When you’re in the throes of rejection, it’s often hard to remember that everyone experiences it. Even if your mom pats you on the back and tells you that those jerks over at Corporate Corp. will kick themselves when you’re famous in ten years, it still stings.
So, the next time you’re feeling blue, it may help to remember this little story: Let’s rewind to 1936, when an author by the name of F. Scott Fitzgerald sent a short story into a magazine called The New Yorker. The magazine sent around a nasty memo (this was very pre-email) calling the story “curious” and “fantastic.” That was when, eleven years after the publishing of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald got rejected by The New Yorker.
The story, Thank You For the Light, is only a few pages long, and follows a widow in a new, prudish town. As it becomes harder and harder for her to get her daily nicotine fix, she finds relief in the most surprising of places.
An internal message called the story “out of the question” saying that it was “so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him and really too fantastic.” Ouch. Hopefully ol’ Francis never got a whiff of that rejection letter.
Recently, almost eighty years after the fact, Fitzgerald’s grandchildren found the story in his archives. The short story then was passed to a Fitzgerald scholar named James West who thought that The New Yorker should get another chance to read the tale. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this time around the magazine has decided to publish Thank You For the Light.
Oddly, the elements of the story that were likely taboo in 1936 now seem a bit outdated. A heroine’s frustrating inability to smoke at work doesn’t ring quite as well in today’s nearly smokeless world than it would have in the haze of 1930s America.
On the whole, it is quite different than many of Fitzgerald short stories, and it’s certainly no Head and Shoulders or Ice Palace – but it gives the world new pages from an American writing legend.
The story appears in the current issue of The New Yorker, or you can read it on the magazine’s website.