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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.