Friday, November 27, 2009

goodreads book review: that summer in paris, morley callaghan

That Summer in Paris (Exile Classics series) That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
that summer in paris was like old home week for me: i got to visit with hemingway, fitzgerald, and joyce back in the heyday of paris in the 20s which i haven't done in some time. callaghan writes cleanly and well, but sometimes his ego is exhausting. despite the fact i'm canadian as he is, and from toronto, none of his books were on my school syllabus growing up, whereas mordecai richler, robertson davies, and margaret atwood are staples, and i'm sure that would have burned him up because he had such a high estimation of his own talent. nonetheless, it is an easy read, filled with interesting little observations and memories of some of the greatest writers we have yet seen. it warmed the cockles of my heart to walk with callaghan and hemingway on the streets i know so well, in the centre of my city. the book was written in the year after hemingway's death, and begins at the beginning with callaghan's luck in joining the newspaper staff at the toronto [daily:] star when hemingway worked there.

lesser figures like robert mcalmon are also old friends to me, and even buffy and graeme make an appearance. buffy was john glassco's nickname, and he wrote another account of these days, from the perspective of a very minor writer entitled memoirs of montparnasse which i read and enjoyed many years ago. glassco never palled around with hemingway, but i recall a very fascinating and poignant portrait of lord alfred douglas, (affectionately known as bosie to his friends, lover wilde, and to posterity) in his later years.

perhaps the most interesting thing to me about this book was the stand against florid writing that hemingway and callaghan and others made during this era. the journalistic school that they embraced changed the face of literature for a time, and while i see strengths in all styles of writing, i am coming to a crossroads for myself about what i need the writing i read to be, and his observations shed some light on that.

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