I never tire of memoirs of the arts community in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. I find John Glassco's Memoirs of Montparnasse to provide a breadth unavailable in those of Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast), Sylvia Beach (Shakespeare and Company), Morley Callaghan (The Last Summer in Paris), and Gertrude Stein (Alice B. Toklas). Glassco was the younger of this group, the least experienced and established, one of the later arrivals on the scene (1927--only Callaghan would arrive a few months later, in 1928), and possibly the cockiest. Barely out of Magill College at age 19, he and fellow Canadian youth Graeme Taylor, dove into the all night café and party scenes, the brothels, the promiscuity, the bisexual experimentation, the nightclubs and the drinking, as well as the intellectual scene. They were open to everyone and anyone (well, as time wore on, not quite everyone). As a result, his book is much more of a Who's Who than the others, it offers anecdotes about Joyce and Stein you won't find in the other books, and it provides more of a sense of the day-to-day, happy-go-lucky, hand-to-mouth experience. Glassco unabashedly sought pleasure.
Glassco was accused of promoting a fraud when he first published this decades later. He was actively working on his memoirs and publishing some of them while in Paris. The initial set up is that he returned to them a few years later when he lay seriously ill from TB in a European sanitarium and added some retrospective notes. In reality he relied on his original notebooks years later, changed some of the names to protect close friends and romantic liaisons, and reconstructed dialogues and occurrences as remembered or felt. In this age of creative nonfiction, we still classify that as nonfiction, not fraud or fiction, and scholars of the era have said Glassco nailed what Paris was. Whatever the case, it makes for a terrific read.
This edition augments the original text with period pictures of the scenes and players and a very helpful gloss of all the people mentioned appended to the back of the book. Louis Begley contributes a decent introduction (though it contains spoilers, so read it after Glassco's narrative). Begley repeatedly misspells the name Glassco made up for one of the women in his life, but that seems to be the only off thing. I had hoped for more on the author's life, but there isn't that much information out there. He returned to Canada after the TB treatment in the early 30s, lived on a farm, delivered mail, published poetry and erotica, married a couple of times and faded away.