According to writer, Hart Crane, Paris in the 20's consisted of, “promenades, oysters, sherry, aspirins, pictures, Sapphic heiresses, editors, books, and sailors.” All it needed was a chronicler – someone not of the in-crowd – an American perhaps. Enter a charismatic, fearless young journalist – Ernest Hemingway by name. Voila! Paris had its biographer!
The Paris coterie known by “Hem” consisted mainly of expats – Americans in Paris. They were there to behave in ways forbidden at home. Paris was also the hub for a small group of writers who were busy changing the parameters of literature and they were sometimes joined by the couple who defined the entire era, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Ernest Hemingway, who oozed charm and who was a great promoter of Ernest Hemingway, was a magnet for both groups. “He intended to have it all – both the snob appeal and the mass following.”
He was in Paris to write, but he had yet to pen a breakout novel. An alcohol-fueled trip to Spain for the bullfights provided grist for his mill. Hemingway and his friends participated in fights, trysts, arguments which turned into permanent rifts and other social no-no's. Hemingway, mainly by changing names and adding few fictional details, turned the incident into The Sun Also Rises. A novel, which, to this day, sells hundreds of thousands of copies each year.
The man was a user and a taker. He dispensed with people when they could no longer further his objectives. After finishing the novel (I'm telescoping lots of history here), he brought out Torrents of Spring, a ruthless and cruel satire of writer Sherwood Anderson, one of his greatest champions and the man who had introduced Hemingway to Paris literati who had so influenced his life.
This book is not for those who are disgusted by egotism, self-indulgence and back stabbing. It certainly is, however, for those of us who, voyeurs that we are, will enjoy a detailed and entertaining view of what Gertrude Stein called “the lost generation.”
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org