Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

'World's Zaniest Newspaper': The Short, Happy Life of the Paris Edition

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

'World's Zaniest Newspaper': The Short, Happy Life of the Paris Edition

Article excerpt

Jake Barnes' work in Paris is newspaper work, though we only glimpse him at it-reading French morning papers, writing stories to be sent out by weekly mail, attending a briefing at the Quai d'Orsay-before he is off for the Lost-Generation escapades in Spain. Jake remarks that it is important in the newspaper business "that you should never seem to be working," an aim he effortlessly realizes. Nonetheless, a working newspaperman he is, and as such a reminder that in the charmed period between the wars Paris was a magnet not only for American artists and writers but newspapermen. That the number drawn there or lingering after war service was considerable was suggested by Jimmie Charters, a prominent barman of the Dingo and other Montparnasse drinking establishments, in his 1934 memoir This Must Be the Place (edited by one American newspaperman, Morrill Cody, and with an introduction by another, Ernest Hemingway) when he noted that the largest part of his clientele-40 per cent-was made up of artists, writers, and newspapermen. Of course it wasn't easy to distinguish the newspapermen from the writers since many, if not most, thought of their work as a temporary way station on the road to the literary life, with Jake's creator the celebrated example. Yet like Jake they found themselves turning into offices each day, pleasantly or not, and facing the fact that, as Bill Gorton informs Jake during their idyll in Burguete, "You're only a newspaper man. An expatriated newspaper man.

Jake's work is drawn not from Hemingway's experience with the Kansas City Star and the Toronto Star so much as his friendship with Bill Bird, an American newspaperman who was the co-founder of the Consolidated Press Association and worked independently out of a Paris office as the Association's European manager. It is a small but significant detail, for if Hemingway had put Jake in a more typical newspaper situation for Americans in Paris it might have been difficult to get him on the road. Placed in the newsroom of an English-language daily in Paris-one in particular-he might have been swept up into the quite different escapades that Harold Steams, the quintessential expatriate with a walk-on part as Harvey Stone in The Sun Also Rises, called "the Never-Never-Land of male irresponsibility, absurdity, and entertainment, of which all men in their hearts forever dream-and so seldom ever reach."

Stearns was referring to work on the Paris Edition of The Chicago Tribune, the daily newspaper for which he wrote in the 20's, as Peter Pickem, a popular turf column. Two other American papers were published in Paris at the time and equally staffed mostly by Americans: the well-established European edition of The New York Herald (which after the sale of the parent paper would become the Herald Tribune) and the tiny, independent, and short-lived Paris Times. But by most accounts The Chicago Tribune's Paris Edition was the liveliest of the three as well as the one most attuned to the artistic life of the Left Bank. Hands down it was the leader as a madcap place to work.

Hemingway regularly read the Paris Edition during his Paris days but never worked for it, and Scott Fitzgerald's involvement was limited to sudden night-time appearances in the newsroom. On one he is said to have seated himself in the slot of the copy desk and drunkenly announced, "Come on, boys. Let's get out the goddamned paper." On another he arrived with Zelda, announced he had just visited a nearby brothel, and added, "Grand place, you fellows ought to go there and see what life is really like." Ezra Pound was an outside contributor to the paper, as were Maxwell Bodenheim, Gertrude Stein, and Kay Boyle. But a lengthy list of remembered and half remembered Americans were once, like Harold Stearns, in Paris Edition harness: Elliot Paul, Henry Miller, James Thurber, William L. Shirer, Eugene Jolas, George Seldes, Vincent Sheean, Alex Small, Virgil Geddes, Ned Calmer, Robert Sage, Lawrence Blochman, Waverley Root, Alfred Perles, Wambly Bald, Bravig Imbs, Joseph Freeman, Harold Ettlinger, Louis Atlas. …

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