Gatsby Girls, page 1
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Table of Contents
Who’s Who - And Why
Fitzgerald’s American Girl
HEAD AND SHOULDERS
MYRA MEETS HIS FAMILY
THE CAMEL’S BACK
BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR
THE ICE PALACE
THE OFF SHORE PIRATE
THE POPULAR GIRL, PART I
THE POPULAR GIRL, PART II
Appendix One - Post Pages
Appendix Two - Illustrations
In 1920, The Saturday Evening Post began publishing a weekly feature entitled “Who’s Who – And Why, frivolous facts about the great and near great.”
The page featured short articles about some of the people in the particular issue. This is what Fitzgerald wrote about himself for the September 18, 1920 issue.
Who’s Who - And Why
The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it.
When I lived in St. Paul and was about twelve I wrote all through every class in school in the back of my geography book and first year Latin and on the margins of themes and declensions and mathematic problems. Two years later a family congress decided that the only way to force me to study was to send me to boarding school. This was a mistake. It took my mind off my writing. I decided to play football, to smoke, to go to college, to do all sorts of irrelevant things that had nothing to do with the real business of life, which, of course, was the proper mixture of description and dialogue in the short story.
But in school I went off on a new tack. I saw a musical comedy called “The Quaker Girl,” and from that day forth my desk bulged with Gilbert & Sullivan librettos and dozens of notebooks containing the germs of dozens of musical comedies.
Near the end of my last year at school I came across a new musical-comedy score lying on top of the piano. It was a show called “His Honor the Sultan”, and the title furnished the information that it had been presented by the Triangle Club of Princeton University. That was enough for me. From then on the university question was settled. I was bound for Princeton.
I spent my entire Freshman year writing an operetta for the Triangle Club. To do this I failed in algebra, trigonometry, coordinate geometry and hygiene. But the Triangle Club accepted my show, and by tutoring all through a stuffy August I managed to come back a Sophomore and act in it as a chorus girl. A little after this came a hiatus. My health broke down and I left college one December to spend the rest of the year recuperating in the West. Almost my final memory before I left was of writing a last lyric on that year’s Triangle production while in bed in the infirmary with a high fever.
The next year, 1916-17, found me back in college, but by this time I had decided that poetry was the only thing worth while, so with my head ringing with the meters of Swinburne and the matters of Rupert Brooke I spent the spring doing sonnets, ballads and rondels into the small hours. I had read somewhere that every great poet had written great poetry before he was twenty-one. I had only a year and, besides, war was impending. I must publish a book of startling verse before I was engulfed. By autumn I was in an infantry officers’ training camp at Fort Leavenworth, with poetry in the discard and a brand-new ambition—I was writing an immortal novel. Every evening, concealing my pad behind Small Problems for Infantry, I wrote paragraph after paragraph on a somewhat edited history of me and my imagination. The outline of twenty-two chapters, four of them in verse, was made, two chapters were completed; and then I was detected and the game was up. I could write no more during study period. This was a distinct complication. I had only three months to live—in those days all infantry officers thought they had only three months to live—and I had left no mark on the world. But such consuming ambition was not to be thwarted by a mere war. Every Saturday at one o’clock when the week’s work was over I hurried to the Officers’ Club, and there, in a corner of a roomful of smoke, conversation and rattling newspapers, I wrote a one-hundred and-twenty-thousand-word novel on the consecutive weekends of three months. There was no revising; there was no time for it. As I finished each chapter I sent it to a typist in Princeton.
Meanwhile I lived in its smeary pencil pages. The drills, marches and Small Problems for Infantry were a shadowy dream. My whole heart was concentrated upon my book.
I went to my regiment happy. I had written a novel. The war could now go on. I forgot paragraphs and pentameters, similes and syllogisms. I got to be a first lieutenant, got my orders overseas—and then the publishers wrote me that though The Romantic Egotist was the most original manuscript they had received for years they couldn’t publish it. It was crude and reached no conclusion.
It was six months after this that I arrived in New York and presented my card to the office boys of seven city editors asking to be taken on as a reporter. I had just turned twenty-two, the war was over, and I was going to trail murderers by day and do short stories by night. But the newspapers didn’t need me. They sent their office boys out to tell me they didn’t need me. They decided definitely and irrevocably by the sound of my name on a calling card that I was absolutely unfitted to be a reporter. Instead I became an advertising man at ninety dollars a month, writing the slogans that while away the weary hours in rural trolley cars. After hours I wrote stories—from March to June. There were nineteen altogether; the quickest written in an hour and a half, the slowest in three days. No one bought them, no one sent personal letters. I had one hundred and twenty-two rejection slips pinned in a frieze about my room. I wrote movies. I wrote song lyrics. I wrote complicated advertising schemes. I wrote poems. I wrote sketches. I wrote jokes. Near the end of June I sold one story for thirty dollars.
On the Fourth of July, utterly disgusted with myself and all the editors, I went home to St. Paul and informed family and friends that I had given up my position and had come home to write a novel. They nodded politely, changed the subject and spoke of me very gently. But this time I knew what I was doing. I had a novel to write at last, and all through two hot months I wrote and revised and compiled and boiled down. On September fifteenth This Side of Paradise was accepted by special delivery.
In the next two months I wrote eight stories and sold nine. The ninth was accepted by the same magazine that had rejected it four months before. Then, in November, I sold my first story to the editors of The Saturday Evening Post.
By February I had sold them half a dozen. Then my novel came out. Then I got married. Now I spend my time wondering how it all happened.
September 18, 1920
In two months he wrote nine stories and sold eight.
The illustrations in this volume are being presented in three ways. Imbedded in the body of the story are the original illustrations from the Post. These have been cropped and repositioned to allow for easier reading of the text.
The first Appendix contains reproductions of the actual pages of the Post, so that the reader can experience the story in its entirety, as originally published.
Finally, the second Appendix contains larger images of the illustrations themselves, for easier viewing.
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD AND HIS AMERICAN GIRL
By Jeff Nilsson, historian
The Saturday Evening Post
By the time he published The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald was already one of the best-known authors in America. His fame had begun years earlier with the bestselling novel, This Side of Paradise, which sold out in 24 hours and went through 12 reprintings.
But his reputation rested on more than just his novels. By the time Gatsby hit the bookstores, Americans had been reading Fitzgerald’s stories in The Saturday Evening Post for five years. The magazine had first printed one of his stories, “Head and Shoulders,” in its February 21, 1920 issue, and followed it with five more stories before the end of the year.
In later years, Fitzgerald recalled the elation he felt when he learned the Post had bought one of his stories. “I’d like to get a thrill like that again but I suppose it’s only once in a lifetime.”
It was the beginning of a long association between America’s most promising young writer and its most popular magazine. In 1920, the Post had over 2.5 million subscribers, and could bring Fitzgerald into the living rooms of Americans who might never have encountered his novels. Over 17 years, it published 68 of his short stories, more than twice the number that appeared in any other publication. Fitzgerald began to get the reputation of a “Post writer.”
This reputation troubled the critics. One of them was already seeing his talent fading in 1920. Fitzgerald’s fiction in the Post, he said, was “clever enough but that’s all. Trouble is that he is likely to begin with the money rolling to think that this is literature.” Even Fitzgerald’s friends were concerned, as Hemingway tried to talk him out of submitting any more stories to the Post. Another friend warned that the magazine would use up Fitzgerald’s talent and then discard him, and that it would be known as “The Graveyard of the Genius of F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Fitzgerald wasn’t worried. The Post was putting his writing in front of more Americans than any other magazine could. It published stories that were too long for any other periodical. It paid him quicker and it paid him more. He earned $400 for the first stories—a competitive price—but the Post increased their payments over time until, in 1929, he was earning $4,000 per story.
Making good money with short fiction was important to Fitzgerald. Throughout his career, he earned far more with short stories than he ever did from his novels. Frequent and fat checks from the Post enabled him to pursue the more creative work. They also helped him live in the style to which he felt he should be accustomed. Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald was determined to live a life of success and affluence. Like Gatsby, he was determined to succeed so he could win the girl of his dreams. In 1918, he met and fell in love with a judge’s daughter, Zelda Sayre, and she accepted his proposal of marriage. Five months later, though, she broke off the engagement when she realized he didn’t earn enough money for her comfort. As Daisy Buchanan tells Gatsby, “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys.” So Fitzgerald set out to make as much money as he could as quickly as he could, to win back his love. The stories came easily to him in 1920; Fitzgerald claimed to have written one of them, “The Camel’s Back,” in just 24 hours. But he never found revising to be light work. Every story he finished had to be rewritten several times over. His bright, energetic prose was, in fact, the product of days of dreary revision. But in 1920, he was fueled by imagination, ambition, and youth. The ideas came easier then, before he had exhausted himself, doubted his talent, and seen the collapse of his marriage and his wife.
Fitzgerald’s first Post stories appeared as the country was entering a promising new decade. Americans were hoping to leave behind the bitterness of 1919, with its strikes, race riots, and arrests and the mass deportations of political dissidents. They looked forward to a new decade of prosperity and convenience made possible by affordable automobiles and electrical power. Many homes were still being wired for electricity in 1920, and the Post issues that year were filled with ads for electric stoves, washing machines, and light fixtures. Readers also saw ads for glamour cars rarely seen in the muddy streets of small towns—the Auburn Beauty Six, the Cole Aero-Eight, the Haynes Speedster, the Jordan Silhouette, and the Paige (“The Most Beautiful Car In America”).
Adding to that year’s optimism was the belief in prohibition, which had begun in January. At this early stage, most Americans believed the country would be happier, more prosperous, and more productive now that alcohol was illegal.
The U.S. reached another turning point in 1920. Census figures revealed that, for the first time, more Americans lived in cities than in the country. People were leaving farms and small town; there was little future left in the country.
Many young Americans already sensed this, but Fitzgerald’s stories confirmed what they suspected. If they lived in the city, they would have more interesting lives, spending their days at parties, dances, and Ivy League schools. There the young people were smart and witty. The men drank freely and the women flirted shamelessly.
To many young women in America, these stories must have been a revelation. Modern girls, they learned, were cutting their hair short instead of keeping it long and pinned up. Modern girls were abandoning the corset. They wore make up. They smoked cigarettes. They danced to jazz bands. Most girls didn’t even know what jazz was; their parent’s phonographs only played foxtrots and two-steps, and radio was years in the future. Still, it seemed all very wicked and fun.
In story after story, the heroines of Fitzgerald’s stories were reckless and frivolous and happy. None of them spent their days being useful around the house, or assuming the quiet modesty that mother expected. They drove cars. They drank liquor. They kissed boys—many of them—and never worried what others might think of it.
How the eyes of a nice, country girl—and Fitzgerald assumed all country girls were nice—must have widened as she read of women saying and doing things she had barely admitted to herself she wanted. Yet there it was, in the pages of Daddy’s Saturday Evening Post, between articles like “New Fashions In Investments” and “The Petroleum Problem In The World.”
If American girls hadn’t seen any of these modern women on the streets of their own provincial towns, they could be glimpsed in the stories’ illustrations: elegant, slender figures lounging around a bar or coupé, wearing loose, sleeveless dresses, cloche hats, and dark lipstick that emphasized their carefree smiles.
This modern woman—who, in time, would be called the “flapper”—was no mere creation of fiction. There was a living example, and her wild escapades were often reported in the newspaper. Her name was Zelda Fitzgerald and her impetuous self-indulgence and irresistible charms were captured repeatedly in the stories of her husband. “I married the heroine of my stories,” Fitzgerald said. Nobody better represented the impulsive, fashionable, carefree American woman of the 1920s.
If the flapper seems outdated today, it’s important to remember how much of an impact she had when she was new. Her defiance of convention may seem tame today, but only because generations of women have followed in her footsteps.
Fitzgerald’s modern tales of yearning and ambition shaped today’s fiction, but his short stories, and his Gatsby, helped create today’s society and the expectations of America’s women.
Head and Shoulders was th
For the story, Fitzgerald received $400, the then standard rate. By 1929, his fee for a Post story was $4,000.
While the story appeared in February, 6 months later, on August 6, 1920, Metro (prior to the addition of Goldwyn and Mayer) released a silent film version of Head and Shoulders. The film, entitled The Chorus Girl’s Romance, was directed by William Dowlan.
Head And Shoulders
In 1915 Horace Tarbox was thirteen years old. In that year he took the examinations for entrance to Princeton University and received the Grade A—excellent—in Caesar, Cicero, Vergil, Xenophon, Homer, Algebra, Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry and Chemistry.
Two years later, while George M. Cohan was composing “Over There,” Horace was leading the sophomore class by several lengths and digging out theses on The Syllogism as an Obsolete Scholastic Form, and during the Battle of Château-Thierry he was sitting at his desk deciding whether or not to wait until his seventeenth birthday before beginning his series of essays on The Pragmatic Bias of the New Realists.
After a while some newsboy told him that the war was over, and he was glad, because it meant that Peat Brothers, Publishers, would get out their new edition of Spinoza’s Improvement of the Understanding. Wars were all very well in their way, made young men self-reliant or something, but Horace felt that he could never forgive the President for allowing a brass band to play under his window on the night of the false Armistice, causing him to leave three important sentences out of his thesis on German Idealism.
The next year he went up to Yale to take his degree as Master of Arts.
Other author's books:
- This Side of ParadiseThe Great GatsbyTender Is the NightThe Beautiful and DamnedThe Love of the Last TycoonTales of the Jazz Age (Classic Reprint)The Pat Hobby StoriesThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories
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