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The I.O.U. by F. Scott Fitzgerald

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2017

The New Yorker has published a previously unpublished short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald called The I.O.U.

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.

Where did the story come from and how was it rediscovered?

He wrote “The I.O.U.” in the late spring of 1920, evidently after a specific request from Henry Blackman Sell, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Fitzgerald dropped the story off at Ober’s offices in New York, reminding him, “This is the plot that Sell particularly wanted for Harps. Baz and which I promised him. I think it is pretty good.” In July, Ober sent the story on to the Saturday Evening Post, but Fitzgerald asked for it back because he wanted to revise it. Ober returned the manuscript and typescript to Fitzgerald, who set it aside and concentrated instead on his second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned,” telling Ober “there will probably be no more short stories this summer.” Lost in the sparkling shuffle of Fitzgerald’s first fame, the story remained the property of the Trustees of the Fitzgerald Estate until it was rediscovered and sold to Yale University’s Beinecke Library in 2012.

This story, as well as several other previously unpublished stories of Scott’s will appear in a book called I’d Die For You: And Other Lost Stories that comes out in April.