In Madrid, Spain, in June of 1923…

…ex-pat American writer and publisher Bob McAlmon, 27, is watching his first bullfight.

McAlmon came here with his new American buddies from Paris, Ernest Hemingway, 23, and his pregnant wife, Hadley, 31, and publisher Bill Bird, 35. Hem had heard of the glories of the bullring from his mentor in Paris, writer Gertrude Stein, 49, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 46. McAlmon is thinking that Hemingway is enjoying this spectacle just because Stein said he should.

Bob is not sure if he is enjoying it, though. Yeah, they’ve got the top seats and the top liquor—but that’s because he’s paying for everything! Ever since Bob’s Paris friends found out that he and his British wife Bryher, 28, are living off her substantial inheritance, they all expect him to pick up the tab.

McAlmon is also paying for the publication of Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, due to come out in a few months from McAlmon’s new Contact Press. Bryher’s family money is supporting that too.

But that’s an investment. Bob thinks he might make some money out of the books some day. But certainly not out of the bullfights.

HemingwayMcAlmon-630x527

Bob McAlmon, left, and his new BFF Ernest Hemingway at the bullfight in Madrid, 1923

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

To walk with the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In New York City, on the morning of February 11th, 1926…

Ernest Hemingway, 26, wakes up and makes his decision.

The day before he had met with Horace Liveright, 42, the publisher of his first book, In Our Time. They had had a pleasant discussion, but confirmed that Liveright could not publish Hemingway’s latest novel, The Torrents of Spring.

In fact, Ernest had purposely written Torrents as a vicious parody of the style of his friend, Sherwood Anderson, 49, Liveright’s top novelist.

This morning, after a sleepless night, Hemingway has decided he will meet with Maxwell Perkins, 41, editor at Scribner’s. Their mutual friend, fellow novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 29, had recommended Hemingway to Scribner’s before they had even met. And Ernest likes the letters he has received from Perkins. He’d written to Scott last year that he preferred Perkins because of his

confidence in Scribner’s and would like to be lined up with you.”

Off to Scribner’s. Time to meet this Perkins fellow…

Scribner’s Building in Manhattan, also seen in the film Birdman

Scribner’s Building in Manhattan, also seen in the film Birdman

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.
Manager as Muse explores Perkins’ work with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available in both print and Kindle versions from Amazon.

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

On this date, 20th September, in 1884, on the corner of Second Avenue and Fourteenth Street in Manhattan…

…Maxwell Evarts Perkins was born. Descendant of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, he was always described as more New England Yankee than New Yorker.

After graduating from Harvard with a degree in Economics, Perkins worked for a bit as a reporter at the New York Times, then joined the well-respected publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1910 in the advertising department.

Within a few years he was moved to the editorial side, and began his long tenure as a legendary spotter of talent. Because of Perkins, Scribner’s published those Paris ‘such friends’ F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as Thomas Wolfe and other distinguished novelists from the beginnings of their careers.

What can we learn today from the way Perkins worked with these outstandingly creative people? That’s the question I asked when working on my MBA thesis at Duquesne University. The result is Manager as Muse: Maxwell Perkins’ Work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, which I have recently slimmed down and published on Amazon, in both print and Kindle versions.

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

What a perfect way to celebrate Max’s birthday! I’ll even be happy to sign a print copy the next time I see you…

 

To walk with me and the ‘Such Friends’ through Bloomsbury, download the Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group audio walking tour from VoiceMap. Look for our upcoming walking tour about the Paris ‘such friends.’

In Tiffin, Ohio, 145 years ago, on April 24, 1870…

…John Quinn was born, the first son of two Irish immigrants. He grew up in middle-class Fostoria, Ohio, and went to the University of Michigan. While working full-time in a government job in Washington, DC, he went to Georgetown University law school at night. After receiving his law degree, he earned an advanced degree in international relations from Harvard. Not bad for the son of a shanty-Irish baker.

Quinn then moved to New York City, which was to be his home for the rest of his life, so he was there when the Algonquin Round Table wits were in the newspapers every day. He predictably landed a job with a major New York law firm and worked on high profile corporate cases. During a two-year period there were quite a few deaths in his family—parents, sisters, etc.—and he began to explore his Irish roots by going back to ‘the old sod.’ While attending a Gaelic language festival in the west of Ireland, he met Lady Augusta Gregory and other friends of W B Yeats involved in the Irish Literary Renaissance. While helping them found the Abbey Theatre, he started his own law firm in 1906.

John Quinn, 1870-1924

John Quinn, 1870-1924

Quinn became involved in New York’s Tammany Hall politics, but when his candidate didn’t get the nomination at the 1912 Democratic Party convention, he became disgusted with the whole system (go figure). After that he turned his considerable energies to art and literature.

During the first two decades of the 20th century he managed to:

  • Help organize the Armory Show, securing paintings from Roger Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist Exhibit in London, and Leo and Gertrude Stein’s collection at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris,
  • Fight Congress to have the tariff on contemporary art changed,
  • Bail out the Abbey Theatre after they were arrested for performing The Playboy of the Western World in Philadelphia,
  • Have an affair with Lady Gregory and a number of other much younger women,
  • Support Yeats’ father in New York City by buying his paintings,
  • Argue the original case to have excerpts of Ulysses published in the United States,
  • Support James Joyce in Paris by buying his manuscripts of Ulysses as he wrote them,
  • Fund the transatlantic review where Ernest Hemingway worked when he first came to Paris, and
  • Amass an incredible collection of modern art, stashed around his Manhattan apartment, focused primarily on European painters and sculptors.

During that time he kept up a detailed correspondence with all of the above as well as Ezra Pound, Joseph Conrad, Augustus John and other cultural luminaries of the early 20th century. When I did my research, Quinn kept popping up, Zelig-like, in photos such as this one:

James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and John Quinn in Paris

James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and John Quinn in Paris

Quite a guy. I get tired just thinking about all he accomplished.

Quinn died of intestinal cancer at the age of 54, and, having no heirs, willed that his art collection be sold off and dispersed among museums and collectors around the world. And it was.

This summer I’m planning to visit the States—including Ohio, where he grew up, and New York City, where his papers are. And [you read it here first], on this date, five years from now, 2020, his 150th birthday, I plan to publish an autobiography of this amazing man.

So happy birthday, John Quinn!

On the Left Bank of Paris, Spring, 1925…

…a man walks in to a bar.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 28, whose third novel, The Great Gatsby, has just been published by Scribner’s back in the US, goes to the Dingo on rue Delambre. He has been told he will find there the American writer that everyone in Paris is talking about, Ernest Hemingway, 25.

After reading a few of Ernest’s stories last year, Scott had written to his Scribner’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, 40, about

Hemmingway…I’d look him up right away.  He’s the real thing.’

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Wearing his finest Brooks Brothers suit, Scott finds Ernest drinking at the bar with some of his British ex-pat friends, Duff Twysden, 32, and her distant cousin and current squeeze, Pat Guthrie, 30. Fitzgerald orders champagne for all, asks Hemingway questions about his wife, feels violently ill, and passes out. His new friends send him home in a taxi.

Hemingway is not impressed.

Ernest Hemingway, Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Donald Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie in Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights a few months later, July 1925.

Ernest Hemingway, Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Donald Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie in Pamplona, Spain, for the bullfights a few months later, July 1925.

 

On the Left Bank of Paris, December, 1921…

…recently arrived Americans, Ernest Hemingway, 22, and his new wife, Hadley Richardson Hemingway, 30, are having drinks at one of their favourite cafes, the Dome, on the Boulevard de Montparnasse. They’re very excited about starting their new life here, living off Hadley’s trust fund and Ernest’s writing for the Toronto Star.

But, they’re lonely. They don’t know anyone. Their friend back in Chicago, novelist Sherwood Anderson, 45, has given them letters of introduction to other ex-patriate writers in the city, but they haven’t summoned up the courage to use them yet.

At the Dome in the 1920s

At the Dome in the 1920s

At the Dome last week

At the Dome last week

About ten minutes away, at 27 rue de Fleurus, two other American friends of Anderson, writer Gertrude Stein, 47, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 44, are getting ready for their Christmas party. Each year they invite the writers and painters living in Paris. Well, the ones they like.

And, on the other side of the Luxembourg Gardens, on rue de l’Odeon, there is a buzz around the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, run by another American, Sylvia Beach, 34. Irish author James Joyce, 39, is getting ready to give a reading of his new novel, Ulysses, which Sylvia is preparing to publish early next year. This reading is a way of getting more pre-orders to finance the project. All of cultural Paris is coming.

But not Gert and Alice. They cancelled their membership in Sylvia’s bookstore when she took on Joyce.

This year, we’ll be telling stories about these groups of ‘such friends,’ before, during and after their times together.

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon in the 1920s

American Sylvia and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon in the 1920s

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon last week

American Kathleen and her Irishman on rue de l’Odeon last week

On 2nd February, 2015,…

…Manager as Muse: Maxwell Perkins’ Work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe is published.

When I first met with Charles Scribner, Jr., president of Charles Scribner’s Sons, in May of 1980, to discuss Maxwell Perkins and his influence on writers and publishing, Mr. Scribner expressed his doubt about the relevance of Perkins as a subject for my MBA thesis:

“My goodness, Miss Donnelly, Maxwell Perkins was one of the worst businessmen who ever lived.”

This is the traditional view of Perkins’ work with his three most famous authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. However, when it came time for me to choose a topic for my thesis at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, I wanted to find out how he managed to get such incredible work out of these fabulous characters.

This version of the book has been substantially edited from my original case study. I felt it would be best to keep the emphasis on the relationships between Perkins and these three interesting men. But the conclusion is the same—guidelines to help anyone who has to manage or supervise creative people. How did Perkins keep these guys writing? How much did he push? How much did he stay hands off?’

The terrific 1980s biography, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by Pulitzer-prize winning author A. Scott Berg, gave me a sound basis to build on. But I also drew on many other sources about editors, publishing, and creative people. Quite a bit came from collections of letters between the editor and his authors. People wrote letters in those days! They provide a wealth of information.

Berg’s book is currently being made into a film, Genius, starring Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, and Nicole Kidman as Wolfe’s mistress, Aline Bernstein. The film has been shooting now in the UK and is scheduled to be released later this year or early in 2016.

After researching Perkins and that time period, when it came time to do my Ph.D. in Communications, at Dublin City University, I decided to build on the information I had and look into writers who socialized together, as Fitzgerald and Hemingway did in Paris in the 1920s with Gertrude Stein and others.

This led me to ‘Such Friends’ and this blog. When I went back to edit Manager as Muse, I realized that Perkins and his writers were, also, ‘such friends.’

Manager as Muse is now available in both print and Kindle versions on Amazon.com in the US and Amazon.co.uk in the UK.

If you are in the UK and want a signed copy of Manager as Muse, let me know and I’ll arrange to get you one. If you are in the US, you can order the print version and I’m happy to sign it next time I’m there!

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

Manager as Muse by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly

In America on this date 100 years ago, September 20th, 1913…

…Maxwell Perkins turns 29. On New Year’s Eve of 1910 he had married his sweetheart, Louise Saunders, because he had finally secured a job that would give him a decent salary and a regular home life—in the advertising department of Charles Scribner’s and Sons. Although his Harvard degree was in economics, he sometimes went over-budget to promote books he felt strongly about. He and Louise had been able to start a family, having two daughters so far, Bertha and Elizabeth, always called Zippy.

Max Perkins. I like this photo because [a] it is free to use and [b] he looks like my Dad.

Max Perkins. I like this photo because [a] it is free to use and [b] he looks like my Dad.

In the following year, Perkins would be moved up in Scribner’s to the position of editor. Old CS, who ran the family firm, was impressed by Max. Within a few years he would also be challenged by Perkins’ championing of new literature from the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. He remained in the editorial department until his death in 1946, 35 years and three more daughters later.

My MBA thesis, ‘Manager as Muse’ was about Max Perkins and his work with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas “You Can’t Go Home Again” Wolfe [www.lulu.com/spotlight/suchfriends]. The excellent biography I used as a primary source, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by A. Scott Berg, is being turned into a film called Genius starring Colin Firth. And I’m working on an e-book version of my thesis, with all the boring parts taken out, so watch this space.

And check out a recent article in The Guardian about A. Scott Berg’s Perkins’ biography:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/oct/04/age-amazon-editors-max-perkins?CMP=twt_gu&commentpage=1

 

The Great Gatsby: 3D or not 3D

‘What did you think of the film?!’ I’ve been asked often since Baz Luhrmann’s take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby [http:// thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com] has appeared in cinemas.

Purposely, I didn’t read any reviews. My Irish Husband Tony and I went to see it last weekend in 3D at the art deco Electric Cinema here in Birmingham, UK. And then I went back the next day to see it in 2D.

I really liked it. Definitely better than the 1974 version starring Robert Redford, which looked gorgeous, but lacked a certain…chewy center.

The Irish Husband really was impressed by the 3D, but I’m not so sure. The technique forces the director to put a lot of action in the foreground. Characters point a lot.

When I saw the 2D version the next day, there were fewer distractions, which made it a lot easier to pay attention to the music, the performances, and the smaller touches that happened in the background.

For one thing, I feel as tho Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby captured more of the depth of the character as Fitzgerald envisioned him. Early versions of the manuscript show that Fitzgerald had, in the estimation of his Scribner’s editor, Maxwell Perkins, 40, made Gatsby too vague. Revising the galleys, Scott added subtle touches suggested by Perkins that fleshed out the character, but still left him mysterious. DiCaprio gets this.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby

Luhrmann’s version also gave more context to the story than just ‘everyone went to a lot of parties in the 1920s.’ I’m not sure why he felt the need to bookend the film with narrator Nick Carraway in a rehab centre, talking to a psychiatrist in 1929.

Remember that Fitzgerald, then 26, began writing the novel in 1922, the year in which it is set. He had had a huge success with This Side of Paradise [1920], the first of many truly modern American debut novels that Perkins would acquire for Scribner’s, and the follow up The Beautiful and Damned [1922]. His flapper heroines, somewhat based on his wife, Zelda, then 22, also flitted through the short stories he wrote for the Saturday Evening Post and other popular magazines of the time. Perkins published collections of these stories after each novel came out, figuring that the sales of one helped the other.

By 1922, Scott and Zelda had only been to Europe once, and hadn’t liked it very much. Living in Long Island from October of that year, Fitzgerald keenly observed his partying neighbours, including many members of the Algonquin Round Table and others working in the budding film industry. After hooking up with other American ex-patriates in Paris, particularly the golden couple, Gerald and Sara Murphy, they all moved on to the Riviera in the spring of 1924 where Fitzgerald continued to work on Gatsby by sending manuscripts back to Scribner’s by post and responses to Perkins’s suggestions by telegram. No internet then. Zelda had an affair that summer, with a French aviator no less, which must have fed into Scott’s bittersweet depiction of Gatsby’s golden girl, Daisy.

In the film, Nick Carraway is shown unpacking a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses in its original blue cover. Altho Ulysses was published in Paris in February of 1922, copies weren’t readily available in the US yet. Fitzgerald knew of Joyce’s work, however, from the instalments which had appeared in The Little Review before they were censored by court order.

With the benefit of history’s hindsight, we can appreciate the Hitler-like moustache Luhrmann puts on Tom Buchanan’s upper lip, but Fitzgerald’s hint of fascism in his novel’s villain reflects his own perception of the undercurrents of 1920s global politics.

By the time The Great Gatsby came out in the spring of 1925, around the same time that The New Yorker magazine, featuring Algonquin Round table writers, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway were first published, Fitzgerald was back in Paris and had been introduced to the hottest ‘unknown’ American writer on the Left Bank, Ernest Hemingway, 26. Scott had already alerted Perkins to Hemingway, even before they met, as ‘the real thing.’

So Fitzgerald was not looking back at a time before the stock market crashed and the world went to war again. He was capturing a time after the world had been to war and was dancing towards a cliff. Did he see it coming? We can.

This dark side to the frothy twenties is what comes through in Luhrmann’s film, and particularly [much to my surprise, I admit] in the music by JayZ and others. Wondering why Luhrmann would make this choice—a ploy to get the young ‘uns in?—I read an interview in which the director said he wanted the audience to have the experience of those in the 1920s who were hearing jazz for the first time. And it works. ‘…When I’m no longer young…’ is still going through my head.

While the party sequences are giddy and gorgeous, the music adds substance as well as foreboding. But why wasn’t dance used more? Whenever a group of partygoers breaks into synchronized movements, the camera quickly moves on. This struck me as a missed opportunity to communicate even more of the energy of this destructive lifestyle.

And why leave out one of Gatsby’s best descriptions of Daisy, ‘Her voice is full of money’?

Which brings us to the center of the film and the book, Gatsby himself. Redford certainly looked the part, but his Gatsby was strangely mechanical. All style, no substance.

For me, DiCaprio captures the passion of Fitzgerald’s enigmatic character, as well as the stalker element of his personality. Does his obsession really have anything to do with Daisy herself [well played by Carey Mulligan]? Or does he only desire the green light at the end of the dock? In the scene where Gatsby lashes out at Tom Buchanan [The 3D works well in that instance], you can feel his anger and jealousy. But is that his motivation? Getting back at Tom, rather than having a lasting relationship with Daisy?

My recommendation:  Thumbs up. But no need to shell out extra for the 3D. Read the book instead. Using only a pen on lined yellow paper, Fitzgerald was able to tell a 3D story with 3D characters. Even in the 2D film version, they leap off the screen.

The Plough and the Stars

Still working on a posting a blog about Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End [did you enjoy it?]. In the meantime, check out my Such Friends Facebook page about the Abbey Theatre’s production of Sean O’Casey The Plough and the Stars, and my evening in the theatre with Christopher Walken: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Such-Friends/201449423252358