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Less is more

To make a splash with a novel, write a big one-that's what publishers think. But what about concision and refinement? What about "The Great Gatsby"?

By Kate Jennings   February 2003

F Scott Fitzgerald once wrote in a letter to Thomas Wolfe, “You’re a putter-inner, and I’m a taker-outer.” Fitzgerald was defending himself against Wolfe’s belief that a novelist couldn’t be taken seriously until he or she had produced something that could hold up a three-legged sofa. These days, few people wade through Wolfe’s 500-page-plus “Look Homeward”, “Angel”, while “The Great Gatsby”, pushed to 200 pages in my edition by a lengthy preface and large type, is generally held to be novelistic perfection.

Putters-in and takers-out is as good a way as any to classify novelists. Putters-in: writers who pile on…

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