Joyce dancing & other bizarre anecdotes of bohemian Paris


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In the twenties the hard-bitten ex-pat journalist Sisley Huddleston
(whose father was such a Francophile that he named his son after a French painter) was the go-to man in Paris for political, literary and social low-down. So it was likely that from his seventh floor studio in Montparnasse he would come up with some hilarious observations on the more outré bohemian behaviour of the times.

In his Bohemian Literary and Social Life in Paris ( 1928), reviewed by Kenneth Kininmont in John O’London’s Weekly for November 17, 1928, he describes, among many other things, James Joyce dancing a ‘ serpent dance with Adrienne Monnier, who kept the famous little bookshop, the resort of many writers, in the Rue de Odeon’.

He also remarks on Rodin’s liking for cooked tripe and recalled a night spent with the Dadaists in their little theatre in Montmartre, where Tristan Tzara, the inventor of ‘a horrible noise-making machine, of the coffee-mill tribe, called a Dada-phone, was putting on one of his plays, entitled ‘Premiere Aventure celeste de M. Antipyrine’. This involved a cast of eight standing in a row and reciting through tubes of cardboard, speeches, of which the following is a translated example:

The equatorial bite in the bluish rock weights upon the night intimate scent of ammoniacal cradles the flower is a lamp-post doll listens to the mercury which mounts which shows the windmill holding on the viaduct before yesterday is not the ceramic of the chrysanthemum which turns the head and the cold the hour has sounded in your mouth once more an angel which falls.

Tzara‘s ‘Premiere Aventure..’ was written in 1916.Perhaps the idea of reciting through tubes of cardboard inspired’ Edith Sitwell to recite her poetry through a megaphone in the entertainment entitled Façade (1923).{RR] 96_530x

 

Literary Masterpieces

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In the miscellany Medley from October 1936 appears this intriguing pronouncement:

‘ It has been found that literary masterpieces of the first rank have been produced most frequently by authors who were from the ages of 40 to 44 inclusive’

Dr Harvey Lehman

We thought we’d test out the good doctor’s theory using, among other sources, the excellent Annals of Literature (1961), which finishes at 1950.

We started with Charles Dickens (1812 – 70). In this five year period he published three memorable novels: Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit. However, most critics regard Great Expectations (1860) as his ‘literary masterpiece. ‘

We then turned to George Eliot (1819 – 80). She was 40 when Adam Bede was published, 41 when The Mill on the Floss appeared, 42 when Silas Marner came out, and 43 when Romola hit the shelves. All wonderful novels, but most critics would class Middlemarch( 1871-72) as her ‘ masterpiece of the first rank’.

Next we looked at James Joyce( 1882 – 1941). Here we hit the mark. His Ulysses, undoubtably a ‘ masterpiece of the first rank ‘, appeared in 1922 ( though it was years in the making ). Joyce was 40 at the time. Continue reading

Books we must not read. Part Two

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Recently, following the lead of an article by William Mason-Owen published in a 1951 issue of The Colophon magazine, Jot 101 looked at some of the manuscripts and typescripts in the British Museum Library that were then withheld from publication due to the sensitivity of their contents. In part two we examine the banned printed books mentioned in the article.

First on the Colophon list is Cantab, by the otherwise respected Irish writer Shane Leslie, which appeared in 1926. This was ‘withdrawn under threat of legal proceedings for obscenity’. Your Jotter hasn’t examined the novel, which recounts the adventures and misadventures of a Cambridge undergraduate, but those in the know have maintained that any indelicacies it contains are inoffensive and certainly do not justify the ban.

D.H.Lawrence’s The Rainbow and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were also regarded as dangerous to public morality. Around half the first edition of the former was burned in 1915, hence its comparative rarity. Moreover, if you can find a copy in the original rather sensationalist dust wrapper you will get a few thousand pounds for it.

Ulysses (1922) was another on the list. The Little Review, in which excerpts appeared, was prosecuted in the US and the whole book remained suppressed here until 1934.The Egoist, which published parts of it in the UK was also the subject of court action. The first edition of the book appeared in Paris in 1922, but copies of this and subsequent continental editions were subject to seizure by British customs until a ban was lifted on its publication in the thirties.

Continue reading

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Flexible Books from Jonathan Cape

In a little recorded piece of publishing history Jonathan Cape in 1934 issued a series of small books called Flexibles. They were cloth covered books with dust jackets but the covers were much thinner than hardbacks and  flexible. They were a sort of half-way house between paperbacks and hardbacks. The first Penguin paperbacks appeared the next year and may have caused the premature demise of this series after only 10 books. They were quite stylishly presented and pleasant to handle. All were reprints.

The first in the series Lewis Browne's The Story of the Jews was probably re-issued as a counter to  the rise of Hitler.  Others in the series include Hemingway's Men Without Women (uncommon now especially in the jacket) Joyce's Portrait of the Artist and later Dubliners, followed by Beverley Nichols Twenty-Five. The last 'flexible' was Italian Backgrounds by Edith Wharton, number ten in the series. All came out in 1934 and as far as can be ascertained there was no number eleven. Amazon has this review of the fifth book in the series Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs: 

No plot devices or car chases here--this is a book to read on a rainy afternoon when nostalgia and melancholy threaten to overwhelm. It's comfort food like grandma used to make--reassuring, soul-fortifying, and full of the capacity to cheer. It's also addictive--once you take a bite out of Pointed Firs, you can't stop.