Abstract

Burton Rascoe remains a peripheral figure in the critical response to F. Scott Fitzgerald. As the literary editor of the New York Tribune from 1920–24, he is known mainly for his reviews of Fitzgerald's early novels and for commissioning Zelda Fitzgerald's ironic review of The Beautiful and Damned in April 1922. Although frequently referenced in the Fitzgeralds' correspondence and scrapbooks, Rascoe has garnered far less attention than other critics in discussions of Fitzgerald's early literary reputation. A thorough review of Rascoe's comments on the Fitzgeralds, including the frequent appearances that the couple made in his weekly 1922–24 gossip column, “A Bookman's Day Book,” reveal why Fitzgerald felt the critic misjudged his work and promoted a superficial image of him as a “cheapjack” in the tradition of popular writers such as Robert W. Chambers and Harold MacGrath. Fitzgerald was in particular incensed by a review of Gatsby that until now has been presumed lost. This article describes how during the research for Careless People (2014), the author located Rascoe's long-lost Gatsby review in an obscure publication called Arts and Decoration. The review quotes a heretofore-unknown letter to Rascoe from Fitzgerald stating his artistic intent for his third novel. Tracing the history of Burton Rascoe's lost review of Gatsby reveals the small but illuminating role Rascoe played in focalizing, for F. Scott Fitzgerald, the question of what he and modern American literature would prove capable.

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