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NEWS OF PARIS by Ronald Weber

NEWS OF PARIS

American Journalists in the City of Light Between the Wars

By Ronald Weber

Pub Date: April 7th, 2006
ISBN: 1-56663-676-0
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

From literary scholar Weber (Hired Pens, 1997, etc.), a vivid account of colorful characters and mostly ephemeral publications enlivening expatriate life from the end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second.

Notwithstanding his academic credentials (American Studies Emeritus/Univ. of Notre Dame), the author doesn’t provide any unifying themes or discern any lasting cultural contributions made by the Americans who financed their agreeable sojourns overseas by writing, editing and proofreading for the not-terribly-distinguished newspapers and magazines published for their fellow expatriates. Instead, his enjoyable narrative offers lots of good stories about late nights, hard drinking and minimal amounts of work at the Paris Herald, the Paris Tribune and the Paris Times, as well as such magazines as The Boulevardier and the Paris Comet. A separate chapter chronicles the more substantive accomplishments of foreign correspondents for the Paris bureaus of American newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and the New York Herald-Tribune as the threat of war darkened Europe. Female correspondents like the New Yorker’s Janet Flanner and the intrepid Martha Gellhorn and Dorothy Thompson (both of whom ranged far afield from Paris) also get their due, and another chapter examines the fiction produced when journalists got off their day jobs—Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer being the only enduring work in this category. In contrast, the bestselling memoirs of their European stints by Vincent Sheean, John Gunther and William L. Shirer remain widely read today. Other still-well-known names dotting the text include Ernest Hemingway, Eric Sevareid, Walter Kerr and Edward R. Murrow, who worked from London but recruited many Paris-based journalists for CBS Radio’s fledgling overseas coverage. But the more typical protagonists here are such semi-famous sorts as Waverly Root, Elliot Paul and Harold Stearns, most of whom bounced from paper to magazine to paper while enjoying la vie de bohème and—most notably in Stearns’s case—failing to live up to early predictions of their shining literary promise.

Agreeable, old-fashioned cultural history: heavy on anecdotes, light on analysis.