GAILY, GAILY by Ben Hecht


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Gaily, Gaily is a japist's memoir and Hecht's funniest and most gaudy book in decades. His spiritual home has always been Chicago, around 1912 and after, when he was a cub on the Daily Journal and when his most burning discussions concerned not Israel but Dostoevsky, marriage and whoring. The story begins with Ben, 18, talking young Clara into leaving her harlot servitude in Queen Lil's whorehouse and coming to share his garret. Boon Ben is reforming Clara by reading aloud Alfred de Musset and Swinburne all the aude night. He gets her a job on the Journal, writes all her copy for her. But-- while Ben and fellow reporter Charlie MacArthur are planning to resurrect Frank Piano after the state hangs him (they will use the new miracle drug, adrenalin) -- Clara falls back into an old passion, in a rear room of the Journal, and is discovered by the managing editor. Ben, griefstricken, soothes himself back in his Farret with a new 18-volume set of Guy de Maupassant. And so it goes, wild and wacky, with homosexuals, men about to be hanged, Negresses, all with salty, literate dialogue and much roseleaf description (""Outside my window, the spring night was a ballet of shadows and rooftops""). The memoir is filled with pleasure and pity and entrammeled youthful experience.

Publisher: Doubleday