Anyone who has ever had a stab at a story will survey the American fiction market of the ’20s and ’30s with nostalgia and a certain twinge of relief. Nowadays, with only the London Magazine left as a publisher of the briefest of fictions, and a mere dribble of transatlantic reviews, the quasi-insatiable demand seems vaguely astounding, almost incomprehensible. There, however, they all were, Collier’s, Liberty, Metropolitan, International, Scribner’s, Smart Set, American Cavalcade, Woman’s Home Journal, Ladies’ Home Companion, ready to snap you up and send you out with an adornment of fervid illustrations. Fitzgerald’s present editor, indeed, reproduces a selection of such drawings, including a self-consciously arty front cover for Woman’s Home Journal, featuring the story ‘Your Way and Mine’, for which the paper had paid $17 50 and which its author considered one of the lowsiest (sic) stories I’ve ever written, just terrible!’.
The zenith of any writer’s success was reached in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post, with a circulation of nearly three million and appropriately generous to its contributors. Fitzgerald, by 1930, was earning $4000 per story from the Post. It is hardly surprising to find him having supplied sixty-six pieces to the magazine during a ‘ period of eighteen years.
For the average American reader of the inter-war decades Fitzgerald was the leading writer of short fiction, witty, allusive, elegant and terse. For every one who had picked up Gatsby or Tender Is The Night, there were scores who knew ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’, ‘The Diamond