“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, before March 26, 1920, midtown Manhattan

The excitement is palpable.

Employees at publishing house Charles Scribner’s Sons are finally getting pumped up about the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 23, the hot new discovery of Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, 35.

Max’s enthusiasm for This Side of Paradise had not initially been shared by his co-workers. After all, this Fitzgerald was the youngest novelist Scribner’s had ever published.

When one of the men in the sales department had any doubts about a new book, he would take it home for his well-educated sister to read. She had proved to be a good predictor of success. So his fellow employees were all eager to know what she had thought of Paradise. He reported,

She picked it up with tongs because she wouldn’t touch it with her hands after reading it, and put it into the fire.”


Original cover of This Side of Paradise

Perkins was so worried about negative reactions within the house, that he tried to keep the manuscript mostly in his own hands. As a former Scribner’s advertising director, he had approved the upcoming New York Times ad:

Paradise NY Times ad

New York Times ad, to run April 4, 1920

Perkins didn’t even want the staff proofreaders to have a crack at the novel. As a result, the printed version will be riddled with typos. Even more embarrassing to Perkins is that Fitzgerald—a terrible speller himself—is pointing out mistakes to him.

As publication day approaches, Perkins wonders if he has done the right thing by fighting to have tradition-encrusted Scribner’s take on this new writing.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins and his relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

4 thoughts on ““Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, before March 26, 1920, midtown Manhattan

  1. Yes absolutely. I used to really enjoy having a wee peek when I was meant to be cooking dinner for the family or something. These days it’s all the more pertinent in a wider world of confusion and change-to say the least. I’ve noticed their frequency of late and really appreciated it. And it’s so fascinating. I saw you speak at the electric cinema years ago and still refer to the reading list you gave me that day!

    • OMG. That is so amazing. I loved doing that presentation at the Electric. I am teaching Lifelong Learning classes back here in my hometown of Pittsburgh, where we retired to last year. There will be more blogs coming. 1920 was a really interesting year. There was a very interesting presidential election that will be popping up soon. Any feedback you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Stay safe and healthy… PS I can provide other reading lists if there are other writers you’re particularly interested in…

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