Carl Van Vechten and the Twenties

Carl Van Vechten and the Twenties

Carl Van Vechten and the Twenties

Carl Van Vechten and the Twenties

Excerpt

By a very pleasant coincidence, the publication of this book falls in the spring of 1955, the season and the year in which Carl Van Vechten celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday.

This fact can help explain the nature of my book, for, although it features biographical material, it is not a biography of Carl Van Vechten. Neither can it qualify as a critical study of his works, although it discusses ad evaluates all of Van Vechten's books. Specifically, my book stops at 1932 but Van Vechten did not. At that time he announced his retirement as an author of books, but, in the years since, he has continued his active role as a vital observer, contributor, and participant in the arts and in American life.

Van Vechten's seven novels, his ten volumes on music and the arts, and his two books about cats all appeared between the First World War and the Great Depression. The purpose of my study, then, was determined by the nature of Van Vechten's books and the times that produced them.

Perhaps I can describe this book in the parlance of advertising as a "package deal," designed to be both functional and attractive. Our knowledge of the Twenties is incomplete unless it includes the books and the activities of Carl Van Vechten. At the same time, a discussion of his books is inevitably a discussion of the wonderful, hectic high life of the Twenties. Thus, while my book is neither a complete social history of the Twenties nor a full critical biography of Carl Van Vechten, it is meant to be something of both. The two subjects are natural complements: the Twenties are viewed through the books of Van Vechten, and Van Vechten is seen in relation to the era for which and about which he wrote.

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