F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories

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John F
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F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories

Post by John F » Fri May 02, 2014 4:10 am

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Uncut, in a New Edition of Short Stories
By WILLIAM GRIMES
May 1, 2014

When “Taps at Reveille” was published in 1935, it marked the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career as a short-story writer. It was his fourth collection and his last. Now, it turns out, a lot of the words were missing, excised by editors at The Saturday Evening Post, where all 18 stories in the collection first appeared.

Fitzgerald’s original versions make their debut in a restored edition “Taps at Reveille” published this week in Britain by the Cambridge University Press as part of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Guardian reported. The collection will be published in the United States in June.

James L.W. West III, an English professor at Penn State and the general editor of the series, uncovered the deletions when comparing Fitzgerald’s typescripts, stored at Princeton, with the published versions of the stories. The editors, he found, had sanitized Fitzgerald’s work to make it more acceptable for a broad, middle-class readership. They excised or inserted substitutions for profanity and certain slang words, cut out references to sex and drugs and drunkenness, masked specific locations and names, and either deleted or softened several anti-Semitic slurs uttered by some of the author’s less pleasant characters.

Two stories, Mr. West said in an interview, suffered badly by being edited and now, in Fitzgerald’s typescript version, seem quite different.

In “Two Wrongs,” the central character, a drunken lout who behaves boorishly toward his wife, gets a comeuppance that seems disproportionately harsh. “The problem with the published story is that we did not know the second wrong for which protagonist is punished, his anti-Semitism,” Mr. West said. “The story came into better focus with the restorations.”

Blue-penciling completely altered the characters of the unsavory aristocrats at the center of “The Hotel Child,” by deleting references to their drinking, drug taking and anti-Semitism. “They are quite sinister, but when all this is scrubbed out, they become comic characters, “ Mr. West said. “You lose the sense of threat and decadence.”

Many of the changes are trivial, taken in isolation. “Broads” became “girls,” a “Swiss city” became “a city,” “y’all” became “you,” “I got Irish and expansive” became “I got expansive.” Cumulatively, they took some of the seasoning out of the finished dish.

“I used to think the Saturday Evening Post stories were rather fluffy, but with the restorations they seem a little grittier,” Mr. West said. “They seem more as though they were written for adults.”

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/ ... t-stories/
John Francis

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Re: F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories

Post by jbuck919 » Sat May 03, 2014 2:07 pm

and either deleted or softened several anti-Semitic slurs uttered by some of the author’s less pleasant characters.
Which raises an interesting question (perhaps more than one). Surely at that time no one was concerned about anti-Semitic slurs uttered by realistic negatively portrayed fictional characters as a matter of political correctness. Therefore, presumably, the editors were concerned about offending a readership that included a large number of educated Jews. Then the question arises of why they did not realize that this bowdlerization is in itself an insult to that readership's intelligence, and whether the editing is not itself a mild expression of anti-Semitism.

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John F
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Re: F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories

Post by John F » Sat May 03, 2014 3:48 pm

I think we'd have to read the unexpurgated stories to come to any such conclusion. The description of “Two Wrongs” sounds pretty pernicious to me, “The Hotel Child” less so.

I think you've got it backwards. In the 1930s, when these stories were published and the Holocaust (or knowledge of it) was still to come, there was a lot of antisemitism in mainstream America, not just in the Ku Klux Klan. The quota of Jews admitted to Harvard was reduced to 15%, for example, disproportionate to the number of qualified Jews who applied.

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/js ... rvard.html

The president of Harvard, who favored this policy, actually claimed that it would "be good for the Jews, because limits would prevent further anti-Semitism" in the student body. He got it backwards too.

My guess is that "educated Jews," meaning literate Jews who read popular magazines like The Saturday Evening Post (how many illiterate Jews were there in 1930s America anyway?), would have been unlikely to make allowances in the name of literary freedom unless the stories were of high literary merit, like "The Merchant of Venice." This review suggests they are not.

Incidentally, I believe Fitzgerald may have acquiesced in the Saturday Evening Post's editing. He, not they, was in charge of the stories' publication in book form, and from this review, his short story collections included the edited versions rather than Fitzgerald's originals. Unless his book publisher, Scribner, took the same line as the Post against Fitzgerald's wishes. Maybe Matthew Bruccoli's preface to the new collection answers this question.
John Francis

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