“I’d Die For You And Other Lost Stories” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Anne Margaret Daniel, Scribner, 358 pages, $28.
In 1934, Esquire editor Arnold Gingrich wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald that he should, under no circumstances, return to Hollywood for the money, no matter how much he needed it. “It would be awful to see you piss away your talent in Hollywood again and I hope it won’t come to that. Because regarding the written word like a musical instrument, you are the supreme virtuoso--nobody can draw a purer, finer tone from the string of an English sentence-- and what the hell does the written word have to do with Hollywood?”
Editors were so often F. Scott Fitzgerald’s saviors; at the very least they were the source of soundest literary judgement he’d ever know-- Maxwell Perkins at the beginning, Gingrich for Fitzgerald’s “Pat Hobby” stories and Fitzgerald’s old friend Edmund Wilson, at the end, editing “The Crack Up” into a great American book out of posthumous fragments.
Fitzgerald’s supreme luck with editors who “got” him is continued by Anne Margaret Daniel in this collection of previously unpublished and uncollected Fitzgerald stories, notably from the ‘30’s. In her ministrations to the stories themselves and for readers, contextualizing what hadn’t been seen before is about as good as it gets. These stories were mostly from the era when, as Daniel writes, “Fitzgerald’s bills were large, for everything from his own living expenses to (wife) Zelda’s private sanitarium near Asheville, North Carolina to (daughter) Scottie’s schools....The Hollywood work literally sickened him and his lack of enthusiasm for the place is evident from the weakness of his screenplay scenarios.” Bad editors wanted him to “write jazz and fizz, beautiful cold girls and handsome yearning boys.” But he had already written his great masterpiece “The Great Gatsby” and watched it tank commercially. During the period writing some of these stories he stayed “when solvent...at a variety of North Carolina hotels...when he was broke, he lived in motels, ate canned soup and washed out his clothes in the sink. When he had the time, health and capacity to work, Fitzgerald was, quite literally, writing for his life. ‘I’d Die For You’ comes from that time and those places.”