Wednesday, January 06, 2010

That Summer in Paris

"… even in the 1960s, Mr. Callaghan was “perhaps the most unjustly neglected novelist in the English-speaking world,” - Edmund Wilson

Morley Callaghan was only twenty-six years old when he spent the summer of 1929 in Paris with his wife.
Born and raised in Canada, he had been encouraged in his writing by Ernest Hemingway when they were both journalists in Toronto and looked forward to seeing Hemingway again at his place in Paris. Along the way he stops off in New York and meets Sinclair Lewis and others of the Greenwich Village artistic crowd while establishing himself with the editor Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's who published his first book.
But it is in Paris that he tries to make a home for that one summer. In addition to Hemingway there is Scott Fitzgerald and Robert McAlmon with whom he develops some rapport. He manages to meet with "Jimmy" Joyce and his wife in spite of the protectiveness of Sylvia Beach who is on a mission to guard the privacy of Joyce. His memoir is uneven - surprisingly Paris did not seem that romantic or lively - but it is difficult to avoid some interest in the shenanigans of the trio of Scott, Ernest and Morley when the latter duo engage in boxing matches or when Morley and his wife encounter Scott and Zelda on the afternoon following a bender with them wasted in their apartment. Moments like these not only are fascinating but also serve to underscore the mythic images of these authors. Morley Callaghan would go on to write mainly unmemorable novels that according to some critics (see Wilson quote above) are unjustly neglected. But his summer in Paris reminds me that he was once a part of the twentieth century's greatest writers making Paris their home.

That Summer in Paris by Marley Callaghan. Exile Editions, Toronto. 2007 (1963)

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