THEY CAME TO PARIS by Howard Greenfeld


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Acknowledging the surplus of first person accounts, Greenfeld justifies his ""collage of events and portraits"" in terms of perspective--and, as in his Gertrude Stein (1973), he does manage to create a distillation of the lost generation scene in an admirable minimum of words Harold Sterans' distruntled Civilization in the United States makes a handy focus for Greenfeld's rather lecturish explanation of why so many talented young Americans left home in the early '20's. Once in Montparnasse though there are impressionistic profiles of the stars--Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Sylvia Beach and Ezra Pound, their glitter undimmed by the tedious biographical background YA authors indulge in--and a panorama of the heady creative climate (complete even then with cafe bums), the ferment in music and ballet (and the Murphys' party for Stravinsky which seemed as big an event as the debut of The Wedding which occasioned it), the phenomenal little magazines, and at last the degeneration of Montparnasse into a tourist attraction while the artists, in participant Samuel Putnam's words, were ""getting on one another's nerves."" One wonders how evocative the parade of names from Milhaud to Djuna Barnes will be for those without prior acquaintance, but Greenfeld does summon the presence of the major figures and revive the endless allure of geniuses together--in a time when art could still be shocking and composer Antheil kept a revolver prominently on the piano during his riot-provoking concerts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Crown