Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s

By Malcolm Cowley; Donald W. Faulkner | Go to book overview

VI: The City of Anger

1: The French Line Pier, 1923

When the exiles of art came straggling home by twos and threes, year after year, there were no official committees to welcome them. No cameramen invited them to pose against the ship's rail with the Statue of Liberty in the background; no reporters asked what they thought of economic conditions in Europe and wasn't it true that America had the most beautiful girls in the world. The police launch lay moored to its dock when they arrived and pigeons fed undisturbed in City Hall Park. Broadway was empty of tickertape. At best, as they drove toward their anonymous lodgings, a dozen old newspapers flapped like banners of greeting in the tired summer wind.

It was early in August 1923, just before my twenty-fifth birthday, that I landed in New York after a sultry night at anchor in the Lower Bay. The boat was crowded with Good Will Girls returning after a tour of the battlefields that had resulted from the success of Ray Johnson's latest venture in money-raising. That last night they gathered on deck to give a sort of college yell:

One, two, three, four,
Who are we for?
America, America, America!
Two, four, six, eight:,

-171-

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