Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides's Reviews > Genêt, A Biography Of Janet Flanner

Genêt, A Biography Of Janet Flanner by Brenda Wineapple
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's review
Mar 24, 12

bookshelves: biography, people-glbt
Read from March 04 to 24, 2012

In 3.5 territory but definitely 4. The ending was a wee bit abrupt, and sad. An interesting but not perfect look at the life of an iconic writer. If you are interested in Paris, lesbians (as people and not objects), creative struggles, or some combination of the three, you must read this. In a nutshell: Midwestern girl runs away to the big city, discovers women, spends four decades mostly in Paris writing a letter for the New Yorker telling Americans about Paris. Has complicated relationships, is awarded the Legion d'Honneur, becomes grande dame of Americans in Paris, is finally widely appreciated near the end of her life even in her own country.

This biography has a large cast, as it were, and their relationship to the narrator and to history is not always well explained. Examples: Bernard Berenson and Charles Bedaux. If some other reading I'd done hadn't made me aware of them, I'd have been confused as to why they were worthy of mention. Makes me wonder how much other context I was missing. (Berenson was an art advisor who had a significant impact on American collections, and Charles Bedaux was a French-born American efficiency expert who was suspected of collaboration with the Nazis; he later committed suicide because of this suspicion. If you're curious you can read more about him in Americans in Paris. And Berenson appears in Old Masters, New World:, if my memory serves me correctly.)

The snippets of Flanner's writing that Wineapple presents were intriguing; I could wish there were more. (But I also have Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939 waiting to be read, so I suppose I can scratch that itch myself.) Wineapple did a good job consulting many sources and providing footnotes in citations.

It was neat to learn that Flanner was one of the first to write about the Monuments Men: and the Nazis' art thefts during World War II - I think I should try and track that piece down in the New Yorker's back issues.

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