The New Yorker recently featured a previously unpublished short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald called “Thank You For the Light.” The piece is short (c.1000 words) and closely resembles flash fiction. In style, it is simple, unadorned and witty. Mrs. Hanson, the protagonist, is a travelling saleswoman who spends her day desperately trying to find a place to have a cigarette in a district that shuns it. She enters a church with the intention of lighting her cigarette from one of the votive candles and having “a few puffs in the vestibule”: if so much incense had gone up in the spires to God, a little smoke in the vestibule would make no difference.” Unable to find a lit candle in the cathedral she dozes off on a pew in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary and wakes to find a lit cigarette in her hand for which she thanks Our Lady.
The story was originally submitted to The New Yorker in 1936 and was rejected as the content was considered to controversial at that time. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’m glad The New Yorker saw fit to publish it at last. Additionally, given the high levels of anticipation for the remake of The Great Gatsby (Dir. Baz Luhrmann) due out in a few months it seems to be a clever move by the magazine to publish the story now. Since the story’s publication on the 6th of August 2012 there has been a huge response by bloggers in the form of reviews and responses. Hopefully it’s popularity may encourage scholars to take an interest in Fitzgerald’s unpublished work. If “Thank You For the Light” is a taste of other works residing in the archive in Princeton, I for one would be very interested to see a collection of the writer’s unseen works published.
Please click on the link above to read the short story and feel free to comment with your response.