We already know that most, if not all, of the world’s most celebrated writers had their fair share of rejection before shooting to literary fame. It comes as no surprise, then, that F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer of The Great Gatsby, was at one point turned away by such an elite publication as The New Yorker.
Back in 1936, before Fitzgerald was a household name but eleven years after the publication of his most famous work, he was turned away for a short story titled “Thank You for the Light.” It’s a “mildly fantastical” piece about a traveling saleswoman addicted to cigarettes, desperate to smoke in a disapproving town. The subject matter and tone of the work was slightly our of character for Fitzgerald, as The New Yorker staff’s reaction shows.
The magazine wrote in an internal message that it was “altogether out of the question. It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him and really too fantastic.”
Not having seen the light of day since that rejection, the story has been given a second chance by the publication thanks to a fateful turn of events. While clearing the vault for a Sotheby’s auction of Fitzgerald’s works, his grandchildren discovered this secret story for the first time. Advised by Fitzgerald scholar James West, they resubmitted it to the magazine. Thankfully, this time it was accepted.
An entertaining and quick read, “Thank you for the Light” appears in The New Yorker‘s August 6th issue, and can be read online here.