“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, March, 1922, London, Oxford, Paris

In newspapers and correspondence in England and France, the reviews are coming in…

Ulysses by James Joyce

No book has ever been more eagerly and curiously awaited by the strange little inner circle of book lovers and litterateurs than James Joyce’s Ulysses…Mr. James Joyce is a man of genius…I cannot, however, believe that sex plays such a preponderant part in life as Mr. Joyce represents…[Molly Bloom’s soliloquy is] the vilest, according to ordinary standards, in all literature…[But] there are phrases in which the words are packed tightly, as trim, as taut, as perfect as these things can be. There are fine ellipses in which a great sweep of meaning is concentrated into a single just right sentence. There is a spot of colour which sets the page aglow…And yet its very obscenity is somehow beautiful and wrings the soul to pity…Has he not exaggerated the vulgarity and magnified the madness of mankind and the mysterious materiality of the universe?”

—Sisley Huddleston, London Observer

London Observer, March 5, 1922

It took, I understand, nearly six years of Mr. Joyce’s life to write, and it will take nearly six of ours to read…The book is a staggering feat which, once attempted and more than half achieved, may never be attempted again.”

—George Slocombe, London Daily Herald

George Slocombe

“An Irish Revel:  And Some Flappers”

Our first impression is that of sheer disgust, our second of irritability because we never know whether a character is speaking or merely thinking, our third of boredom at the continual harping on obscenities (nothing cloys a reader’s appetite so quickly as dirt)…Reading Mr. Joyce is like making an excursion into Bolshevist Russia:  all standards go by the board…The maddest, muddiest, most loathsome book issued in our own or any other time—inartistic, incoherent, unquotably nasty—a book that one would have thought could only emanate from a criminal lunatic asylum…[Joyce is] the man with the bomb who would blow what remains of Europe into the sky…His intention, so far as he has any social intention, is completely anarchic.”

—S. P. B. Mais, London Daily Express

S. P. B. Mais

I’m reading the new Joyce—I hate it when I dip here and there, but when I read it in the right order I am much impressed. However I have but read some thirty pages in that order. It has our Irish cruelty and also our kind of strength and the Martello Tower pages are full of beauty. A cruel playful mind like a great soft tiger cat—I hear, as I read, the report of the rebel sergeant in 1898:  ‘O he was a fine fellow, a fine fellow. It was a pleasure to shoot him.’”

William Butler Yeats, near Oxford,

     letter to a friend in London

*****

Joyce has a most goddam wonderful book. It’ll probably reach you in time. Meantime the report is that he and all his family are starving but you can find the whole crew of them every night in Michaud’s where Binney [his wife Hadley] and I can only afford to go about once a week. Gertrude Stein says Joyce reminds her of an old woman out in San Francisco. The woman’s son struck it rich in the Klondyke and the old woman went around wringing her hands and saying, ‘Oh my poor Joey! My poor Joey! He’s got so much money!’ The damned Irish, they have to moan about something or other, but you never heard of an Irishman starving.”

Ernest Hemingway, Paris,

    letter to a friend in Chicago

By the end of the month the $12 copies of Ulysses have sold out.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after the Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, June 22, 1921, Left Bank, Paris

American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 28, is having dinner with two of her friends visiting from New York City, hit novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, 24, and his wife, Zelda, 20, on their first trip to Europe.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s passport

They want to meet up with Scott’s friend from his days at Princeton University, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, 26, just arrived in Paris from New York.

“Poor Bunny,” as she calls him, had eagerly found Millay as soon as he showed up two days ago. Edna made sure that, when Bunny came to her hotel room, on the rue de l’Universite, she was dressed in a demure black dress, at her typewriter, surrounded by neatly stacked manuscripts, evidence that she is indeed working. After all, Millay is living here as the foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair, thanks to Bunny, managing editor of the magazine.

Edmund Wilson

Since she has been here, Edna has only written to Bunny once, sending him one of her poems. He must know that their relationship is over; he’s been seeing someone else, an actress. But it’s pretty clear he came to Paris mostly to meet up with Millay.

As they chatted, Edna started feeling more comfortable, so she confided in Bunny that she is planning to marry Englishman George Slocombe, 27, special correspondent for the London Daily Herald. Well, as soon as he divorces his wife and kids in the suburbs. She wants to move to England with him. Edna has explained to George that Bunny is “just a friend” from New York.

Meanwhile, Bunny has moved from his Right Bank [i.e., posh] hotel to a pension just a few blocks away from her hotel, on this side of the River Seine [i.e., funky].

Scott and Zelda are staying on the Right Bank. They say they’ll try to find Bunny. Edna is in no hurry.

The Fitzgeralds haven’t been enjoying this trip. England. Italy. France—They’ve been disappointed all along. Zelda has been sick because she’s pregnant. Now they are looking forward to going home, albeit via England again. They might move to Zelda’s home state of Alabama next. They feel that they are done with Europe.

Edna feels as though she is just getting started.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I am talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, Spring, 1921, Hotel Saints-Peres, 65 rue des Saints Peres, Paris

Back in her hotel room, American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 29, foreign correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, has been out all evening at one of the cafes in the nearby Latin Quarter.

Millay really has been enjoying the past few months living in Paris. She quickly became fluent in French, has been invited to parties, and loves the bawdiness of French theatre. The only thing that doesn’t agree with her is the dairy-rich diet, particularly the coffee and cream.

But tonight. Tonight.

She’d gone to the café with one of her on-again, off-again lovers, British journalist Griffin Barry, 37. He introduced her to the most striking man in the room, red-headed, red-bearded English George Slocombe, 27, special correspondent for the London Daily Herald. He was wearing a black hat and striking ascot.

George Slocombe

Edna felt the attraction right away. And so did he. She told him about her job and her family back in New York. He talked about the international political stories he has been covering and explained that he had lost two teeth in the Great War.

On the way home in a cheap taxi, Edna could think of nothing but him. They had made plans to meet up tomorrow for a walk in the Bois de Boulogne.

George had left the café before her. He had to get back to his wife and three children in Saint-Cloud.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.