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Memoirs of Montparnasse (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – May 29, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171845
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171844
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"It's wonderful to see John Glassco's charming Memoirs of Montparnasse getting the international recognition it deserves. Like its author -- whom I knew quite well in the 1960s -- the book is a loveable and eccentric rogue, fond of style and up to mischief. It never fails to entertain." -- Margaret Atwood

"Memoirs of Montparnasse is one of the most joyous books on youth -- the thrill and the gall and the adventure of it. It is also one of the best books on being in literary Paris in the 1920s." --Michael Ondaatje

"[Memoirs of Montparnasse] should be read and at last recognized as the most dramatic of the many narratives dealing with Paris in the 1920's." --The New York Times

"The title calls to mind a whole genre of books...But Glassco's book, published from a manuscript nearly forty years old, is fresher and truer to the moment than the others, as well as being more novelistic and, in a sense, legendary."--The New Republic

"A very good book, perhaps a great book." --The Washington Star

"The best book of prose by a Canadian that I've ever read." --Montreal Gazette

"This is a delightful, on-the-spot report of the days when it was still possible to be very young, very hip and very happy all at the same time...this precious, witty document from a long-vanished younger generation has both the freshness and remoteness of some ornate space ship found intact in a forgotten tomb." --The New York Times

About the Author

John Glassco (1909-1981) was born in Montreal and attended McGill, but moved to Paris before attaining his degree. Glassco won the Governor General’s Award in 1971 for his Selected Poems.

Louis Begley lives in New York City. His previous novels are Wartime Lies, The Man Who Was Late, As Max Saw It, About Schimdt, Mistler’s Exit, Schmidt Delivered, and Shipwreck.

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Customer Reviews

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All of the well known cast of literary characters of the day are there.
ColorCat
It's good to see that John Glassco's hilarious if not always reliable memoir of his youthful exploits in Paris is back in print.
J. W. Reitsma
If you want to find out what it was like living in Paris in the late 1920's, buy or download this book immediately.
Lloyd S. Thomas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Chris Yanda on July 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
It was 1927; John Glassco was 17 when he left Montreal to go to Paris with the intention of becoming a famous writer. He kept a journal of his life there for the next five years. He was convinced he was a genius who would one day produce a masterpiece. The irony is that the masterpiece turned out to be these memoirs edited and published when he was 59.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Reitsma on August 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's good to see that John Glassco's hilarious if not always reliable memoir of his youthful exploits in Paris is back in print. From what I gather, this edition includes an introduction that comments on the fictitiousness of some events described in the book and its real date of composition. (I'll give you a clue: it's later than you think.) So I would like to exhort everyone and anyone with an appetite for stories about the good old days in Paris, when James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein roamed freely, to pick up this book and enjoy themselves.

However, you should bear in mind that around 25 per cent of it is fiction. Also, if you really want to know who's who, you are better off with the 1995 OUP edition with notes by Michael Gnarowski. This contains a good introduction and reveals the real identity of many thinly veiled characters in an appendix. (Djuna Barnes' lover Thelma Wood is renamed Emily Pine - you get the idea.) But if you are less detective minded than me, I guess this new edition will do just fine.

For further reading, I warmly recommend Being Geniuses Together by the very outspoken Robert McAlmon, with later material interpolated by Kay Boyle, yet another unreliable narrator. Both of these memoirs are infinitely more entertaining than Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Hemingway's maudlin A Moveable Feast. The last of these was hailed as a return to form, but I believe it contains much material that was actually written *earlier* than you'd think. Quite the opposite of Glassco in that respect!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Shadow Woman on July 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
John Glassco writes about the Paris arts scene of the 1920s, telling the story of an artist as a young man. It's not always true, but it is always fun, as fiction and autobiography blend to create a good read. Has all the sex, boozing and pathos that was typical of 1920s Paris as its been memorialized in literature, whether that's a good thing or not is for you to decide.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never tire of memoirs of the arts community in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. I find John Glassco's Memoirs of Montparnasse to provide a breadth unavailable in those of Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast), Sylvia Beach (Shakespeare and Company), Morley Callaghan (The Last Summer in Paris), and Gertrude Stein (Alice B. Toklas). Glassco was the younger of this group, the least experienced and established, one of the later arrivals on the scene (1927--only Callaghan would arrive a few months later, in 1928), and possibly the cockiest. Barely out of Magill College at age 19, he and fellow Canadian youth Graeme Taylor, dove into the all night café and party scenes, the brothels, the promiscuity, the bisexual experimentation, the nightclubs and the drinking, as well as the intellectual scene. They were open to everyone and anyone (well, as time wore on, not quite everyone). As a result, his book is much more of a Who's Who than the others, it offers anecdotes about Joyce and Stein you won't find in the other books, and it provides more of a sense of the day-to-day, happy-go-lucky, hand-to-mouth experience. Glassco unabashedly sought pleasure.

Glassco was accused of promoting a fraud when he first published this decades later. He was actively working on his memoirs and publishing some of them while in Paris. The initial set up is that he returned to them a few years later when he lay seriously ill from TB in a European sanitarium and added some retrospective notes. In reality he relied on his original notebooks years later, changed some of the names to protect close friends and romantic liaisons, and reconstructed dialogues and occurrences as remembered or felt.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Joseph G. Pfeffer on July 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
If you liked Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris, you'll love Memoirs Of Montparnasse. It's a novel disguised as a memoir, which bothers the dour literalists who think there's a difference between fact and fiction. It didn't bother Glassco, who never claimed he stuck to literalness. What Glassco tried to do was to write "not so much a record of 'what happened' as a re-creation of the spirit of a period in time," as he wrote to Kay Boyle (who comes out as 2 people in the book, Diana Tree and Kay Boyle). Memoirs of Montparnasse, captures not just the spirit of the time but the whole metaphysical concept of expatriates in Paris in the '20s, the group Gertrude Stein called the lost generation Many of the chapters in Memoirs amount to self-contained short stories, and they're as good as any short fiction you'll ever read. Glassco's humor shines through on every page. His descriptions of people are so sharp you feel them sitting in the room with you. He captures the transiency and underlying tristesse of the time as well. You know the party's going to end, though you hope it never does. You wish you could stay with Glassco and his friends forever.

Leon Edel said John Glassco was the best prose writer Canada ever produced. Even after Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, that's still true.
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