Great Scott! Another Fitzgerald story

A short story by F Scott Fitzgerald discovered in the archives of Princeton University has finally been published, 75 years after the author of The Great Gatsby died of a heart attack, aged 44.

Andrew Gulli, who runs the Strand magazine, came across Fitzgerald’s 8 000-word story Temperature while digging through his papers at Princeton. He published it for the first time in the new issue of the Strand, alongside works by Ian Rankin and T Jefferson Parker.

“When we think of Fitzgerald we tend to think of tragic novels he wrote such as Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, but Temperature shows that he was equally adept and highly skilled as a short-story writer who was able to pen tales of high comedy,” Gulli told the Associated Press (AP). “Fitzgerald … couldn’t help using his satirical abilities to mock everyone from doctors [to] Hollywood idols and the norms of society.”

Temperature tells the story of a 31-year-old writer, Emmet Monsen, a heavy drinker who has cardiac disease and who is “notably photogenic” and “slender and darkly handsome”, according to AP, which described the story as “consciously cinematic”, quoting lines including: “And at this point, as they say in picture making, the Camera Goes into the House”, and “And as for that current dodge ‘No reference to any living character is intended’ – no use even trying that.”

A story about romance and tragedy
Gulli told National Public Radio that he believes the manuscript of Temperature was a final version – “this manuscript was very well written, the typescript is very clean” – and that it had never been published before. “There’s some madcap comedy, some Wodehousian dialogue, some romance, even a little bit of some tragedy in it,” he said. “I just was struck by how funny, how interesting it was. ”

He believes it was never published because it was written around the time the novelist fell out with his literary agent. “The manuscript is dated July 7 1939. And Fitzgerald had sent a letter to his agent a week later, in which he asked to stop being represented by Harold Ober because Ober was tired of advancing Fitzgerald loans in lieu of work that had not been delivered to him. So that might have been one of the reasons he’d not found a home for it,” Gulli said.

In a letter dated August 2 1939, Fitzgerald tells Ober that, unhappy with Ober’s activities on his behalf, he had sent the story “directly to the Post”, which rejected it. “I have been and still am somewhat shocked by your sudden and most determined reversal of form,” Fitzgerald wrote to Ober.

“Only six months ago you were telling me ‘not to be in too much of a hurry to pay you back’ but instead to try to save some money. Sending a story direct may be bad policy but one doesn’t consider that when one is living on money from a hocked Ford.”

Temperature is set in Los Angeles. Fitzgerald had moved to Hollywood in 1937 with a contract with MGM. When this was dropped in 1938, he worked as a freelance scriptwriter and wrote stories for Esquire. In 1939 he started on the novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, but never completed it. He died on December 21 1940. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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Alison Flood
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