Even an author as great as F. Scott Fitzgerald sometimes had to do what his editor said: when Fitzgerald wrote stories for the Saturday Evening Post during the 1920s and ’30s, his work was censored to fit the publication’s standards. When many of those stories were published as his last-ever short-story collection Taps at Reveille in 1935, those changes stuck. But, as The Guardian reports, those stories are now available in their “restored” uncensored format for the very first time in a new edition from Cambridge University Press, published yesterday. The editors used manuscript drafts marked up in Fitzgerald’s own hand to find what was removed after the works left his hands.
So what got cut? Sex, drugs, and slurs.
Now, thanks again to The Guardian, you can see for yourself. The paper has posted the uncensored version of the story “Two Wrongs,” including a typescript with an antisemitic word — spoken by an antisemitic character, not the narrator — that didn’t make it to print. The word appears once again after that in the full text of the story, but not in previously published versions.
You can compare it to the Post version at Project Gutenberg; in addition to removing the derogatory language, the editors apparently found a scene where a woman talks to a man while she takes a bath a bit too sexy. In the Post version, even though the tub water’s running, she’s talking to him while she dresses rather than while she bathes.
Maybe the new Taps will make a difference that goes beyond the words on the page: though the work is important for its place in Fitzgerald’s career, there’s a reason it’s not a Gatsby-level classic. Upon its original 1935 release, the New York Times noted that the book was just “not good enough”: “It has become a dreadful commonplace to say that Mr. Fitzgerald’s material is rarely worthy of his talents,” wrote reviewer Edith H. Walton. “Unfortunately, however, the platitude represents truth.”