"The Gypsy Bar was usually our late night hangout. The patron and the girls knew us well, and knew that we would drink freely and surely stay till f
"The Gypsy Bar was usually our late night hangout. The patron and the girls knew us well, and knew that we would drink freely and surely stay till four or five in the morning. The girls of the place collected at our table, and indulged in their Burgundian and Rabelaisian humors. Jeannette, a big draught-horse of a girl from Dijon, pranced about like a mare in heat and restrained no remark or impulse which came to her. Alys, sweet and pretty blonde, looked fragile and delicate, but led Jeannette to bawdier vulgarities of speech and action. [James] Joyce, watching, would be amused, but surely there came a time when drink so moved his spirit that he began quoting from his own work or reciting long passages of Dante in rolling and sonorous Italian. I believed that Joyce might have been a priest upon hearing him recite Dante as though saying mass..."
As an affluent influence in the penniless bohemian world of Literary Paris in the twenties, Robert McAlmon was in no danger of having to dine alone. Or of being turned down when it was time for someone to buy a round of drinks. He rose to the occasion every time, it seems.
McAlmon was the sponsor and friend of many in the colorful underworld that included Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Djuna Barnes, and Joyce. Having the wherewithal to enable various one-off and start-up publishing schemes, he found himself in constant demand, and morphed into a would-be-author-turned-publisher. Gertrude Stein, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Wyndham Lewis were all apt to be present at any given dinner party. Notably McAlmon would travel and drink with Hemingway, throughout his Spanish bullfight obsession, during some of that crucial decade.
Hard to pin down just what went on during that storied era, but McAlmon seems to have been best friend, womanizer, cocktail aficionado, observer and writer all in one; he ended up typing the last fifty pages of Joyce's Ulysses for the eyesight impaired author-- the Molly Bloom chapter-- when an accident destroyed the original. McAlmon freely admits he may possibly have juggled some of the elements there, but as he was Joyce's drinking pal, it's not an archiving error but a toss of the dice: "Molly might just as well think this or that a page or two later, or, not at all," he ventured.
Even with that level of drama unfolding, Robt E. Knoll's McAlmon And The Lost Generation manages to be a rough and uneven trip through a chronically disorganized life, lurching from literary scandale to McAlmon's irregular prose efforts and back. McAlmon wrote short stories that were at best heartfelt, nostalgic, and here Knoll fumbles in trying to tie them to the frenetic Parisian circumstances that would later claim their author's time, money, and youth. McAlmon died in obscurity and what Knoll has assembled here doesn't really solve the mystery of how it all came to be. ...more
Turgenev : Do you think there’s something Russian about taking everything to extremes?
I love anything Stoppard. How it is that he isn’t very well knowTurgenev : Do you think there’s something Russian about taking everything to extremes?
I love anything Stoppard. How it is that he isn’t very well known outside theater cognoscenti as a true modern master, I don’t quite understand. (The review that follows isn’t a summary, or minutely reasoned or set up like a thesis; more a collection of impressions. There are probably better technical appraisals, this is only a fan’s notes.)
In The Stoppardsphere Even Tom Stoppard’s dull moments are pivot points, slight, welcome rests in the sweeping onslaught –and the delight-- of his comic dramas. No one writing for the theater today has his track record, his string of brilliant moments on worldwide stages. He revels in the clash of highbrow and middlebrow. He goes trippingly theoretical, but loves the final splat! of the inevitable.
There was some distracting buzz about The Coast Of Utopia, an ambitiously large-ensemble work, a trilogy of plays-- that it was obtuse, or difficult somehow. It is likely that the obscure milieu, the inner circle of émigré revolutionaries and anarchists in the long runup to the Russian Revolution—helped this impression gain ground. Not so.
Belly Of The Beast It is one of the ground rules of Greater Stoppardia that when conceptual pontificating reaches its outermost, most vexingly complicated limits-- the winkingly vaudevillian turn or crashing pratfall is very close at hand. It is this author’s striking ability to close a philosophical argument with a belly laugh that is one of his most valuable traits. To transform deep seismic dramatic disturbances into cleverly amusing stage patter seems like a conflict of interests, but it is Stoppard’s stock in trade.
Herzen : Things are the same again! The revolution sank under its cargo of compromises it wouldn’t let go of, and the people turned out to be more interested in potatoes than freedom. The people think equality means everyone should be oppressed equally. The people love authority and are suspicious of talent. They want a government to govern for them and not against them—to govern themselves doesn’t enter their heads. The emperors did more than keep their thrones, they pushed our faces into the wreck of our belief in the revolutionary instincts of the people! Bakunin: A minor setback!
Another trademark is his sense of sound—the tone, timing, pitch of the proceedings. There are invisible measures and time signatures that have been applied to everything he writes, and the script is judged and weighted according to that sensibility. Counter-melodies are all the better for an underlayer of syncopation, and hearing them play out is a considerable pleasure.
Attention Spam And The Unlikely Bunny His favorite is the drifting attention-span thing, wherein a couple of coinciding if disparate dialogues implausibly mesh; unexpectedly, with humor, and often driving home the grander scheme. Stoppard likes to stitch his lines together along the bias, where a set distance between what is said and what is meant eventually collapses into a unifying ... chaos. The chaos that resolves the confusion. In The Coast Of Utopia, as we get on towards the third play of the trilogy, the timing has slowed down enough for careful consideration; the tone is rueful, world weary as our protagonist eulogizes yet another of the fallen :
Herzen: ... We studied copies of his newspaper, like religious texts. Yes, this is the language of free men! We’ll make the revolution in Berlin, Paris, Brussels! ... But the wave broke, and washed him up on the English shore, a refugee in the flotsam of refugees, their moment missed, their clothes shabbier by the month, their hopes shabbier too ...forever going over the past, schemers, dreamers, monomaniacs from every failed insurrection from Sicily to the Baltic, men who can’t get their shoes mended sending agents with earth-shaking instructions to Marseilles, Lisbon, Cologne ... men who walk across London to give a piano lesson redrawing the frontiers of Europe on the table-tops of cheap restaurants, toppling emperors like so many sauce bottles ... and Marx in his proud retreat in the British Museum, anathemising everyone else ... The clock has stopped in this theatre of political exile! You want to start it again at the moment when all was lost, so that you can make the same mistakes again. You reject the logic of why things went the way they did. That’s vanity and cowardice ...
And almost unnoticeably, the crowning monologue has arrived.. but without bulk, or blur, or fuss... As it unassumingly resolves the lines of the conflicting themes that went before, it is welcomed by the audience; and Stoppard has pulled another unlikely bunny from the top hat of historical obscurity. ...more