"THE CONTINUAL PILGRIMAGE: American Writers in Paris, 1944-1960" by Christopher "Sawyer-LauÇanno

"THE CONTINUAL PILGRIMAGE: American Writers in Paris, 1944-1960"

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Lively survey of American writers in Paris from the liberation in 1944 through 1960, ending with the invasion of the Beats. Sawyer-LauÇanno (The Invisible Spectator, 1989's fine bio of Paul Bowles) opens with a bang as war-journalist Ernest Hemingway liberates the Ritz bar, steals future wife Mary Welsh from Pfc. Irwin Shaw, fences with AndrÉ Malraux about their war adventures, insults William Saroyan, lit-chats with J.D. Salinger, visits Picasso. Janet Flanner of The New Yorker writes movingly of Paris's returning POWs, forced laborers, and survivors of the concentration camps, and of the sobs, speechless anger, profound shock, and horror of the Parisians. Gertrude Stein gets off her grand likes and dislikes, peppered with anti-Semitic remarks, and tells new arrival Richard Wright that ""it is obvious that you and I are the only two geniuses of this era."" Wright's is a chosen exile and he soon finds himself rejected in America, lauded in Europe. He's followed by fellow exiles James Baldwin and Chester Himes, and Baldwin sets out to slay Wright and become the leading black American writer. Dirty-books publisher Maurice Dirodias's Olympia Press gives a solid berth to Alexander Trocchi, Terry Southern, J.P. Donleavy, and Vladimir Nabokov. George Plimpton (his dirty book is turned down by Girodias) starts up The Paris Review with Harold (Doc) Humes, Peter Matthiessen, William Styron, Southern, Robert Bly, and Evan S. Connell, among other contributors. Sawyer-Lauctanno calls the early history of The Paris Review ""in many ways the story of the Parisian expatriate literary community itself."" Celebrated war-novelist James Jones is on hand, as are Harry Mathews, John Ashbery, and Susan Sontag, while Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs hole up in a stinking, scummy, hideously decaying hotel to edit Naked Lunch. Intelligently done. Lively capsule histories lend zest to each writer's empowering Paris years.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld