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Geniuses Together: American Writers in Paris in the 1920's [Hardcover]

Humphrey Carpenter


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Book Description

24 Sep 1987

In Humphrey Carpenter's own words, 'This is the story of the longest-ever literary party, which went on in Montparnasse, on the Left Bank, throughout the 1920s.'

'This book', to continue to quote Carpenter himself, 'is chiefly a collage of Left-Bank expatriate life as it was experienced by the Hemingway generation - "The Lost Generation", as Gertrude Stein named it in a famous remark to Hemingway.'

There are brief portraits of Gertrude Stein, Natalie Clifford Barney and Sylvia Beach, who moved to Paris before the First World War and provided vital introductions for the exiles of the 1920s. The main narrative, however, concerns the years 1921 to 1928 because these saw the arrival and departure of Hemingway and most of his Paris associates.

'He is a compelling guide, catching the kind of idiosyncratic detail or incident that holds the readers' attention and maintains a cracking pace. Anyone wanting an introduction to the constellation of talent that made the Left Bank in Paris during the Twenties a second Greenwich Village would find this a useful and inspiring book.' Times Educational Supplement

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; First Edition edition (24 Sep 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0044400675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0044400677
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,647,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Humphrey Carpenter was born and educated in Oxford, and attended the Dragon School and Keble College. He was a well-known biographer and children's writer, and worked previously as a producer at the BBC. He wrote biographies of J. R. R. Tolkien, W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Ezra Pound, C. S. Lewis and Dennis Potter. Among his many books for children were the best-selling Mr Majeika series. He also wrote several plays for the theatre and radio. A keen musician, he was a member of a 1930s-style jazz band, Vile Bodies, which was resident at the Ritz Hotel in London for a number of years. He died in 2005. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary stars just beginning to shine 15 July 2002
By R. Tiedemann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Gertrude Stein called them the "Lost Generation," this motley amalgamation of talented and not-so-talented would-be (in the early 1920s) writers and expatriates. Stein was one, Natalie Clifford Barney, Sylvia Beach were others - all profiled in GENIUSES TOGETHER.
The main narrative takes place between 1921 and 1928, the dates chosen because they encompass the years Hemingway and his associates invaded Montparnasse and created what Noel Coward called "a marvelous party."
It's quite a story, this picture of the romantic years (did they really look that way at the time?) of to-be literary giants: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Pound. They shared money, books, lovers, living quarters. They careened from love to scandal and back again. They were individualists, scoundrels, idealists, one and all.
Christmas 1931: Sylvia Beach (of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the Left Bank) noticed a young man, whom she described as "a tall, dark young fellow with a small mustache" glancing through the magazines. She began to talk to him, discovered that he had no money for a lender's card, so she offered him a card, saying he could pay the deposit when he liked.
"It was only now that she discovered that he had a letter of introduction to her from Sherwood Anderson, who was back in Chicago. He had been to shy to present it. `I am writing this,' said the letter,' to make you acquainted with my friend Ernest Hemingway...an American writer instinctively in touch with everything worthwhile going on here and I know you will find both Mr. and Mrs. Hemingway delightful people to know.'"
Author Humphrey Carter is a British writer who has written biographies of W.H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and recipient of the E.M. Forster Award.
I loved this book. I'll read it again soon. It's intelligent, sympathetic, scholarly and imminently readable. It's a thoroughly engaging examination of a time, a community and a world that had tremendous impact on literary fashion. I give it the highest recommendation - it's delightful.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A folksy social history...very readable 27 Jan 2005
By S. A Troutt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is not a dry 'History' book chocked full of facts and dates and footnotes, it is a very readable and enjoyable book about certain people (American Literati) at a certain place (Paris and surrounding area) at a certain time (1920's).
They came to Europe in search of the illusive 'something' (Fame, Fortune, Notoriety) or maybe just to get away from the perceived 'sameness' of America. They found all that plus alcohol, sex, and each other.
For the period they gamboled and drank and had sex and fought ..and occasionally wrote. Out of all this interaction there were some of the great books of American Literature written. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, the books 'The Sun Also Rises', 'The Great Gatsby' and the blazing meteor that was Joyce and his 'Ulysses'. Paris was a seemingly endless party (or Moveable Feast)and then it was over.
But there were lesser (or less well known) talents that somehow made that time 'The time'. Loy, Beach, Barnes, McAlmon, Boyle are fascinating in their own regard. All of them contributed to the atmosphere and all were genuises in their own way.
Carpenter has managed a light, gossipy book that is an easy read and very entertaining along the way. Yes, there are some factual errors, some little quibs of unsupported rumor here and there. But the people come to so much 'life' on these pages! If you're interested in the time and place, you will understand these people so much better at the end of the book.
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