Last year, I wrote a response to The New Yorker’s most-read story of 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s Cat Person. The short story about a college student’s disastrous, but brief relationship was upsetting not just because of the actions which I felt were inaccurate for college-age women but also degrading. But, my disappointment went farther than that. This story was more personal as the author and I attended the same high school, an extremely small college-prep school in Falmouth, Massachusetts with a combined student body of less than 200 in grades 7-12.
Since I read that story last January, I’ve been working my way through the rest of The New Yorker’s top stories. While it can be hard to find time to read for pleasure, my next story was a revived short story by one of my favorite authors, F. Scott. Fitzgerald, The I.O.U.
The short story was published in a posthumous book entitled I’d Die For You: And Other Lost Stories on April 25, 2017. The book contains stories which went unpublished during Fitzgerald’s’ lifetime.
This story is very remnant of Fitzgerald’s writing style. Following the journey of a publisher in search of the book that will make him millions, he finds this story in the psychic recount of the afterlife through the death of his nephew. But while the publisher is on his way to meet the author who lives in Ohio, he coincidentally meets the nephew whom the story is told through and suddenly the book, which is being marketed as non-fiction, becomes fiction. Realizing that his bestselling book is on the brink of being debunked as a hoax, the publisher devises a plan to keep the living nephew a secret so as to reap the benefits of the successful novel. The plan seems as though it will work until word of the living nephew is leaked to the press.
The story is brief but offers a very different scene than the romantic-tragedies stories which Fitzgerald was known for. In this short story there’s very little romance, only hinted at by the presence of a long-lost girlfriend and the publisher’s closing remark of wanting “something about love.” Whereas Fitzgerald’s other novels seem to circle romantic encounters.
It’s clear that the popularity of this short story is due more the well-known author than its subject matter, but it nevertheless is an interesting read if just because it’s so different from Fitzgerald’s better-known novels. Hopefully, this story will serve to show readers that Fitzgerald was capable of far more than just romance novels, instead able to grasp some of the most fundamental human desires – success, wealth, fame – and express through other methods than just relationships.
You can read the entire short story on The New Yorker, and hopefully enjoy the other top stories of 2017 as well. You can also read a review of I’d Die For You: And Other Lost Stories from The New York Times if you’re curious to hear an even more in-depth analysis of Fitzgerald’s short stories.