The Literary 20s: Paris, Shakespeare & Co., and the Contact Press reading list

Compiled by Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, Ph.D.

This is the reading list for my presentation about publishing in Paris in the 1920s. For more information click on the link for ‘Such Friends’ presentations.

Carlos Baker, ed. Ernest Hemingway:  Selected Letters, 1917-61. New York:  Scribner’s, 1981. Hemingway stipulated that his letters never be published, so biographers had to awkwardly paraphrase them. By 1981, Baker persuaded Mary Hemingway that Ernest would be better served by having his words in print. They’re great.

Sylvia Beach. Shakespeare & Co. New York:  Harcourt Brace & World, 1959. Her unique perspective of a unique time and place. Delightful.

Kay Boyle and Robert McAlmon. Being Geniuses Together, 1920-1930. San Francisco:  North Point Press, 1984. Kay Boyle was on the fringe of the group of ‘little mags’ and had an affair with the consumptive Ernest Walsh, editor of This Quarterly. The book alternates her memoirs with McAlmon’s and is just fascinating.

Morley Callaghan. That Summer in Paris. New York:  Coward-McCann, 1963. Callaghan was the timekeeper for the famous Hemingway-Fitzgerald boxing match, and he’s dined out on that story for years. A lovely memoir of a memorable summer.

Malcolm Cowley. Exile’s Return:  A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s. New York:  Penguin Books, 1969. He wasn’t in the center, but is good commentator on the psychology of the time.

Richard Ellman. James Joyce. Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1982. The standard biography by the same scholar who wrote the standard biography of W B Yeats.

Noel Riley Fitch. Sylvia Beach & the Lost Generation:  A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties & Thirties. New York:  W W Norton & Co. A detailed and fascinating look at this amazing woman and her courageous fight to publish Ulysses, as well as her friendships with the other characters in Paris at the time.

Janet Flanner [Genet]. Paris Was Yesterday.  1925-1939. San Diego:  Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich, 1972. A collection of most of her columns from The New Yorker during these amazing years, with her later annotations.

Gisele Freund and V. B. Carleton. James Joyce in Paris:  The Final Years. New York:  Harcourt Brace & World, 1965. Freund talked Joyce into a few days of being photographed in black and white and they are finally published here along with other wonderful pictures of Paris and others in the late 30s.

Mary Ellen Jordan Haight. Walks in Gertrude Stein’s Paris. Salt Lake City, UT:  Perrigrine Smith Books, 1988. Very specific to her world.

Ernest Hemingway. A Moveable Feast. New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964. His version of events, as he remembered them years later.

James Joyce. Ulysses. New York:  Random House, 1961. The standard US version. This edition includes the 1933 landmark decision by Judge Woolsey.

James R. Mellow. Charmed Circle:  Gertrude Stein and Company. New York:  Avon Books, 1974. The best overall book about this era and the characters in Paris.

Michael Reynolds. Hemingway:  The Paris Years. Cambridge, MA:  Basil Blackwell, 1989. Part of a five-volume tour de force, by a terrific biographer with lots of great details.

Sanford J Smoller.  Adrift Among Stars:  Robert McAlmon. University Park, PA:  Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975. The only real biography of McAlmon on his own.

Diane Souhami. Gertrude & Alice. Pandora, 1991. Better than a biography of either one of them, the author writes about both equally and, most interesting, about their relationship.

Gertrude Stein. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. New York:  Vintage Books, 1990. If you’ve ever been afraid to read Stein, this is the place to start. Definitely her point of view, but a wonderful romp.

Video tips:

Paris Was a Woman, A Film by Greta Schiller. A Zeitgeist Films Release. 1996. 75 minutes. Wonderful documentary about the many women, American and British, who went to Paris in the 1920s to get away from bad marriages.

The Moderns by director Alan Rudolph is the only film about Stein’s salon that I know of. In my opinion, it looks beautiful and authentic, but the characters and dialogue are really bad. Really bad. Watch it with the sound off.

Travel tips:

When visiting Paris, it is best to take along one of the book of walks specific to the writers in the 1920s. A few of the buildings have plaques, but most don’t. The current Shakespeare & Co. is on a totally different site, but still worth a visit. Then go sit in one of the cafes. They are still there.

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4 thoughts on “The Literary 20s: Paris, Shakespeare & Co., and the Contact Press reading list

  1. Thank you for finding my blog and catching me out. I did only say ‘match,’ not ‘matches.’ I was commenting on a book I had read a while before and should have double fact-checked. Callaghan was not in the group of writers I focused on for my Ph.D., so the error wouldn’t have affected my research or results. WIll put a link to your blog on mine, as you obviously are a stickler for detail as I am,
    And it is ‘quite often’ not ‘quiet often.’

  2. Pingback: Paris and Things that are Incorrect | ohijustdontknow

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