A previously unpublished story by F. Scott Fitzgerald appears in this week’s issue of the New Yorker. The magazine had originally rejected the 1936 story, “Thank You for the Light,” when it was submitted by the author.
“Thank You For the Light” is a tiny, short story about Mrs. Hanson, “a pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty, who sold corsets and girdles.” When she’s transferred to a new territory, her smoking habit is frowned upon, and all she wants is to have a cigarette. It has a tidy ending, but more important to the story is Mrs. Hanson’s longing as she wishes for the cigarette she can’t smoke.
Is it secretly about Fitzgerald and drinking? You decide.
By the mid-1930s, Fitzgerald was suffering difficulties. After the publication of his first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” he’d been the toast of New York. The New Yorker, which published its first issue in 1925, welcomed him in its pages: He had three stories and two poems published in the magazine between 1929 and 1937. But it also chronicled what it saw as his dissipation.
The New Yorker’s Book Bench shares part of a 1926 profile by John C. Mosher of Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. "[His] popularity on two continents may explain something of the financial mystery which so appals him. Ever since ‘This Side of Paradise,’ money has poured in upon this young couple, thousands and thousands a month. And just as fast it has poured out. Where it goes, no one seems to know. Least of all evidently, the Fitzgeralds. They complain that nothing is left to show for it. Mrs. Fitzgerald hasn’t even a pearl necklace.”
Fitzgerald moved to Southern California in the late 1930s and worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood. He was not well; he died of a heart attack at age 44. When he died, he left the novel “The Last Tycoon” unfinished, and most of his novels were out of print.
Now, of course, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby" is considered the great American novel. It will be coming to movie screens this winter, courtesy Baz Luhrman, in 3-D.