In 1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote 8,000 words about “a hard-drinking writer diagnosed with cardiac disease.” In 1940, the legendary American author died of a heart attack.
Now, more than three quarters of a century later, Fitzgerald’s short story entitled “Temperature” has been published in quarterly literary magazine The Strand, as the AP first reported. Fitzgerald wrote the piece, “an antic story of failure, illness and decline,” at a time when he was struggling to find work as a screenwriter and hoping to revive his storied fiction-writing career. The story was presumed lost for decades.
“Temperature” is openly autobiographical: “And as for that current dodge ‘No reference to any living character is intended’—no use even trying that,” Fitzgerald writes at the outset of the text. The story’s protagonist is “notably photogenic,” yet self-destructive 31-year-old writer Emmet Monsen. Monsen lives in Los Angeles and is surrounded by “medical authorities, personal assistants and a Hollywood actress and estranged lover who gets more estranged all the time.”
The Strand’s managing editor, Andrew F. Gulli, stumbled upon Fitzgerald’s manuscript while sifting through the rare book archive at Princeton University, Fitzgerald’s alma mater. “When we think of Fitzgerald we tend to think of tragic novels he wrote such as Gatsby and Tender is the Night,” Gulli told the AP, “but ‘Temperature’ shows that he was equally adept and highly skilled as a short story writer who was able to pen tales of high comedy.”
This is not the first time a Fitzgerald short story has been unearthed unexpectedly: in 2012, The New Yorker published “Thank You For the Light”, a 1,200-word piece the magazine had originally rejected when Fitzgerald submitted it in 1936. As Jim Morrison once said, “Death makes angels of us all”—the great Fitzgerald is no exception.
Read “Temperature” by buying a copy of The Strand’s summer issue here.