo­hammed (or was it Moses?) and the moun­tain. He was of a shy and re­tir­ing dis­po­si­tion; it was nec­es­sary to en­cour­age him, to con­grat­u­late him, to fore­stall the pos­si­ble ad­vances of ri­val pub­lish­ers. I in­tended to make the nec­es­sary ar­range­ments for se­cur­ing his next book and with this in mind I took along

F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s orig­i­nal man­u­script

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.