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Carl Van Vechten
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message 1: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Friend Sketchbook's reviews on Gr brought this writer to my attention- looks like more readers need to discover him!

From Wikipedia:
"Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964) was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.
Several books of Van Vechten's essays on various subjects such as music and literature were published between 1915 and 1920. Between 1922 and 1930 Knopf published seven novels by Van Vechten, starting with Peter Whiffle: His Life and Works and ending with Parties.
Van Vechten was interested in black writers and artists, and knew and promoted many of the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, Richard Wright, and Wallace Thurman. Van Vechten's controversial novel Nigger Heaven was published in 1926.

After the 1930s, Van Vechten published little writing, though he continued to write letters to many correspondents.
He died at the age of eighty-four in New York City. Van Vechten was the subject of a 1968 biography by Bruce Kellner, Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverent Decades."


"Carl Van Vechten, one of America's most eclectic men of letters, published six novels, two works on cats, and eleven collections of his critical essays on the arts. Although comfortable enough as the youngest son of prosperous parents in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he was born and raised, Van Vechten yearned for more exciting and exotic influences even as a child. In his continual search for expressions of genius in the art world, Van Vechten never discovered a more satisfying place than Paris.

As a writer of novels suffused with civilized humor, Van Vechten concentrated, he said, on "treating extremely serious themes as frivolously as possible." His first novel, published in 1922, perfectly blends these aims, presenting a whimsical chronicle of the author's experiences in Paris, Florence, and New York high society, thinly disguised as the story of a dissatisfied young genius Carl Van Vetchen."

CVV's books' ratings on Goodreads:

Nigger Heaven
3.31 of 5 stars 3.31 avg rating — 89 ratings — published 1926 — 4 editions

The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat
by Carl Van Vechten, Stephen Budiansky (Introduction)
3.76 of 5 stars 3.76 avg rating — 34 ratings — published 1920 — 6 editions

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 21 ratings — published 1930 — 3 editions

The Passionate Observer: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten
by Carl Van Vechten, Keith F. Davis
4.43 of 5 stars 4.43 avg rating — 7 ratings — published 1993 — 2 editions

The Blind Bow Boy
4.5 of 5 stars 4.50 avg rating — 8 ratings — published 1923 — 3 editions

Spider Boy a Scenario for a Moving Picture
4.29 of 5 stars 4.29 avg rating — 7 ratings — published 1928 — 2 editions

The Tattooed Countess
4.0 of 5 stars 4.00 avg rating — 7 ratings — 2 editions

Lords of the Housetops: Thirteen Cat Tales by Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and Many More
4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 4 ratings — published 2009 — 16 editions

Peter Whiffle
4.0 of 5 stars 4.00 avg rating — 5 ratings — published 2003 — 5 editions
The intro for this book reads:"This scarce antiquarian book is included in our special Legacy Reprint Series. In the interest of creating a more extensive selection of rare historical book reprints, we have chosen to reproduce this title even though it may possibly have occasional imperfections such as missing and blurred pages, missing text, poor pictures, markings, dark backgrounds and other reproduction issues beyond our control. Because this work is culturally important, we have made it available as a part of our commitment to protecting, preserving and promoting the world's literature."

Firecrackers: A Realistic Novel
5.0 of 5 stars 5.00 avg rating — 2 ratings — published 2007 — 2 editions

An interesting article:
"Expatriate Life Away from Paris" by Monteiro, George - The Antioch Review, Vol. 59, Issue 3, Summer 2001 | Questia, Your Online Research Library

message 2: by Mala (last edited Dec 06, 2013 12:31AM) (new)

Mala | 146 comments Sketchbook has reviewed most of his books here. The reviews for CVV's books are so few that by clicking on the link,you can see his reviews.
Still I'm sharing a few,with his permission,of course!

Review of Nigger Heaven:

Review of The Tiger in the House:

Review of Parties:

message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim After all those wonderful links I feel bad mentioning that these posts ought to be in the "V" section*.


They can stay right here...

(*My CDO just couldn't let this go by without a mention)

message 4: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments I wasn't aware that we are supposed to post by surname/last name!
In our Indian system,we make lists by name- I'll put it down to cultural differences!
Let NR move it; I'm not gonna move my lazy fingers –_~
* What's CDO?

message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim Mala wrote: "* What's CDO? .."

It's like OCD, but the letters are in the right order, like they should be!

(an old joke)

Yes, it's too much to move...

message 6: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Mala wrote: " Mala Debnath (malad) | 7 comments I wasn't aware that we are supposed to post by surname/last name!"

No problem. As I understand the goodreads conventions, names are alphabetized by the LAST element, so in this case under "V" for "Vechten" but not for "Van."

CVV becomes more BURIED by having understood that he was involved with both the Harlem Renaissance and with Stein. Cool.

message 7: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 18, 2013 03:59AM) (new)

Sketchbook CVV left a strong impression on writers. He is a fictional character in various books : "The Web and the Rock," Thomas Wolfe, (Paul Van Vleeck) and Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again," (Stephen Hook). Others : Nella Larsen, "Passing," (Hugh Wentworth);
James Purdy, "Out with the Stars," (Cyril Vane).

Maugham references him in his story "The Creative Impulse," Vol. 2, Collected stories.

YT has a post, 'Carl Van Vechten (Augusto Mariante)' which shows a series of his portrait photographs : Gish, Gershwin, Brando, Eugene O'Neill & wife, CVV & wife, Fania Marinoff, etc.
Mala, tks for finding the Links.

message 8: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments You're welcome,Sb!
Do share more material,as & when you find them.

message 9: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 20, 2013 06:22AM) (new)

Sketchbook What was Mabel Dodge really like? "Peter Whiffle," (1922), CVVs first novel, gives a vivid picture in the character of Edith Dale : "She was young - about 34 - and comely, with a face that could express anything or nothing more easily than any face I have ever seen. It was a perfect mask." At her salons, "Arguments and discussions floated in the air, were caught and twisted and hauled and tied, until the white salon itself was no longer static. There were undercurrents of emotion and sex. Edith sat quietly with her hands folded, like a Madonna who had lived long enough to learn to listen. Sometimes she left her guests and went to bed. But always her electric energy presided."

Three marriages later, Mabel moved to Taos (c. 1918) and took a 4th husband, the American Indian, Tony Luhan. After her death in 1962, CVV wrote : "She was a great woman and she completed my education. I loved what she did for me and accepted her guidance w pleasure." (From Letters of Carl Van Vechten, Yale University Press, 1987, an engrossing book that reports on 50 years of American culture).

message 10: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments I checked her bio- this Mabel lady had quite an eventful life!
And CVV writes like Wilde- I can see your fascination with him- hope I get to read one of his books soon. That nonfictional cat one looks very interesting!

message 11: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 21, 2013 07:57AM) (new)

Sketchbook (a) Mabel Dodge, a restless millionaire, is a fascinating woman. She published a 4-vol memoir and the remarkable book, "Lorenzo in Taos," abt D H Lawrence's time w her in New Mexico. She set up an unofficial arts colony there which drew, on her "personality," ev'one fr Willa Cather to Robinson Jeffers.

Her NYC salon (1910-1918) assembled John Reed (w whom she had a roma), Lincoln Steffens, Marsden Hartley, Margaret Sanger, Djuna Barnes, who later thanked Mabel for the tasty buffets to fill the tummy of a struggling writer. Mabel scorned uptown NYC; her domain was the Village, off Washington Square.

(b) CVVs wit is all-American.
Peter Whiffle quotes a despairing wannabe opera singer : "I can sing Isolde after I have lost my voice." (This puts me on the floor) ~~ Whiffle on Theo Dreiser : " 'Sister Carrie,' what a masterpiece ! No form, no style, just subject." ~~ Then : "The artist class lives the way it wants to live. The proletariat and the aristocrats live the way they have to live. The middle-class is composed of the proletariat trying to live like the aristocrats." ~ OMG !

message 12: by Mala (last edited Apr 23, 2013 03:12AM) (new)

Mala | 146 comments Great Sb! You are in your elements– I luv it when you write like this!
Have you read anything by Djuna Barnes? I keep hearing abt her Nightwood book– will she qualify as a buried writer!
Just downloaded a few of CVV books,ha!
Let's see when I come around to reading them.

Folks who are not averse to ebooks- a few of CVV books are available on Kobo for free.

message 13: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 21, 2013 10:42AM) (new)

Sketchbook Djuna would qualify for Buried Writers. I've read "Ntwood," which is strange & beautiful, and, for me, oddly disconnecting at times. But that read was long ago. One character of hers (the t/v) appears in Robert McAlmon's "Miss Knight and others." She & he knew ea other (and same peops), and as expat editor, McA was among first to publish her fiction.

Do find "Interviews" x Djuna Barnes. Stunning celeb interviews fr early 20thC in which we discover that New Journalism did >not< begin in the 1960s.

message 14: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Sketchbook wrote: "Djuna would qualify for Buried Writers."

I love Djuna, but she's not BURIED. Her top five books have more than 50 ratings and Nightwood has 2,890 ratings. a FEW of her books, though, would qualify her for the BURIED books by KNOWN authors folder. New York or The Antiphon, for instance.

message 15: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook This is astonishing news. Yet : Nightwood has classic status, so not so astonishing. Txs.

message 16: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Sketchbook wrote: "This is astonishing news. Yet : Nightwood has classic status, so not so astonishing. Txs."

In regard to Nightwood, I feel constantly compelled to recommend the edition from Dalkey Archive. It restores stuff that had to be removed at the time in order to get publication. She needs to be read more frequently, so feel free to type her name any chance you get.

message 17: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook A keen Group (Thread..?), this one.

message 18: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Nathan "N.R." wrote: "Sketchbook wrote: "Djuna would qualify for Buried Writers."

I love Djuna, but she's not BURIED. Her top five books have more than 50 ratings and Nightwood has 2,890 ratings. a FEW of her books, ..."

I just checked your review- strange that you say you love her,yet had nothing nice to say abt the book (story) itself,only praising the beauty of its look!
I was looking for an ebook version,couldn't find it.
Guess I'll have to be happy with your description of it!

message 19: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Sketchbook wrote: "A keen Group (Thread..?), this one."

Glad you like it here,Sb. Now be good & dig out some 'buried' writers & I'll make the threads & put them (hopefully) in the right place!

message 20: by Sketchbook (last edited Mar 28, 2013 09:16AM) (new)

Sketchbook Matt Hanson spotted poet Jack Spicer. He's buried.

message 21: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 985 comments Sketchbook wrote: "Matt Hanson spotted poet Jack Spicer. He's buried."

My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry has 383 ratings & 38 reviews.

The Collected Books has 316 ratings & 24 reviews.


message 22: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Perhaps a sub-thread is needed : BURIED ALIVE

message 23: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Heh heh! I already asked this question in the 'May I Add Thread'– Sb you shd check out other threads too,for a change ;-)
But srsly,Matt is the only one amongst us who has read the collected poems so he shd be in a position to tell whether other remaining works with very low ratings were included in that collection or not.
I'll ask him.

message 24: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook I "found" yr Matt-reply, then lost the thread. More threading and I'll be knitting a scarf, damnit--.

message 25: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments You'll make a very cute picture I'm sure!

message 26: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Tres mignon

message 27: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Merci!

message 28: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Here's what the cat brought home!

message 29: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Here's Sketchbook's review of Letters of Carl Van Vechten :

message 30: by Sketchbook (last edited Jul 06, 2013 02:06AM) (new)

Sketchbook In 1956 Peter David Marchant wrote his MA thesis at Columbia University on CVVs development fr Restoration Comedy. CVV wrote him (Letters of CVV, p 261) that "your almost mystical theory that I stem fr Congreve is...absolutely correct. I had an English teacher at the University of Chicago who dwelt on Congreve," and added that he read the Restoration comedies while still a youth. ~~ Marchant, age 29, died fr an incurable illness in 1957.

message 31: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Well,well,Sb,we both love Restoration Comedies– fun with lots of bite!

message 32: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook A touch of melancholy when it is most mocking, a chill when it seems most bright...yes, yes...

message 33: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Not to forget,Sheridan gave us that memorable character- Ms.Malaprop!
I sometimes make the same mistakes in writing,esp.when writing in a hurry- how embarrassing!

message 34: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook But Sheridan isn't (literally) Restoration. I almost flunked a test in college by writing that he was---. However, I know exactly what you mean !

message 35: by Mala (last edited Jul 06, 2013 02:27AM) (new)

Mala | 146 comments Really! Google R Comedy playwrights & his name will be there. In fact,I read him as part of that group in the drama paper!!!

It must be very late in ur part of the world- get some sleep!

message 36: by Sketchbook (last edited Jul 06, 2013 02:41AM) (new)

Sketchbook R Comedy (officially) is 1660-1710. Wycherley, Vanbrugh, Etherege. ~~ One must always beware of Google errors galore. ~~ However, Sheridan "reflects" the Restoration style, though he wasnt b until 1751. ~~ Im awaiting the arrival of my a.m. Bloody's a morning drink. Sometimes I turn my hours upside down.

message 37: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Sketchbook's review of Extravagant Crowd: Carl Van Vechten's Portraits of Women:

message 38: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook CVVs "Sacred and Profane Memories" (various autobiographical essays) just came into my hands. Mostly personal "fragments" pre-WW1. Dedicated to the 3 Stettheimer sisters.

message 39: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments No one on BBC is giving CVV a chance but my dear Sketchbook bravely marches on:

message 40: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Tks for adding Sacred & Profane Memories. CVV has many top Burieds competing for time. But non-members of BBC are now reading him.

message 41: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 209 comments Thanks for all this info, Mala. I like the sound of his fiction, I'll see if I can snarfle one here or there.

message 42: by Gregsamsa (last edited Dec 05, 2013 06:16AM) (new)

Gregsamsa | 94 comments WOW thanks for this thread, Mala! I had only known of Van Vechten by his frequent mention in other people's mail I've read re the Harlem Renaissance, mostly regarding photography (and generous checks). I had NO IDEA he'd written so much. Thanks again!

& to you too, Sketch.

message 43: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Gregsamsa wrote: "WOW thanks for this thread, Mala! I had only known of Van Vechten by his frequent mention in other people's mail I've read re the Harlem Renaissance, mostly regarding photography (and generous che..."

I'm assuming that you'll pick up some CVV title then since Train Whistle Guitar doesn't seem to have gone down well with you > >

message 44: by Gregsamsa (new)

Gregsamsa | 94 comments Oh no no. I am enjoying Train Whistle Guitar, but I own it so I set it aside so I could finish things from the library. I will finish TWG and review it. It's just been neglected because of competitors with due-dates!

message 45: by Gregsamsa (new)

Gregsamsa | 94 comments Fun quote from Ralph Ellison in a letter to Albert Murray:

"I agree that Van Vechten is much more present in the fiction of the twenties than we stop to think nowadays and in fact Mailer would be quite surprised to see that the crap he's selling is actually V.'s leavings...."

message 46: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Great quote, Gregsamsa.

message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah - I was already going to check this guy out, but that Ellison quote just ensured I'll be picking some of his stuff later today. Thanks for that!

message 48: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments The New Yorker has a book review (5,000 wd piece) on CVV.
Kelefa Sanneh: The Passions of Carl Van Vechten:

message 49: by Sketchbook (last edited Feb 16, 2014 05:08AM) (new)

Sketchbook A slight piece that dismisses his novels and focuses on CVV & Harlem. The big bio -- by Clive Fisher, Knopf -- is still in-the-works. Fisher was able to sleuth information on 2 children CVV fathered. Tks for posting.

message 50: by Mala (new)

Mala | 146 comments Sketchbook's review of the Bruce Kellner bio of CVV:Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverant Decades:

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