Beyond Hemingway: Opulence in Paris

Who were the Americans who followed Hemingway?

Early in the fifties another young generation of American expatriates in Paris became twenty-six years old, but they were not Sad Young Men, nor were they Lost; they were the witty, irreverent sons of a conquering nation and, though they came mostly from wealthy parents and had been graduated from Harvard or Yale, they seemed endlessly delighted in posing as paupers and dodging the bill collectors, possibly because it seemed challenging and distinguished them from American tourists, whom they despised, and also because it was another way of having fun with the French, who despised them…

They now live in New York. And most of the parties are held at George Plimpton’s large bachelor apartment on Seventy-second Street overlooking the East River, an apartment that is also the headquarters for what Elaine Tynan calls “The Quality Lit Set,” or what Candida Donadio, the agent, calls “The East Side Gang,” or what everybody else just calls “The Paris Review Crowd.”

And includes this darkly humorous episode:

Austryn Wainhouse, who had suspected that suicide was very much on Christopher’s mind, had spent the following week sitting outside of Christopher’s hotel each night watching his window, but one afternoon when Christopher was late for a luncheon date with Wainhouse, the latter rushed to the poet’s hotel and there, on the bed, was the painter.

“Where’s Chris?” Wainhouse demanded.

“I am not going to tell you,” the painter said. “You can beat me if you wish; you’re bigger and stronger than I, and. . .”

“I don’t want to beat you,” Wainhouse shouted. It then occurred to him how ridiculous was the painter’s remark since he (Wainhouse) was actually much smaller and hardly stronger than the painter. “Look,” he said, finally, “don’t you leave here,” and then he ran quickly to a café where he knew he would find Trocchi.

Trocchi got the painter to talk and admit that Christopher had left that morning for Perpignan, near the Spanish border twelve hours south of Paris, where he planned to commit suicide in much the same way as the character in the Samuel Beckett story in Merlin entitled “The End”—he would hire a boat and row out to sea, further and further, and then pull up the plugs and slowly sink.

Trocchi, borrowing thirty thousand francs from Wainhouse, hopped on the next train for Perpignan, five hours behind Christopher. It was dark when he arrived, but early the next morning he began his search.

Christopher, meanwhile, had tried to rent a boat, but did not have enough money. He also carried with him, along with some letters from his former girl friend, a tin of poison, but he did not have an opener, nor were there rocks on the beach, and so he wandered about, frustrated and frantic, until he finally came upon a refreshment stand where he hoped to borrow an opener.

It was then that the tall figure of Trocchi spotted him and placed a hand on Christopher’s shoulder. Christopher looked up.

“Alex,” Christopher said, casually handing him the tin of poison, “will you open this for me?”

Trocchi put the tin in his pocket.

”Alex,” Christopher then said, “what are you doing here?”

“Oh,” Trocchi said lightly, “I’ve come down to embarrass you.”

Christopher broke down in tears, and Trocchi helped him off the beach, and then they rode, almost in total silence, back to Paris on the train.

…After the suicide episode, which, according to George Plimpton, sent at least a half-dozen young novelists to their typewriters trying to build a book around it…

Great writing is great writing.

via Longform

Bach the Thug

Archival sources, including school inspector reports, reveal that Bach’s education was troubled by gang warfare and bullying, sadism and sodomy – as well as his own extensive truancy…documents damn the boys as “rowdy, subversive, thuggish, beer- and wine-loving, girl-chasing … breaking windows and brandishing their daggers”. He added: “More disquieting were rumours of a ‘brutalisation of the boys’ and evidence that many parents kept their children at home – not because they were sick, but for fear of what went on in or outside school.”

I guess Bach was a teenage thug, though that seems like it was pretty par for the course back in the day.  Also, Mozart apparently loved scatological humor as seen in this beautiful letter to his cousin:

Well, I wish you good night

But first shit into your bed and make it burst.

Sleep soundly, my love

Into your mouth your arse you’ll shove.

Un Chien Andalou

In college I learned that Salvador Dali made a movie where somebody slashed an eyeball open. He and Bunuel wanted to make a movie that “offended bourgeois sensibilities”. Instead, the French bourgeois moviegoers loved it, something highly Bunuel. Now imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a bar and on pops a movie:

Now if this movie isn’t Eraserhead Jr., I don’t know what is. One thing the short film is able to evoke is the sense of being a dream. Many films try it and almost all fail: that sense of one thing leading to another leading to another in a slightly logical but entirely elliptical manner is hard to pull off.

Oh, here’s some more commentary.

How a car engine works

How a car engine works by Jacob O’Neal. I’ve recently been having engine trouble with my car about whose workings I know practically nothing. Nothing!

He has a bunch of other stuff worth checking out, too. I like this animated Cheeatah infographic and this one about porn and dopamine (whose scientific data on ‘porn viewing’ is made up, but whose graphical presentation I love).

Haruki Murakami, probably not getting the nobel prize this year

It’s that time of year again when some online forum (viz., The Guardian) claims that this is the year that Haruki Murakami will win the Nobel Prize in literature:

After years of hovering in the wings, this could be Haruki Murakami’s year to clinch the Nobel prize for literature – at least if you go by the odds offered by Ladbrokes on the Japanese author, who is 3-1 favourite.

Other favoured contenders include US author Joyce Carol Oates (6-1), Hungarian writer Peter Nádas (7-1), South Korean poet Ko Un (10-1), and Alice Munro, the short story writer from Canada (12-1).

But I’m convinced that Murakami won’t win this year after last year’s pick of Mo Yan. The committee likes to spread the geographic extent of their picks and it’s not only way too soon for another Asian winner but their styles are way too similar.

Of course, the literati over at The Literary Saloon have been pushing Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o for years and betting has been suspended on him because of ‘irregularities’ (surprisingly large bets from Sweden). Moreover, he’s got the political bona fides that the committee loves – Marxist, fights colonialism, won’t write in English anymore. And after the political whoops-a-daisy that was Mo Yan, I think someone like Thiong’o has a pretty good shot.

[For the record, I love Murakami, am kind of indifferent to Yan, and have never read anything by Thiong’o.]

William Faulkner, illustrator, children’s author

Apparently William Faulkner was a bit of a proto-Gorey! And not only that but:

During the postwar years … Faulkner remained in aggressively role-playing mode. Following the initial season of sporting his unearned war uniform — worn not only on ceremonial occasions but at dances and on golf courses as well — he settled into an equally self-conscious role as a special student at the university. He took courses in English, Spanish, and French, but he was better-remembered for his cultural and sartorial pretensions. Earlier, his expensive tailored suits had earned him the title “The Count.” Now his more elaborate costuming — replete with cane, limp, and swagger — elicited from his university peers the derisive term “Count No ’Count.” Seemingly descent from Parnassus and returned from war-torn France, Faulkner maintained his façade of imperturbability. He published poems in the university literary magazine, the Mississippian, as well as contributed elegant, Beardsley-inspired drawings.

He also wrote a children’s book (with only the noblest of intentions, of course):

In 1927, Faulkner gave the story to Victoria “Cho-Cho” Franklin, the daughter of his childhood sweetheart, Estelle Oldham, with whom he was still in love. He hoped Estelle would leave her unhappy marriage and marry him instead — which she did two years later.

Squarepusher – Come on my selector

Pitchfork put out a couple of silly lists of the best music videos and singles of the 90s and that seems to get people somewhat riled up. Oh no a snobby music site disagrees with me slightly! Must put a short article up on my tumblr admitting disagreement while affecting emotional distance!

In other news, I hadn’t seen this video before and it is pretty cool, I think you will agree.

Scifi to warm the cockles of your heart

Oh man do I love me some scifi. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted about it! Here are a few stories for you, my reader. Tor.com has a lot of free short stories around – most of them are kind of meh, but you do get a gem or two. Here’s a pretty amusing one by Charlie Jane Anders called The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model.

Of course the big news in scifi is the Hugo awards. The City & The City tied with The Windup Girl for best novel; I haven’t read The Windup Girl, but The City & The City was excellent. The best novella was Palimpset, which you can get for free here, and the best novelette was The Island, which you can get for free here [pdf].