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Living Well Is the Best Revenge (Modern Library) Hardcover – November 17, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"        The dichotomy between art and life
permeates Tomkins's book and makes
up its principal charm. . . . [The Murphys]
drew artists and writers to them
ineluctably. After all, they were works
of art while the others--Stein,Picasso, Hemingway, MacLeish, Fitzgerald--
were only trying to create such
works. . . . [This is a] beautiful and
evocative memoir. . . . The charming
and imperturbable Gerald Murphy
[was] a master of the art of living."
--Louis Auchincloss

"        A marvel of taste and economy, Living
Well Is the Best Revenge manages to
convey the originality and grace of
the Murphys' life."
                                                        --Time

From the Inside Flap

In this enchanting memoir, New Yorker writer Calvin Tomkins re-creates the privileged world of Gerald and Sara Murphy, two American originals who found themselves at the center of a charmed circle of artists and expatriate writers in France in the 1920s. Their home in Antibes, Villa America, served as a gathering place for Picasso and Léger as well as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, who used the glamorous couple as models for Dick and Nicole Diver in
Tender Is the Night. A bestseller when it first appeared in 1971, Living Well Is the Best Revenge features sixty-nine intimate photographs collected from the Murphys' family album, along with reproductions
of several of Gerald Murphy's remarkable paintings--canvases that predate Pop Art by forty years.
        "Living Well Is the Best Revenge is
a superb little study, alive with an elegance very much the Murphys'," said Nancy Mitford. Critic Russell Lynes found the book to be "at once a sharp and charming evocation of an era and a cast, mostly delightful, surely famous, and usually talented, written with an elegant balance between tongue in cheek and sympathy."
        This Modern Library edition includes Calvin Tomkins's new Introduction and a rewritten last chapter.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (November 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679603085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679603085
  • Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Fitzgerald Fan VINE VOICE on August 17, 2006
As an avid and diehard Fitzgerald fan, I seek out any material that covers him, his circle, or the "Lost Generation" in general.
Though the book occupies less than two hundred pages, Tomkins does a fine job of making it feel warm and intimate. What's more, you get the privilege of learning about the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Cole Porter, Picasso and others. Gerald and Sara Murphy were a class act and lived life for no one but themselves. They seemed wonderfully down to earth and sympathetic to the situations of their friends and family. It seems they did indeed "write the book" on how to live right--The Fitzgeralds were said to have lived poorly on massive amounts of money while Gerald and Sara Murphy lived grandly on far less income; with them, it was not about appearances and pleasing society, but about family and togetherness.
This wonderful little biography spans the 1910s to the 1960s in a relatively short breath and perhaps my only complaint is that there is not more. I certainly turned the last page wanting for more. If you are interested at all in "The Lost Generation" or the modernist movement, you will adore this book. Theirs was an evanescent time, one worth reading about and dreaming about.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 2000
It's been nearly 30 years since I read this book and I remember it with delight. Sara and Gerald Murphy made living an art form. Sure, it's fun that they knew the famous writers and artist of the age, but it is their love for each other, their children, and their homes that make them the interesting people we would all like to know. Heck, that we would all like to be. Tomkins, too, is an excellent writer who lent much insight and charm to the story.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1999
This is one of the most memorable books I've ever read, perfectly capturing the period and perils of that lost generation. Not only is the subject fascinating, but Calvin Tompkins' writing is beautiful and lyrical.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jack Rice on October 31, 2008
Too bad the score for this book is skewed down by a couple of idiots. The Murphys were much more than "gracious hosts". They were catalysts. They were the Stein and Toklas of the Riviera, and probably lots more fun. And Gerald Murphy's paintings were as fine an achievement as Stein's scribblings. His works would fetch a fortune on the market, if they were ever available.

Tomkins writes a moving and, in the end, melancholy biography. The title is apt. The tragedy in the Murphy's life is almost unbearable to read about. Interesting how their life parallels that of their friend Cole Porter -- brilliant fortune met with sudden misfortune.

This book is about the arc of tragedy and one couple's effort to live through it. Anyone whose life has been touched by misfortune should read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gulliver on January 11, 2013
Verified Purchase
Interesting depiction of the times. Read it along with The Paris Wife and other Hemingway related books. XXX XXX XXX
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David W. Naas on January 7, 2013
While it must be admitted that the Murphys were well presented by the author, there are (to be fair) other opinions of their idyll on the Rivera. Of course, when one carries off a life with such style, grace, and sheer panache, who cares what others think! Gerald was a "minor artist" to be sure, if only in terms of total output, but the influence of the two of them on the cultural world was enormous. Definitely a Must Read.
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Verified Purchase
I admit that I found out about "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" by Calvin Tomkins through a past Spirit & Destiny Magazine issue. Belinda Carlisle was being interviewed and recommended the book. I felt an intuitive urge to go by Carlisle's suggestion because she projected a sharing vibe of balancing earthly concerns with her spiritual life. I must say that "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" is a candid book that mainly centers around an upper class couple by the name of Sara and Gerald Murphy. In keeping with the theme of the title, the couple lives a rich life in France, but they also find time to spend with their children and the friends they meet in their new place. I admit that I enjoyed the features on their European travels the most and the pictures that include their various colorful friends. The Murphys also endured tragedy in their lives as well. For instance, page 125 features the tragic saga of The Murphys losing both sons before they reached adulthood. "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" by Calvin Tomkins is best for those who are curious about the lives of wealthy families who resided in Europe prior to the 1950's.
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