Talking 'bout their generation
March 3, 2011 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Just finished reading Hemingway's Moveable Feast, and want more. Specifically, more about the time and place - Paris in the 20s, the Lost Generation, novelists, artists, poets, patrons and the hangers-on. Suggestions welcome for the best of anything with that flavour: biographies, novels (from then or now), films.
posted by reynir to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Anything by Collette.

And then start reading all the biographies of the women and men she slept with.
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:46 PM on March 3, 2011

(That should say "Any book/short story collection/semi-autobiography written by Colette" just in case you start looking for a book named "Anything").
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:48 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: The first thing that came to mind (and I know there are others but I'm going blank right now) is Nora, the biography of James Joyce's wife. It covers more than just their time in Paris in the 1920s, but that's a big chunk of it, and the narrative is more immediately accessible than the big Joyce biographies (though if you're really into Joyce, by all means the Ellmann biography is extraordinary).
posted by scody at 2:51 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: Fiction:
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Paris, France by Gertrude Stein
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Exile's Return by Malcolm Cowley
Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach
Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the 20s and 30s by Noel Riley Fitch
Hemingway: The Paris Years by Michael S. Reynolds

(These are what I can remember off the top of my head. I would have to double check my bookshelf when I get home to see which ones I've forgotten.)
posted by paisley sheep at 3:03 PM on March 3, 2011

Oh! Just remembered another one.

Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship -- a collection of letters from the two authors.

This is one I highly recommend, if only to read Fitzgerald's (not so charitable) take on Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.
posted by paisley sheep at 3:09 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell takes place in the late 1920's and is positively pungent with flavor.
posted by kprincehouse at 3:25 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Moderns
posted by spasm at 3:26 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: PBS made Paris The Luminous Years. It doesn't get to the 1920s until halfway through though. I watched that around the same time I read The Sun Also Rises. And about half a year before that I read A Moveable Feast. It tied together nicely.
posted by bread-eater at 3:30 PM on March 3, 2011

Woody Allen's standup bit The Lost Generation, from his album Standup Comic:

"I mentioned before that I was in Europe. It's not the first time that I was in Europe, I was in Europe many years ago with Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway had just written his first novel, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said that is was a good novel, but not a great one, and that it needed some work, but it could be a fine book. And we laughed over it. Hemingway punched me in the mouth.

That winter Picasso lived on the Rue d'Barque, and he had just painted a picture of a naked dental hygenist in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Gertrude Stein said it was a good picture, but not a great one, and I said it could be a fine picture. We laughed over it and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.

Francis Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald came home from their wild new years eve party. It was April. Scott had just written Great Expectations, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said it was a good book, but there was no need to have written it, 'cause Charles Dickens had already written it. We laughed over it, and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.

That winter we went to Spain to see Manolete fight, and he was... looked to be eighteen, and Gertrude Stein said no, he was nineteen, but that he only looked eighteen, and I said sometimes a boy of eighteen will look nineteen, whereas other times a nineteen year old can easily look eighteen. That's the way it is with a true Spaniard. We laughed over that and Gertrude Stein punched me in the mouth.

Good night. "

posted by neuron at 3:37 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: The only novel you really need is Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys.

After that check out some of her others - After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, Quartet, Voyage in the Dark.

Other than that there has been no mention yet of Miller's Tropic of Cancer. Also Alberta and Freedom by Cora Sandel, Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco, The letters of Samuel Beckett 1920-1949.

If you want to immerse yourself in this period then check out Kiki's Paris. It's mainly photos but it is a wonderful introduction to the artists, writers, models and hangers on of this period, very evocative. The artistic movement you want to research is called "Ecole de Paris." You might want to look at Kiki of Montparnasse as a jumping off point. Montparnasse was a very exciting place at this time, but Hemingway was only on the periphery .
posted by fire&wings at 3:50 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: Eliot Pauls book "A Quiet Street" was about everyday life in rue de la Huchette.
In England it was published by Penguin.
He knew everybody.
posted by jan murray at 4:01 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: There's a biography of Gertrude Stein I was just rereading called The Third Rose by John Malcolm Brinnin.

Also, years ago I read an entertaining memoir by Morley Callaghan about that era called That Summer in Paris.
posted by cropshy at 4:16 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: I would Very Strongly recommend Memoirs of Montparnasse, by John Glassco.

It is a deep intense book which covers this unique place and time.

(Much better than Hemingway's famous book, I feel).
posted by ovvl at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, that's terrific.

(although please keep it coming if you have more).
posted by reynir at 4:30 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: You definitely have to read more about Gerald and Sara Murphy, who were instrumental in making the Lost Generation scene possible. F

irst, as mentioned above, read Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. Dick and Nicole Diver were largely (though not completely) based on the Murphys.

Then you might read You might also want to check out Calvin Tomkins' (non-fiction) book about the Murphys, called Living Well is the Best Revenge.

If you want still more, Amanda Vail's Everybody Was So Young is a more in depth portrait of the two of them.

As another suggestion for overall Paris flavor at the time, Janet Flanner was the New Yorker's Paris correspondent for 50 years. Her columns have been collected into a series of books the first of which, Paris Was Yesterday, covers 1925 - 1939, and is excellent.
posted by dersins at 5:45 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Murphys. There was an exhibit about them a few years ago at Williams College. Also,whatever you can find about Josephine Baker.

I was going to suggest Clementine in the Kitchen, but that's more pre- and during WW2.
posted by brujita at 7:36 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: Just read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife which is a fictional account centering around Hemingway's first wife Hadley. Vividly describes Paris, the Lost Generation and all the interesting characters present (Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein, etc.)
posted by tinywhiteflowers at 8:09 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
posted by lodie6 at 9:01 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: Check out the stories of some of the small press publishers in that amazing time/place, especially the writer Harry Crosby. Some folks will tell you his blatant "who gives a fuck" approach to life (after seeing the horrors of WWI in the ambulance service), flagrant affairs with women and men, extravagant spending, early support of writers like James Joyce, and bizarre suicide pact with his last lover adds up to pretty much the perfect encapsulation of the Lost Generation.

If you need more, there's a famous Hemingway quote about Crosby being able to "drink us all under the table."
posted by mediareport at 9:24 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: Gosh... where to start?
Kiki's Paris; Artists and Lovers 1900 - 1930 with,many, many photographs.
Man Ray's Montparnasse.
Memories of Montparnasse - John Glassco
The Crazy Years, Paris in the Twenties
Being Geniuses Together 1920-1930 - McAlmon and afterword by Kaye Boyle.
Cocaine - Pitigrille
Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties.
Women of the Left Bank
Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939 - Janet Flanner
Shakespeare and Company - Sylvia Beach
The Age of Illusion: Art and Politics in France, 1918-1940
Americans in Paris 1903 - 1939
The Great Good Place: American Expatriate Women in Paris
Check out Expatriate Paris from Gregor Rare Books page, frequently the books mentioned are cheaper on amazon or abebooks.
posted by adamvasco at 12:56 AM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: Tha above list was expat orientated.
The defining art movement which came out of Paris in the twenties was Surrealism.
Probably the best introduction to this is the first half of Andre Bretons biography Revolution of the Mind.
Music had its revolution as well: - The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 1917-1929.
The great Surrealist "enemy" was Jean Cocteau
At one time or another Diaghilev employed most of the famous artists in Paris Ballets Russes Style: Diaghilev's Dancers and Paris Fashion.
Paris Between the Wars 1919-1939: Art, Life & Culture; gives a great overview.
posted by adamvasco at 1:44 AM on March 4, 2011

Response by poster: "If you are lucky enough to have asked a question of Metafilter as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Ask Mefi is a moveable feast."

Thanks very much all for taking the time to respond, much appreciated: that's all going to keep me busy for a while.
posted by reynir at 10:50 AM on March 4, 2011

I love love love this stuff too.

Manual of St. Germain des Pres by Boris Vian is about Paris in the '50s when Vian was enthusiastic about Jazz and hanging out with the likes of Sartre, but it has a very similar feel combined with a sort of Warhol Factory scene vibe.

Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris by A.J. Liebling (IIRC it's on the edge timeline-wise but it very much has a similar feel)

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, all the talk of how they lived during the war
posted by ifjuly at 11:43 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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