English author Campbell (Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin) has loosely strung together interesting anecdotes about the group of expatriate writers and artists who lived and worked on the Left Bank after WWII. Several of them were African Americans, including Wright and Baldwin, who were fleeing the racist climate in the U.S. Drawing on interviews and published reminiscences, the author details the feud between the two novelists, fueled by literary rivalry and paranoia. He also focuses on the history of Olympia Press, founded by Maurice Girodias, who with the assistance of Glasgow writer Alexander Trocchi published Lolita, The Story of O and other controversial books. Campbell successfully evokes the flavor of Parisian caf life in this memoir that will be of great interest to literature devotees. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Campbell (Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin, LJ 4/1/91) details the passing of the literary torch from the Lost Generation to the Beat Generation. Beginning in the late 1940s with Richard Wright's first meeting in Paris with Gertrude Stein, Campbell opens a window into the early years of Beckett, Baldwin, Nabokov, and Henry Miller; the reigns of Camus and Sartre; each writer's struggle to find a suitable literary voice; and the rise and fall of Olympia Press. He closes the window in 1960 with the deaths of Camus, Boris Vian, and Wright (under suspicious circumstances), all within months of one another. He gives, however, a brief picture of young Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Mailer, just beginning to find their voices. One hopes Campbell's next book picks up right there, because there is much to be learned about the influences writers have on one another and about the importance of freedom of creativity from the tyrannies of race, sex, convention, politics, and economics. Recommended for serious literature collections.-Denise Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.
This slice of Parisian literary life between the Lost and Beat generations is an elegant document of the elemental, the existential, and the erotic in a city and time bathed in blue light. Black expatriate writers are the platform from which Campbell, biographer of James Baldwin, explores other literary outsiders in a weary, disillusioned postwar Paris. In exile were Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and hundreds of other black intellectuals who fled oppressive American racism to be feted in France as true men of letters. Campbell connects these writers--somewhat uneasily--to other literary outsiders in 1940s and 1950s Paris. The publishers of "Zero, Points," and "Merlin" literary magazines, and the erotic/pornographic Olympia Press, moved with the tides of the weary, desperately intellectual French avant-garde. Together they published Sartre, Camus, Beckett, Miller, Genet, and Sade, some for the first time in English. The writer's risks became those publishers' risky fight for freedom--from censorship, restrictive bourgeois values, and civilization itself. This is not the Paris of Hemingway's movable feast or Stein's salons. It was about left or right, published or unpublishable, obscene and outrageous or obscure.