Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Americans in Paris 1903-1939 by George Wickes

If you are interested in Paris: The Luminous Years, but not sure what that period entails, this is the book for you. Americans in Paris, written in 1969, is a wonderfully informative guide to the people, the places, & the artistic movements of this era, although it might well be subtitled Who Gertrude Stein Knew (the author is either a big fan or just got a lot of his stories from her writings).

The book is split into sections, including "E. E. Cummings & the Great War" & "Man Ray, Dada & Surrealism". Each section begins with a brief timeline. The section "Ernest Hemingway in Montparnasse" includes a lot of details of the "little magazines" that were so influential during this period. "Virgil Thomson & Other Musical Saints" has a lot of information about Les Six, Nadia Boulanger, & Stravinsky. I was also thrilled to find out from "Henry Miller Down & Out in Paris" that he arrived in Paris in early 1930, so now I can include Henry Miller in my reading challenge books this year!

I did question that the book contains a chapter about George Antheil, a young composer whose early promise never really came to fruition, but only briefly mentions Isadora Duncan, one of the most famous American expatriates from that time, but that was really my only caveat. I'm not sure who George Wickes is (I found George Wickes, professor in the department of English at the University of Oregon in Eugene, listed online-however, this book was not in his bibliography), but he's penned a really interesting study of the arts in Paris from 1903-1939. Sometimes literary criticism, sometimes historical, sometimes a little bit gossipy, Americans in Paris was an entertaining read.

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