PEN on Twitter

Cf. this piece to Hemingway’s own letter to Fitzgerald four years earlier on the manuscript for Tender is the Night. Is condescension contagious?
theparisreview:


Dear Frances: I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell. This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile. The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see. That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave. In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than, Your old friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

A letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to aspiring young author Frances Turnbull.

Cf. this piece to Hemingway’s own letter to Fitzgerald four years earlier on the manuscript for Tender is the Night. Is condescension contagious?

theparisreview:

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

A letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to aspiring young author Frances Turnbull.

blog comments powered by Disqus
  1. iam-mirror reblogged this from theparisreview
  2. 00espo reblogged this from theparisreview
  3. ice-garden reblogged this from thedrunkenpiano
  4. chuymeng reblogged this from theparisreview
  5. furandbones reblogged this from theparisreview
  6. grotesque-gardens reblogged this from subduedintellectual and added:
    Beautiful
  7. subduedintellectual reblogged this from theparisreview
  8. nainstella reblogged this from theparisreview
  9. onadoor reblogged this from discoverynews
  10. idle-idle-idle-idle reblogged this from man-of-prose
  11. ovarydoses reblogged this from realityraincheck
  12. beethovensdream reblogged this from theparisreview and added:
    Dear Frances: I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good...
  13. theperfectcon reblogged this from theparisreview
  14. librascurio reblogged this from discoverynews
  15. marynelson8 reblogged this from theparisreview
  16. devantlecran reblogged this from theparisreview
  17. doxixhavexto reblogged this from angrydumpling
  18. angrydumpling reblogged this from beingevil