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Memoirs of Montparnasse

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  252 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Memoirs of Montparnasse is a delicious book about being young, restless, reckless, and without cares. It is also the best and liveliest of the many chronicles of 1920s Paris and the exploits of the lost generation. In 1928, nineteen-year-old John Glassco escaped Montreal and his overbearing father for the wilder shores of Montparnasse. He remained there until his money ran ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by NYRB Classics (first published April 1st 1973)
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New York Review Books - Classics
213th out of 413 books — 400 voters
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I am '20s, hear me roar!
82nd out of 250 books — 108 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 883)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”It was henceforth to be the arena of our love, the scene, in the words of Victor Hugo, of our sublime combats; if I had known the toll they took of my strength and health, I might have made them less sublime. Here I should like to warn all young men against nymphomaniac women: these lovely succubi are still as dangerous as they were thought to be by the medieval clergy, their smiles will lure you to perdition, their loins will fit you for the bone-house within half a year. Drink to excess, stay ...more
Warwick
A great memoir of a misspent youth, and of Paris in that wonderful time between the wars, when the city was the world capital of art and sex and adventure. The author fled from Canada to Montmartre in the late 20s and lived a hand-to-mouth existence, subsisting on bouillon and gin in various lonely tabacs and struggling to write poetry, while he mixes with a crowd of other artists and expatriates including just about everyone that matters.

It's not pulled along by a driving plot or anything, but
...more
Sketchbook
Glassco went to Paris in 1928 when he was around 19 and stayed
a few years; then TB sent him back to Canada. His "memoir," first started in the '30s and completed in the '60s, is an intoxicating blend of fact & fiction. His writing captures the flavor of Paris then -- and it hasn't changed much today. Among the people he meets are Hemingway-Stein-Joyce. With changed names there are also Djuna Barnes and Kay Boyle. The prime character is writer, editor & wit extraordinaire Robert McAlmon
...more
AC
Actually, a very good book. Glassco's allegedly 'lightly' - though, in truth, probably 'heavily' -- fictionalized memoirs, written decades after the events, but under the conceit that they are nearly contemporaraneous. There are fascinating vignettes and reported conversations (often monologues) with people like Ford Maddox Ford, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Breton, Robert Desnos, Man Ray, Emma Goldman, Frank Harris, Peggy Guggenheim, Kiki (of course), and many others -- and some very sharp and ...more
Matthew
It's pretty hard to warm to the author at the outset of this book due to the many references to his privileged upbringing and the snobbish disdain he displays for anyone who doesn’t fit into his artistic/literary elite. You also have to deal with an amount of self-absorption remarkable even for the solipsistic nature of a memoir, relentless namedropping (of the writers, artists, movers and shakes of late-1920s Paris) and a stunning lack of awareness of wider events in the world, from his family ...more
Geoff
There was a certain balance precariously kept throughout the book by the fact that the memoirs were interrupted from time to time by Glassco's hospital bed reflections on the impending surgery that ended his days of pleasure in Montparnasse and presented the young man with the very real prospect of his own death. If it wasn't for this occasional reminder of the inevitable passing of time and youth, the literary name dropping and sexual braggadocio could become tiresome. However, Glassco came acr ...more
Jim
There's nothing quite like an unreliable narrator to keep the reader on his toes. John Glassco was one of those North Americans (he himself was from Montreal) who flocked to Paris in the 1920s. As Michael Gnarowski of Carlton University in Ottawa wrote:
It used to be said of one of the painters in Montparnasse that, although he appeared to be well informed about world events, no one had ever caught him reading a newspaper. The same obersvation may be made of the people who inhabit Glassco's Memoi
...more
Thombeau
One can be forgiven for writing memoirs at the age of twenty-one if the period covered was Paris in the 1920s and one was hob-nobbing with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Lord Alfred Douglas, Man Ray, the legendary Kiki, and the ubiquitous Peggy Guggenheim. John Glassco's Memoirs of Montparnasse is a delightfully delicious romp through a few short years of decadence and debauchery, written in a witty, off-hand manner that is refreshingly candid and often quite thought ...more
Bill
Fascinating quasi-memoir of life in Paris in the late 1920's. As the book was actually written 40 years later and contains many long passages of dialogue, this book is probably closer to fiction than actual biography. Very entertaining, however. Quite candid, as well.
Booklovinglady
For a review in Dutch, see message 44 of the Autumn Challenge 2014 of the Netherlands & Flanders group.

Memoirs of Montparnasse, of which I read a Dutch translation, is a great book. Having said this, I have to add that a reader will need quite a lot of background knowledge to fully appreciate this semi-autobiographical novel.

John Glassco mixes his memories with his imagination in this autobiography and in doing so manages to create a truly magnificent book. While reading these memoirs, one h
...more
Manfred
A delightful, veneral-disease ridden piece of memoir painting a vibrant picture of Paris in the late 20s, including most of its literary lions. Glassco arrives from Canada to the city of Baudelaire, eager to make his future and "swept by a joy so strong it verged on nausea." Glassco's bitchy opinions of Stein and Hemingway are entertaining, although it's quite probable he never met either of them. More useful even are his attempts to participate in Parisian art and sex and society without the tr ...more
Diane
John Glassco is a Canadian poet I had not heard of previously. From Montreal, he wangled his way to Paris in 1928 against his father’s wishes, and there he began to write his 'memoirs' although he was only 18! In Paris he led a hedonistic, dissipated life and ended up in hospital back in Montreal. Since then I have learned that he played fast and loose with some of the details in his ‘memoirs’, and is the subject of a biography called 'A Man of Pleasure'. Definitely a person I am interested in k ...more
Peter
This is a marvelous, namedroppy, memoire of 1920s Paris. His portrait of Bob MacAlmon brought tearful-painful laughter, and his encounter with Joyce is also a nearly perfect litterary set piece. As John Glasco went on to become the author of several popular contributions to the "Schoolmarm with a whip" genre, the slightly harrowing scenes during his tenure as a gigolo in a brothel with a middle-aged female clientele, are of particular interest and quite well-rendered.
Andrea
The most recent addition to my an ever-growing shelf of books about 1920s-era Paris. Charming, gossipy, even a bit trashy, Glassco's memoir effortlessly mixes fact, fiction and a poet's concise, painterly powers of description, to bring the City of Lights —as well as its colorful coterie of émigre intellectuals— to vivid life.
Elizabeth Bradley
May 14, 2008 Elizabeth Bradley added it
Recommends it for: Sarah Funke, David Cronin
totally delicious and wicked. I learned things about Kiki de Montparnasse, Gertrude Stein and Hemingway that I didn't know I wanted to know...deserves a place next to Orwell and Hemingway's Paris tales.
Chris Trevett
I read this about writers living in 1920's Paris on my way to Paris. Very enjoyable.
Chuck
Way the best glimps into the lost generation and Paris of the late '20's. A delight.
Eileen
The memoirs of Canadian novelist and poet John Glassco, blissfully adrift at eighteen in 1920's Paris. From the introduction: "How seriously anyone took his literary pursuits is uncertain, but surely no other eighteen year old has dropped so many names, or managed to enter into conversation with so many famous men and women..." A fascinating glimpse of life, loves,lust and literary aspirations among the Lost Generation. (It should be noted that while the narrator was still in his teens, this is ...more
Kris
3.5 stars.
Vigdis
Det er ikke ofte jeg finner en bok som er så riktig til riktig tid som denne var. Den åpner med følgende avsnitt:
"Winter in Montreal 1927. Student life at McGill University had depressed me to a point where I could not go on. I was learning nothing; the curriculum was designed at best to equip me as a professor destined to lead others in due course on the same round of lifeless facts. I was only seventeen and had the sense of throwing my time and my youth into a void."

Vel, det er 2014 og ikke 19
...more
Joe
A seminal work of creative nonfiction that is, in fact, not nonfiction at all, which makes it all the better. Glassco tells the story of his time in Paris. He went with a friend after surviving Tuberculosis in his native Montreal. He goes to Paris with no money but with a knowledge of French that opens doors for him. He meets everyone, all the artists and writers of the time, the ones who appear and reappear in accounts of the Lost Generation. He hooks up with a woman who may or may not be his g ...more
Loulou
This is the kind of book I dream of: rather formal language, interesting characters (reputed to be both real and fictionalized), historic references to literature, clothing, architecture, travel, food, music, sex..I just couldn't ask much more from a book.

John Glassco's writing is hilarious and vivid; the antics and audacity which fill the book didn't alienate me, but rather endear me to him, as I was a pompous dreamer/idealist in my teens and early twenties and could readily relate. (I didn't
...more
George Ilsley
Having just read Glassco's biography, I knew this memoir was somewhat invented; but then I think most memoirs are fiction. Certainly Gertrude Stein was accused of fabrication by her contemporaries upon the publication of the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. I realize the times were what they were, but knowing the "stories behind the story" this memoir suffers from being closeted; the gayness was hidden, the heterosexual aspects emphasized and highlighted.

What is most strange, for me, is that I'
...more
1.1
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Reading it was an illustrative pleasure; the writing is never poorly done, and the narrative is addictive and lively. The inclusion of many notorious and noteworthy figures (literary and otherwise, but primarily literary) makes it a must-read, if you go in for that sort of thing.

It is tempting to say this book is a second-rate Moveable Feast from a Canadian, but that is too simple and unfair a judgment. This is a separate book about the same time by a muc
...more
Charlotte
This is a "sleeper" of a book. I was introduced to Glassco many years ago by a CBC (canadian radio) program, starring Judy LaMarsh, who read the book over several days. That's all it took to entrance me & make me want to know all I could about the time of the writing: Paris in the 1920's and the players of that era. Fortunately for me, much has and continues to be written on the subject, fiction & non. Many of the writers (Stein, Hemingway,Joyce), and their works have been dissected so m ...more
Jakekny
A total delight - a Canadian 19 year old in 1920's Paris, travels to write and is too busy watching the burlesque, screwing the whores, dancing with queers and opining endlessly about writers he hates while drinking magnums of champagne so he doesn't end up writing at all. But this is funny and romantic and hell it's Paris in 1929 where he meets everyone. It's a lost classic and deserves to be read along with Fitzgerald (although he hated Fitzgerald) He crashes Gertrude Stein's place. He dishes ...more
Papershredder
The original hipster memoir.
Katie
I loved this book for the window it gives one to late-1920s Paris right before and right after the crash. It was a golden age in Paris for the young and the expats and reading Glassco's account leaves one nostalgic for a time one has never actually known. At times it's hard to keep up with all his name dropping and literary debates. Nevertheless, I'm glad NYRB has brought this book back and to a larger audience.
Wayne McNeill
Without question the greatest book ever written about Paris in the Twenties. It's a memoir written by a young guy from Montreal. And he was there at the time. He went on to publish other things but this is his masterpiece. It was a vibrant, extraordinary era for artists of a kinds: writers, painters, singers, actors. An absolute wonder of a book.
Victoria Mixon
Loaded with well-told anecdotes about names now long-past, it's a fun read for those of us interested in the American expatriate community of Paris in the 1920s. But Glassco, like his friend Kay Boyle, was one of the hangers-on rather than one of the great artists in that Lost Generation.
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NYRB Classics: Memoirs of Montparnasse, by John Glassco 1 5 Oct 28, 2013 05:02PM  
  • Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s
  • Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties
  • Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby
  • The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties
  • Hemingway: The Paris Years
  • That Summer in Paris
  • My Father and Myself
  • Women of the Left Bank
  • Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company
  • Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939
  • When the World Spoke French
  • Paris Was a Woman: Portraits from the Left Bank
  • Shakespeare and Company
  • Kiki's Memoirs
  • Last Nights of Paris
  • Pages from the Goncourt Journals
  • Conquered City
  • Kiki's Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930
He also published under the pseudoyms Miles Underwood, Sylvia Bayer, George Colman and Jean De Saint-Luc.

John Glassco was a Canadian poet, memoirist, novelist and translator. Glassco will be remembered for his brilliant autobiography, his elegant, classical poems, his translations and his erotica.

See also Encyclopaedia Britannica
More about John Glassco...
Harriet Marwood, Governess: A Victorian Novel The English Governess The Fatal Woman: Three Tales The Deficit Made Flesh Montreal : a poem

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