Wednesday, January 18, 2023


Halfway through January, I figure I've saved about $300 so far by not buying liquor.  Is it really only mid-January?  WTF?  But it's o.k.  I feel fine.  

I watched a documentary on Paris and the birth of the Lost Generation last night.  It was an old A&E Biography thing from whenever they made those shows.  And by gosh, I got juiced again by it.  They produced a REALLY wonderful program  For around ten years after WWI, Paris was an incubator that produced the greatest art of the 20th century.  Oh. . . they may have gotten some things wrong, but that was mostly the Europeans, in my opinion.  They were like a bunch of kids left alone in the house without parental supervision.  I've never thought or said this before, and I haven't really tried to research it so I could come in for a boatload of criticism, but I don't think that the Dadaist and the Surrealists fare well against the greatest art of Europe.  The Americans in Paris, however, saw life in a brand new way and broke through the conservative Puritan shell of Americanism.  Like the painter Edward Hopper who travelled from the United States to Paris a decade before during the Belle Epoch prior to the war, their experience in Europe thrust them forward to break new ground.

The documentary reminded me of a few things that have been buried for a few years.  America after the war had become an isolationist country.  They refused to join the League of Nations.  The KKK gained political influence and the business of America was business.  The influence of advertising grew enormously, and Americans wanted more than anything to be entertained.  Dance marathons to pole sitting became the rage.  Americans who had been to Europe and seen the brutalities of the deadliest war and the destruction of much of the great historical architecture and monuments became disillusioned and disaffected on returning home.  1920 saw the advent of American Prohibition and the beginning of the Great Emigration.  

It was easy to be poor in Paris, they say.  Artists lived in small, cheap, cold water apartments and spent much of their time in the warmth of the many cafes where they gathered to drink and share ideas.  Cafes were their salons, and for writers like Hemingway, a place to work by the warmth of a burning stove.    Bookstores like Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Co. and Gertrude Stein's well appointed salon served as gathering places for more select crowds.  From midnight to dawn, there were dancehall's and jazz clubs and absinthe to fuel the a most savage decadence.  

And poof!  Like that, it was gone.  1929 brought the Great Depression and Americans headed west back to the land of their birth.  

The 1930s saw a migration of the likes of Henry Miller and A.J. Liebling who had missed the party. . . but that's another tale. 

For Americans, there has never been anything like the Great Migration again.  Some tried.  After WWII.  The Paris Review crowd, Plimpton, Matthiessen, et al, went to Paris in the 1950s in an attempt to relive the '20s .  Called The Tall Young Men, they were by and large disdained by Parisians.  It didn't work out for them and they came home.  In the U.S. however, Bohemian America was flourishing and attracting a reverse migration from Europe.  

The American 21st century has given us. . . Social Media, Covid, MAGA, and the greatest wealth disparity history.  Attention spans have measurably shrunk as we entertain ourselves to death in tiny bites. Nobody reads, not even lit professors.  Rather, even they spend less time reading and more time watching according to the surveys I have read.  Postmodernism has given us permission.  Everything is text and its discourse is open to theory.  Doctoral Dissertations will be written on "White Lotus," I'm sure.  Advanced degrees can now be earned in the comfort of one's own home without much effort as universities are funded by the number of "completers" rather than on the quality of their programs.  I.Q.s have obviously not changed, but the way we manage them certainly has.  We are a century of reality t.v. shows and internet sensations.  Once I went to parties where people talked of books and art.  Now I go to happy hours where we talk of nothing.  

Wow!  This went south.  I'm going to need to write another post to burry this one.  All I intended to say was that I watched (not read) a show on Modernist Paris and was motivated.  

However. . . . 

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