Max Perkins, 38, has been here at Scribner’s for 12 years now. He’s mostly worked on his authors’ novels, short story collections and non-fiction works as well. This is the first time he’s been asked to edit a play.
Scribner’s star novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 26, has had his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, followed by his second story collection, Flappers and Philosophers, published this year. Both are doing well.
Scott is working on a third novel, but is currently sidetracked by writing this play, originally titled Gabriel’s Trombone. He has now decided on a new title, The Vegetable: From President to Postman.
Perkins agreed to read it and give Scott some feedback, which he sent to him yesterday:
I’ve read your play three times and I think more highly of its possibilities on the third reading than ever before;—but I am also more strongly convinced that these possibilities are far from being realized on account of the handling of the story in the second act [in which the main character has drunken fantasies of becoming president]…You seem to lose sense of your true motive…Satirize as much as you can…but keep one eye always on your chief motive. Throughout the entire wild second act there would still be a kind of ‘wild logic.’…
“My only excuse for all this verbiage is, that so good in conception is your motive, so true your characters, so splendidly imaginative your invention, and so altogether above the mere literate the whole scheme, that no one could help but greatly desire to see it all equal in execution. If it were a comparative trifle, like many a short story, it wouldn’t much matter…To save space, I’ve omitted most of the ‘I thinks,’ ‘It seems to mes,’ and ‘I may be wrong buts’: They would be, however, understood.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early next year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and about The Literary 1920s in Paris and New York City at the Osher program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.