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Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

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What Hemingway's A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s, this charming yet undeceivable memoir does for Greenwich Village in the late 1940s. In 1946, Anatole Broyard was a dapper, earnest, fledgling avant-gardist, intoxicated by books, sex, and the neighborhood that offered both in such abundance. Stylish written, mercurially witty, imbued with insights that are both What Hemingway's A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s, this charming yet undeceivable memoir does for Greenwich Village in the late 1940s. In 1946, Anatole Broyard was a dapper, earnest, fledgling avant-gardist, intoxicated by books, sex, and the neighborhood that offered both in such abundance. Stylish written, mercurially witty, imbued with insights that are both affectionate and astringent, this memoir offers an indelible portrait of a lost bohemia.


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What Hemingway's A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s, this charming yet undeceivable memoir does for Greenwich Village in the late 1940s. In 1946, Anatole Broyard was a dapper, earnest, fledgling avant-gardist, intoxicated by books, sex, and the neighborhood that offered both in such abundance. Stylish written, mercurially witty, imbued with insights that are both What Hemingway's A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s, this charming yet undeceivable memoir does for Greenwich Village in the late 1940s. In 1946, Anatole Broyard was a dapper, earnest, fledgling avant-gardist, intoxicated by books, sex, and the neighborhood that offered both in such abundance. Stylish written, mercurially witty, imbued with insights that are both affectionate and astringent, this memoir offers an indelible portrait of a lost bohemia.

30 review for Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    Maybe it's because I just finished reading Incognegro, a thin graphic novel that leverages the idea of "passing" into a lot of interesting narrative turns, that I found Kafka was the Rage frustrating. I often was drifting to the story that Broyard does not tell, the one where he is a black man passing as white in an environment that prides itself on being open minded and bohemian. It does not help that he essentially dares us to think about this untold story when he writes passages like "To use Maybe it's because I just finished reading Incognegro, a thin graphic novel that leverages the idea of "passing" into a lot of interesting narrative turns, that I found Kafka was the Rage frustrating. I often was drifting to the story that Broyard does not tell, the one where he is a black man passing as white in an environment that prides itself on being open minded and bohemian. It does not help that he essentially dares us to think about this untold story when he writes passages like "To use one of their favorite words, they were alienated. I was not. In fact, one of my problems was that I was alienated from alienation, an insider among outsiders" or even more to the point "I don't think I was anti-Semitic. In the 1920s in New York City, everyone was ethnic -- it was the first thing we noticed... We accepted our ethnicity as a role and even parodied it." It's like a thinly veiled roman a clef, where the clef is "I really didn't want to be black." There is also another story that Broyard does not directly tell -- the way that New York is a city that always seems to be allowed to write its own narrative. Actually subtitled A Greenwich Village Memoir, this book is yet one more love letter to "the City", where, we are told, people read and screwed better than they did anywhere else. Because of how books get published and perpetuated, I have a hard time believing Kafka would have made it if Broyard was hyperbolically claiming so much in celebration of Des Moines or Sao Paulo. I'd like to watch how literary connections and the allure of NYC influenced each step of this book, from the publisher's advance to the first set of reviews. And as I imagine and construct these hidden stories, I wonder if they dovetail into each other. Was Broyard aware that to become a writer he had to position himself in the New York literary world, and that it would be easier to do so if he was white? Was this literary desire the primary basis for his decision? It seems at least plausible given how much he claims to love books. That story would have been one I'd have been more interested to read. What did make it to the page isn't particularly engaging. He hooks up with a girl, decides she's crazy, parties with some famous and semi-famous writers, and then wraps up the whole thing with a series of vignettes of all the women he nails after dumping the crazy girl. I was surprised to find that this last part, which could have easily been the most annoying and self-indulgent section of the book, was where Broyard really did his best writing, and the results were often lyrical and stunning.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    Everyone simply must -- okay, well should -- read the last chapter of this memoir, at the very least. It is thick with insight and knowledge about the potential alienation and disabling awkwardness of sex. Here's just one excerpt that really caught my eye: "In Portnoy's Complaint, Portnoy says that underneath their skirts girls all have cunts. What he didn't say -- and this was his trouble, his real complaint -- was that underneath their skirts they also had souls. When they were undressed, I sa Everyone simply must -- okay, well should -- read the last chapter of this memoir, at the very least. It is thick with insight and knowledge about the potential alienation and disabling awkwardness of sex. Here's just one excerpt that really caught my eye: "In Portnoy's Complaint, Portnoy says that underneath their skirts girls all have cunts. What he didn't say -- and this was his trouble, his real complaint -- was that underneath their skirts they also had souls. When they were undressed, I saw their souls as well as their cunts. They wore their souls like negliges that they never took off. And one man in a million knows how to make love to a soul." When I read this last chapter, in particular, I couldn't help but think that, sexually, we are not nearly as liberated as we think we are. While it [sex:] is certainly more a part of everyday life, and flaunted on the television screen, in photos, etc., I am not so certain that anyone knows what to make of it . . . I still see people [myself included:] stumbling about in dark lit spaces, saying a prayer for salvation. Kisses to Lauren for getting this book on my shelf.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Josh Marcus

    I finished this 2 days ago and have since returned to Henry Miller's Sexus. There is a perfect contrast between the two authors. Broyard: the pretentious intellectual, who wants to be part of the literary crowd, lives in angst, not knowing what he's doing, where he's going, and what his life is for, and experiences extreme loneliness. Miller: happy-go-lucky, carefree, living for the sake of existence, not trying to be anything and hanging out with whoever he pleases. Broyard brought up a lot of unr I finished this 2 days ago and have since returned to Henry Miller's Sexus. There is a perfect contrast between the two authors. Broyard: the pretentious intellectual, who wants to be part of the literary crowd, lives in angst, not knowing what he's doing, where he's going, and what his life is for, and experiences extreme loneliness. Miller: happy-go-lucky, carefree, living for the sake of existence, not trying to be anything and hanging out with whoever he pleases. Broyard brought up a lot of unresolved conflicts, especially in regard to loneliness. Miller almost feels like a resolution. Loneliness does not matter if you are living in the here and now. Once you give up attachment, you realise your place in the perfect fit of the natural world, connected to everyone and everything. Now, I don't mean to compare their worth. However, the overarching feeling in reading about Greenwich Village was a nostalgia for what I've missed, and a fear that life could actually be like that - the perfect environment for the intellectual's growth, and yet so empty. It's a fantastic memoir, but highly unsatisfying (Broyard got sick before he completed it and could never get back to it). I sometimes wonder about the value of reading angsty works, since they bring up so much in me. Now I'm rambling.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    i am willing to concede that my dislike for this book is maybe just really subjective. it was recommended to me by a former writing teacher who absolutely RAVED about it & went into fits of ecstasy describing the way all of her writing friends soaked up the descriptive torrents of prose & felt that they were transported back to post-war greenwich village, etc etc. me...not so much. the book tops out at right around 120 pages & the only thing with a bigger font is "highlights magazine for childre i am willing to concede that my dislike for this book is maybe just really subjective. it was recommended to me by a former writing teacher who absolutely RAVED about it & went into fits of ecstasy describing the way all of her writing friends soaked up the descriptive torrents of prose & felt that they were transported back to post-war greenwich village, etc etc. me...not so much. the book tops out at right around 120 pages & the only thing with a bigger font is "highlights magazine for children". i kept expecting a compare & contrast starring goofus & gallant on the best way for broyard to finally break things off with his painter girlfriend. i read the whole thing in seriously, maybe an hour. & pretty much the whole book was just descriptions of broyard having sex with his painter girlfriend. the book is a memoir & it really bummed me out to think about this old guy who has ostensibly lived a rich & satisfying life, sitting down to write a memoir about his formative years dscovering himself as a writer in the village after returning home from fighting in world war two, & how all he could come up with was 120 pages of 16-point font on boning a woman he dated for like a year. & of course, as with almost all men's descriptions of their wild & crazy bachelor sex lives, the whole thing was glazed with a patina of off-putting misogyny. the only part i liked was when broyard & the painter girlfriend visit anis nin & broyard observes that her teeth look false. but even then, he was just trying to imagine anais in the sack with henry miller. come on. in sum, super disappointing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    A fabulously novelistic memoir. Broyard's writing is, in a word, whimsical. He writes stuff like "To open a bookshop is one of the persistent romances, like living off the land or sailing around the world." He writes of literature in a way that is reverent, dumbstruck and honest. Reverent, dumbstruck and honest could describe the book as a whole. It's full of too-cool characters, but Anatole never presents himself as especially intelligent or hip. He's the G.I. with the crew cut going out with the A fabulously novelistic memoir. Broyard's writing is, in a word, whimsical. He writes stuff like "To open a bookshop is one of the persistent romances, like living off the land or sailing around the world." He writes of literature in a way that is reverent, dumbstruck and honest. Reverent, dumbstruck and honest could describe the book as a whole. It's full of too-cool characters, but Anatole never presents himself as especially intelligent or hip. He's the G.I. with the crew cut going out with the Anais Nin wannabe. He writes of himself as having literature instead of a personality, or as, in his words, someone "a book could escape into." His escape from self-congratulation is quite special, and something rather uncommon for a memoir. Most importantly, this is a book that simply makes you feel cool. There's loads of juicy literati namedropping, and the reader can pat themselves on the back whenever their behavior aligns itself with Broyard's. Highly recommended, especially to college-age students.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Memoirs would not have such a bad reputation if they were all this spare, this precise. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's writing about life in Greenwich Village in the 1940s, what it was like to own a bookstore before the paperback revolution, when "people would rush in wild-eyed, almost foaming at the mouth, willing to pay anything for Kafka," having sex when "sex was like one of those complicated toys that comes disassembled, in one hundred pieces, and without instructions," when painters like Memoirs would not have such a bad reputation if they were all this spare, this precise. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's writing about life in Greenwich Village in the 1940s, what it was like to own a bookstore before the paperback revolution, when "people would rush in wild-eyed, almost foaming at the mouth, willing to pay anything for Kafka," having sex when "sex was like one of those complicated toys that comes disassembled, in one hundred pieces, and without instructions," when painters like van Gogh, Cezanne, and Picasso were "not old masters but revolutionaries; and we still believed in revolutionaries." The structure of the book is imperfect. It's obvious he didn't have time to finish it before he died. But what's there is very good. I love his analogies: "She was an abstract painter and I couldn't follow her there. She left me outside, like a dog that you tie to a parking meter when you go into a store." I wish he would have written more books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    At first, I was enthralled. The writing was full of lovely but apt similes and lots of talk about New York in its bohemian heyday. I could read that kind of thing all day long, and I was prepared to do so. But soon I started to notice that he relies on similes a little too much (in fact, I should say way too much, to the point of parody) because he doesn’t really know how to write an actual scene – with movement and dialogue. He mostly likes to capture an image. This memoir is like a bunch of te At first, I was enthralled. The writing was full of lovely but apt similes and lots of talk about New York in its bohemian heyday. I could read that kind of thing all day long, and I was prepared to do so. But soon I started to notice that he relies on similes a little too much (in fact, I should say way too much, to the point of parody) because he doesn’t really know how to write an actual scene – with movement and dialogue. He mostly likes to capture an image. This memoir is like a bunch of textual photographs, like flipping through someone’s old yearbook without getting any of the juicy details or conversations. A real disappointment.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    When I recently read Joseph Tabbi's biography/critical study of William Gaddis I learned that in postwar New York City Gaddis had been intensely attracted to a young abstract artist named Sheri Martinelli. Tabbi used the word muse in describing Gaddis's regard for her. And he directed me to the Anatole Broyard memoir of that time in Greenwich Village, Kafka Was the Rage. I'd read it when it was 1st published in paper--over 20 years ago--but didn't remember Gaddis or Sheri. So I pulled it down of When I recently read Joseph Tabbi's biography/critical study of William Gaddis I learned that in postwar New York City Gaddis had been intensely attracted to a young abstract artist named Sheri Martinelli. Tabbi used the word muse in describing Gaddis's regard for her. And he directed me to the Anatole Broyard memoir of that time in Greenwich Village, Kafka Was the Rage. I'd read it when it was 1st published in paper--over 20 years ago--but didn't remember Gaddis or Sheri. So I pulled it down off the shelf and began to look into it and, captivated by it this time where I hadn't been in 1997, read it again. Broyard calls her Sheri Donatti. In The Recognitions she's the model for one of the central characters, called Esme. But she knew many others, artists and writers of the period, apparently affecting them all. She was said to have been a lover of Ezra Pound during his St. Elizabeth days and considered the true meaning of muse. She appears in several of his Cantos of this period; in Canto XCI she's Undine. David Markson and Larry McMurtry also put her in novels. E. E. Cummings collected her art. Anatole Broyard writes a compelling book about his living in Greenwich Village during the 1940s after the war, not only compelling for the news he tells of Martinelli but also because he was a lyrical writer. He was affected by Martinelli, too. Gaddis may have wanted her, but Broyard lived with her. He breaks his memoir into 2 parts: "Sheri" and "After Sheri." Surely it says something when a man looks back on his life and writes about it in the ways men do in trying to recall a particular time, a time when Kafka was the rage in the artistic and intellectual vulcanism of postwar Greenwich Village, that he hinged his book on Sheri, devoting 92 of 149 pages to her. Her artistic temperament was too much for him, and he knew it. She scared him, though he never regretted his time with her. She was a formative woman for him. Sheri was my primary interest in reading the book again, she and how her persona pushes against Gaddis's fiction, but Broyard's book has other values. He writes very well about the Village of the time and what it was like to live there in that lively intellectual hothouse. Broyard knew many of those painting or writing works which would become significant. And he writes penetrating portraits of them, so that we see Auden falling down in his famous espadrilles outside a bookshop, awkward Delmore Schwartz buying a suit, and Dylan Thomas swollen by drink or sorrow or poetry or all three drinking at a party while his wife Caitlin dances in another room with her dress lifted over her head. He remembers the jazz and he remembers how serious sex was at the time, "as much a superstition, or a religious heresy, as it was a pleasure." Sex, he wrote, was modern art. And Sheri, remember, was a modern artist.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Josh Friedlander

    Greenwich Village in the 1940s, the East Village in the 1960s, Bed-Stuy today: the scene may have drifted, but the mannerisms of artsy, precocious (and pretentious) lit-bros and -chicks have changed but little. Gaddis skewered them perfectly in The Recognitions; Broyard has no intention of that. Everything he says is autobiographical, including meetings with Anaïs Nin, Maya Deren, Dylan Thomas, Delmore Schwartz, and many other avant-garde superstars. But more importantly, it's completely sincere Greenwich Village in the 1940s, the East Village in the 1960s, Bed-Stuy today: the scene may have drifted, but the mannerisms of artsy, precocious (and pretentious) lit-bros and -chicks have changed but little. Gaddis skewered them perfectly in The Recognitions; Broyard has no intention of that. Everything he says is autobiographical, including meetings with Anaïs Nin, Maya Deren, Dylan Thomas, Delmore Schwartz, and many other avant-garde superstars. But more importantly, it's completely sincere. Broyard has a wonderful nature, kind and free of pretensions. He plays down his own gifts as a jazz critic to praise the artists and writers around him, seeing past their vanity and personal problems and underlining instead their creative brilliance. He wrote this unfinished memoir on his deathbed in the 1980s with undisguised nostalgia, and he casts its warm glow over everything that happened back then. And so you get a picture of a well-spent youth in an age just recovering from two wars, daring to think the unthinkable and tear down the old taboos. People live in small, run-down apartments, drink imprudently, read obsessively and fill the streets with talk of ideas. I couldn't stop underlining.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    It's an unfinished fragment, so there's that. But it was easy to read, very epigrammatic, subtle, and suffused with unique and complex insights. Interesting how it does seem to carry you into that world of 50's era Greenwich Village without even necessarily going into epic detail about it. Broyard was there, he lived it, he makes some slightly oracular observations from time to time, but if you have always had the kind of smoky, hazy, nostalgia for the personal histories you never actually had It's an unfinished fragment, so there's that. But it was easy to read, very epigrammatic, subtle, and suffused with unique and complex insights. Interesting how it does seem to carry you into that world of 50's era Greenwich Village without even necessarily going into epic detail about it. Broyard was there, he lived it, he makes some slightly oracular observations from time to time, but if you have always had the kind of smoky, hazy, nostalgia for the personal histories you never actually had, as I do, then this is unmissable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caligulevin

    Anatole knows what it is to be a reader, someone trying on different literary personas. While some read to temporarily replace and escape their own thoughts with those of others, he writes more for the young man who wants to dress his own thoughts, to learn how to name the world around him, landscapes, people, sexual encounters, comparing them all to whatever he read last night. Described by Anatole reading has never sounded so like an action, it is a harpoon thrown to tether him to whatever it Anatole knows what it is to be a reader, someone trying on different literary personas. While some read to temporarily replace and escape their own thoughts with those of others, he writes more for the young man who wants to dress his own thoughts, to learn how to name the world around him, landscapes, people, sexual encounters, comparing them all to whatever he read last night. Described by Anatole reading has never sounded so like an action, it is a harpoon thrown to tether him to whatever it plunges into. Aside from reading sex is the second great center of this book, Anatole loved sex in all it’s uncomfortable glory, seemingly enjoying the way that people of his era made it all the more passionate by forbidding it. In a lot of ways he’s like a beat writer but sort of reverse Kerouac who’s embarrassed by his primitive side and trying to act more intellectual. He would rather play the detached scholar than the vital, rollicking artist, this sometimes contradicts his reason for reading that I wrote of above. Reading this during quarantine makes me eager to burst out of containment and hopefully into some new cultural scene, like the one that awaited Anatole after his service in WWII. As agonizing as it was reading about so much sex and conversation in a time utterly devoid of it, it’s made me realize what about both are so essential. This book is a celebration of life but is also not afraid to dissect and rearrange it. It has a self awareness that does not subtract from its momentum. Also encountering all the different literary and historical characters make it like an Assassin’s Creed game or something! Though I was promised Gaddis by the blurb on the back and he made no appearance...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jan C

    This book started as a 4 and I think finally ended up as a 2 1/2. His widow has a note at the end of the book, that Anatole had intended the final chapter to be about being brought down to earth by his father's death. She actually thinks that he was brought down to earth by becoming a father. I guess I thought this book would be more about living in Greenwich Village, and some of it was. But it seemed to be far more about his sexual conquests. It may have meant a lot to him in looking back on his This book started as a 4 and I think finally ended up as a 2 1/2. His widow has a note at the end of the book, that Anatole had intended the final chapter to be about being brought down to earth by his father's death. She actually thinks that he was brought down to earth by becoming a father. I guess I thought this book would be more about living in Greenwich Village, and some of it was. But it seemed to be far more about his sexual conquests. It may have meant a lot to him in looking back on his life, but it is of limited value to the average reader. Some of it is gossipy about various poets we may have heard of that were around in the late '40s. He apparently had a bookstore but the first notice I had of it was when he said he closed it. Either I wasn't paying attention (which is entirely possible) or he barely even mentioned it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Not a Greenwich Village Memoir. More like a memoir of the author's early sex life, with a few people and streets from the Village circa late 1940s thrown in. For a lover of all things New York history, this book was a HUGE disappointment. Broyard spends the majority of it writing about his discovery that sex is good, and spends very little time on the city, the music, the art, even the apartments, of NYC that guarantee an interesting read. And for some excellent writing in the area of semi-autob Not a Greenwich Village Memoir. More like a memoir of the author's early sex life, with a few people and streets from the Village circa late 1940s thrown in. For a lover of all things New York history, this book was a HUGE disappointment. Broyard spends the majority of it writing about his discovery that sex is good, and spends very little time on the city, the music, the art, even the apartments, of NYC that guarantee an interesting read. And for some excellent writing in the area of semi-autobiographical, social reflection and sexual exploration, go with Henry Miller and Anaiis Nin. Broyard felt like a sad copy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roman Kurys

    Well, the good news is I managed to finish it. Mainly because it is so short. To be fair, memoirs aren’t my thing, but every now and then I like to venture out of my normal reading comfort zone just to see what is out there. I saw the time frame and that it’s about NYC and though this could be interesting, and it was at times. I expected some more literary forays, like the part where he was scavenging around a local bookstore. I loved that part. I’ve read it twice. That was just about the only pa Well, the good news is I managed to finish it. Mainly because it is so short. To be fair, memoirs aren’t my thing, but every now and then I like to venture out of my normal reading comfort zone just to see what is out there. I saw the time frame and that it’s about NYC and though this could be interesting, and it was at times. I expected some more literary forays, like the part where he was scavenging around a local bookstore. I loved that part. I’ve read it twice. That was just about the only part I enjoyed. The first half of the book, where Anatol was with Sheri made me mad every darn page. It radiated toxic relationship and he just kept coming back. In the second half, things got better, and then it sort of ended... I don’t think its a spoiler in this specific case when I tell you that this book is not finished. Anatol Broyard died, before he had a chance to finish it. This is something that I feel I should have known up front...as a reader, I probably would have picked a different memoir. Unless, of course, I was a hardcore fan of the author. So all in all, if you enjoy memoirs, I’d probably say don’t pay any mind to my thoughts. But if you’re experimenting, like me, I’d strongly suggest you pick a different memoir. This one was just...meh. Roman

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A slim memoir of one man's experience of one of my top 5 "If I had a time machine..." eras, namely Greenwich Village immediately after World War II. It's hard to count the number of ways I seethe with jealousy as I read this -- the inexpensive five-floor walkups, the long talks at the bar with Delmore Schwarz, awkward sex with bohemians coming into their own. But mostly, I boggle at the fact that Broyard could come back from the war, use the GI Bill to enlist at the New School during its heyday, A slim memoir of one man's experience of one of my top 5 "If I had a time machine..." eras, namely Greenwich Village immediately after World War II. It's hard to count the number of ways I seethe with jealousy as I read this -- the inexpensive five-floor walkups, the long talks at the bar with Delmore Schwarz, awkward sex with bohemians coming into their own. But mostly, I boggle at the fact that Broyard could come back from the war, use the GI Bill to enlist at the New School during its heyday, and open a used bookstore with the money he had saved up overseas. Not surprisingly, the store's a success (people are clamoring to re-create themselves and they treat books as the new guidebooks for doing this) and as the title suggests, Kafka books were both scarce and hotly desired. The straight-ahead narration of some key moments is good, and Broyard is a reliable narrator -- he's got a healthy skepticism for abstraction, whether in art, music, or thought, while still marveling at the leaps forward in thought and perception -- but the book really gets great when he reflects on the general tenor of the era. Though only a few pages long, his thoughts on upper-middle-class kids alone in the city and discovering sex after the war is sweet and heartbreaking. "Until we became sophisticated about it, sex was everything Freud said it was..." And yes, dirt is dished. His account of a scuffle between Dylan Thomas' wife Caitlin and avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren is a highlight of my year's reading.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rochelle

    "It was the talkers who gave me the most trouble. Like the people who had sold me books, the talkers wanted to sell me their lives, their fictions about themselves, their philosophies. Following the example of the authors on the shelves, infected perhaps by them, they told me of their families, their love affairs, their illusions and disillusionments. I was indignant. I wanted to say, Wait a minute! I've already got stories here! Take a look at those shelves!" Anatole Broyard "Kafka was the Rage "It was the talkers who gave me the most trouble. Like the people who had sold me books, the talkers wanted to sell me their lives, their fictions about themselves, their philosophies. Following the example of the authors on the shelves, infected perhaps by them, they told me of their families, their love affairs, their illusions and disillusionments. I was indignant. I wanted to say, Wait a minute! I've already got stories here! Take a look at those shelves!" Anatole Broyard "Kafka was the Rage" p. 33 In this excerpt, Broyard, owner of a Greenwich Village bookshop in the late 1940s describes the type of customer he loathed seeing in his shop. What's considered ill-mannered in a customer becomes welcoming when it's the writer Broyard's turn to tell us his tales. In this book, he describes the Village as it was when it was a nascent burg plum full of philosophers, poets and artists. I found myself just as smitten with this mecca of bookishness and high-thinking as Broyard was. The book cuts off abruptly at the end because it was published posthumously after his death in 1990. Unfortunately, Broyard never got a chance to sum up all of his observations. His wife writes a note to readers at the end that explains Broyard's wishes for the ending that never came to fruition. Still, this is a recommended read to anyone wishing to see Greenwich Village as the place that inspired many of our great 20th century artists and authors.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Marcus

    #5 on the list of David Bowie's 100 favourite books, a sometimes gratingly self-regarding memoir of a pretentious hipster in New York after the war. Broyard does occasionally have a nice turn of phrase, and as a snapshot of a magical time when possibility had only recently returned to the world it's charming, but I had limited tolerance for the author repeatedly bragging about all the women who wanted to sleep with him and all the male friends who were desperate to get the benefit of his literar #5 on the list of David Bowie's 100 favourite books, a sometimes gratingly self-regarding memoir of a pretentious hipster in New York after the war. Broyard does occasionally have a nice turn of phrase, and as a snapshot of a magical time when possibility had only recently returned to the world it's charming, but I had limited tolerance for the author repeatedly bragging about all the women who wanted to sleep with him and all the male friends who were desperate to get the benefit of his literary opinions. Plus Broyard fell ill with only 2/3 of the story completed and never got well again, so the story just tails off, its intended point perhaps yet to be located. On the one hand, we were all young once and these exploits will strike a nostalgia chord with anyone who remembers topping up confusion with bravado in the tearaway years between childhood and finally working it out, settling down; on the other, the actual finer details only really matter to the individual in question, and to the best of my knowledge Broyard's generation weren't *actually* the first generation to discover sex, art, music, and books. Greenwich Village? Maybe you kinda just had to be there.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    In this memoir, literary critic Broyard tells the story of his life in Greenwich Village in post-WWII 1946. It's a free-thinking time, where eveyone appears obsessed with books, ideas, and art. This reminded me so much of the beat writers in San Francisco, but as Broyard points out, minus the drugs. In some ways it seems like a frustrating pointless life and time, with people moving in and out of each other's lives, discussing philosophy, but finding no answers. In other ways, it gave me this re In this memoir, literary critic Broyard tells the story of his life in Greenwich Village in post-WWII 1946. It's a free-thinking time, where eveyone appears obsessed with books, ideas, and art. This reminded me so much of the beat writers in San Francisco, but as Broyard points out, minus the drugs. In some ways it seems like a frustrating pointless life and time, with people moving in and out of each other's lives, discussing philosophy, but finding no answers. In other ways, it gave me this real sense of invigorated creativity - and left me wishing I lived in this free bohemian time. Broyard passed away in 1990. His daughter Bliss Broyard has recently come out with a book about her family and their racial background, called One Drop, which was recently reviewed by the NY Times:(http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/boo...)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    From the prologue/epilogue notes, it seems Anatole Broyard passed away before he was able to finish putting this thing together, and I'll admit, it shows. BUT, even though he didn't get to keep writing and/or edit this slender collection of essays with an eye towards shaping it into a more consciously-formed narrative arc, they're still well-written and there are impressive little tidy turns throughout the prose that makes this book worth reading. If you are interested at all in the Beatnik/Gree From the prologue/epilogue notes, it seems Anatole Broyard passed away before he was able to finish putting this thing together, and I'll admit, it shows. BUT, even though he didn't get to keep writing and/or edit this slender collection of essays with an eye towards shaping it into a more consciously-formed narrative arc, they're still well-written and there are impressive little tidy turns throughout the prose that makes this book worth reading. If you are interested at all in the Beatnik/Greenwich Village scene that existed during the 1940s/50s, this book is incredibly useful. "Sheri Donatti" is Sheri Martinelli in real life; worth a Google. The blurbs compare it to A Moveable Feast, but I had no idea this book even existed until I stumbled upon it in a small little indie Village bookstore, which is kind of a shame.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    A beautiful book about Greenwich Village in 1946, when Broyard was 23, returning from war, and could buy a storefront to start a used book store for under $300. Sex was a great mystery, abstract art was worshiped and despised, you could take a class at the New School with Erich Fromm or Karen Horney, or you could end up at a party with Dylan Thomas. An incredible time. Broyard's chapter about a Jewish friend who is ill is one of the most gorgeous depictions of friendship with someone you both adm A beautiful book about Greenwich Village in 1946, when Broyard was 23, returning from war, and could buy a storefront to start a used book store for under $300. Sex was a great mystery, abstract art was worshiped and despised, you could take a class at the New School with Erich Fromm or Karen Horney, or you could end up at a party with Dylan Thomas. An incredible time. Broyard's chapter about a Jewish friend who is ill is one of the most gorgeous depictions of friendship with someone you both admire and don't truly understand that I've ever read. The chapter on sex is a reverie on how sex was viewed before the 1960's: he manages to depict the feelings of women in ways that few male authors can do. He has an extraordinary ability to pull us into an era that has been idealized. Broyard also idealizes it, managing to make it seem real, though, and that's quite a feat.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anton

    Don't remember when I started reading Anatole's reviews in The Times, but I know that by the early seventies I looked forward to them every week. I felt he was like me, in his sensibility; his likes and dislikes. He was not on any Modernist, or Liberal bandwagon. He questioned the conventional wisdom, that is the New York Intellectual conventional Wisdom. Somehow, he never fell out of the good graces of the taste makers. I'd like to know how he did it. Maybe his wife will write a book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stas

    A co-worker recommended something else by him. Then I remembered that I have this one: i picked up at a sale, just to trade it in for an extra dollar, but no one wanted it, so i still had it when today i needed something light to read. It is a pleasant read, with some neat anecdotes, some astute observations, some genuine lyricism. But also some trifles. I might pick up Human Stain now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    If only Bellow could have novelized Broyard like he did Delmore Schwartz and Allan Bloom! What a book that've been!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elly Sands

    This is a quote on the back cover," Some writing is so rich that commentary is superfluous, even presumptuous. That's the case with Anatole Broyard". I confess I've never heard of him but my fascination with the New York bohemian period steered me to his book in the library. He doesn't hold back either and the reader should not be shy about the explicit sexuality he writes about because it's an important aspect of that time period and he really gets into it. Also books were at a shortage after t This is a quote on the back cover," Some writing is so rich that commentary is superfluous, even presumptuous. That's the case with Anatole Broyard". I confess I've never heard of him but my fascination with the New York bohemian period steered me to his book in the library. He doesn't hold back either and the reader should not be shy about the explicit sexuality he writes about because it's an important aspect of that time period and he really gets into it. Also books were at a shortage after the war and much sought after. "Books were to us as drugs were to young men in the sixties". He opens a much needed bookstore and it made me laugh with his observations of customers as I so well remember when I managed a bookstore in Philadelphia. One reviewer accuses Broyard of over using similies but I praise him for it. What a mind to be so clever, articulate and witty with his comparisons. An intimate unusual memoir, insightfully written and that I honestly found flawless.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason Robinson

    3.5 Stars. An account of longtime New York Times book critic and editor Anatole Broyard in the immediate post WWII years in Greenwich Village NYC. A very short, quick read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jazzy Lemon

    A intimate look at literature, love, sex, life and death through the memoirs of Anatole Broyard in the years immediately following the second World War.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karla Huebner

    This brief (unfinished) memoir about life in 1946 Greenwich Village was a delight to read. Nostalgic, quirky, rich with simile, a reflection on what it's like to be twenty-something and in a big city, obsessed with literature and sex. Broyard imagined that the vibe in Greenwich Village was different then than in other times and places, and of course that's necessarily true, but it's also not true; San Francisco in the 1980s (as I experienced it) had much in common with his Greenwich Village and This brief (unfinished) memoir about life in 1946 Greenwich Village was a delight to read. Nostalgic, quirky, rich with simile, a reflection on what it's like to be twenty-something and in a big city, obsessed with literature and sex. Broyard imagined that the vibe in Greenwich Village was different then than in other times and places, and of course that's necessarily true, but it's also not true; San Francisco in the 1980s (as I experienced it) had much in common with his Greenwich Village and I'm sure so have many cities in many decades. Not all readers have taken to this book. I looked up Broyard's Anais Nin-disciple paramour and learned that her real name was Sheri Martinelli and that she did indeed figure in many interesting people's lives, but while Steve Moore's quite interesting tribute to her in Gargoyle Magazine quotes liberally from Broyard, Moore assumes that any difference between Broyard's version and Martinelli's own must be a fabrication by Broyard. This seems implausible to me. Broyard doesn't seem to have much reason to invent the dirty apartment, disinclination to wear underpants, or late-night suicide attempt, while Martinelli would have had reason to forget or conceal such things. Perhaps when I'm elderly I too will claim that I never had a dirty apartment, always wore underpants, and never contemplated suicide. Or perhaps I'll take the opposite tack and claim, equally falsely, that I always had a dirty apartment, never wore underpants, and actually attempted suicide. We can't predict what we'll do or say in our waning years when refining our personal legends. Likewise, Moore and some readers here imply that Broyard's having avoided mentioning his black ancestry makes him an unreliable narrator, or at least a cad. Well, I really don't think so. The man was born at a time when you didn't generally tell the world that your family was "passing"--the whole point of passing as anything is to hide what makes you an outcast, after all. We're not yet in a post-racial world, but we are at least in a world where mixed-race Americans don't usually need to hide the fact, which is quite a change from how things were during most of Broyard's life. I also don't find Broyard misogynist. He was in his twenties and full of hormones, but also interested in his women's personalities. That seems perfectly normal. Most people in their twenties are full of hormones, and many are much less likable about it. I do agree with a reader who decided that Broyard got too carried away with simile. It's true, but I didn't really mind. I don't make heavy use of simile myself, or even provide much description of characters as a rule, which may be either a virtue or a fault in my writing, but perhaps for that very reason I rather enjoy wild use of simile in a writer like Broyard. I think he gets away with it (mostly) because his writing is so lean in most other respects. It's part of that combination, which I found appealing, of the intellectual and the self-aware with the sensuous.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maria Said

    Really beautiful memoir. So much said, and then I discovered after reading about his life, so much left unsaid.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richard Jespers

    Some poor or average writers sometimes make better critics than authors. They can (or can’t) see what’s wrong with another person’s writing but not their own. This guy may have been a book critic for the New York Times, but this effort, at least, is a sad attempt to memorialize his youth in the late 1940s in New York’s West Village. Even the title, which may be what drew me to the book, is but a flashy bauble, for he hardly says anything about Kafka and why he might have been all the rage at tha Some poor or average writers sometimes make better critics than authors. They can (or can’t) see what’s wrong with another person’s writing but not their own. This guy may have been a book critic for the New York Times, but this effort, at least, is a sad attempt to memorialize his youth in the late 1940s in New York’s West Village. Even the title, which may be what drew me to the book, is but a flashy bauble, for he hardly says anything about Kafka and why he might have been all the rage at that time. What I’m probably most offended by is his piling on of similes and metaphors as if the reader might be a complete dolt, as if he hasn’t interesting enough material to mostly allow it to speak for itself: “My nerves—I suppose it was my nerves—gave off a high, faint whirring, like the sound that billions of insects make in the tropics at night. It was a disturbance as remote as grinding your teeth in your sleep. Or it was as if my brain had something stuck in its teeth. It may have been merely the friction of consciousness, but I chose to see it as a symptom” (46). [Italics mine] Paragraph after paragraph is marred with this layering of mostly unrelated analogous images which serve to belabor or muddle his point, whatever it might be. Another fault with the book may be its structure. Part One, clearly sixty percent of the book, is about Sheri, the man’s first love, a borderline sadomasochistic relationship at best. Part Two seems totally unrelated being more about his male friendships. What may be missing most is a point of view that is realistic. He is clearly writing this work near the end of his life about a period that is nearly fifty years gone, and it has that hazy quality in places; it does not seem to be enhanced by passages from journals or interviews with some of the guilty parties. Some passages like the one where a close friend tells Anatole that he has leukemia, rings with a poignancy that still remains. I only wish the book were made up of more of such scenes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

    This is a book that carries you away to another time and place written by a near perfect writer. It was a joy to read and imagine the feeling of excitement experienced by the denizens of Greenwich Village in 1946. Broyard's memoir is full of life, yet the undercurrent of mortality seems to be there as well. The memoir reads like a story, one that is full of unique moments -- literary bon mots -- whether chatting with Delmore Schwartz at the San Remo Bar, running into Auden on the street or dancin This is a book that carries you away to another time and place written by a near perfect writer. It was a joy to read and imagine the feeling of excitement experienced by the denizens of Greenwich Village in 1946. Broyard's memoir is full of life, yet the undercurrent of mortality seems to be there as well. The memoir reads like a story, one that is full of unique moments -- literary bon mots -- whether chatting with Delmore Schwartz at the San Remo Bar, running into Auden on the street or dancing with Hemingway; there is always a vivacious bohemian life with friends, and best of all reading, discussing, living with books. Anatole Broyard tells of opening a used book store when books were still truly appreciated (well at least more than now). And he indulged in psychoanalysis - his analyst was "the sort of man who read Schiller, Heine, and Kleist, who listened to Schubert and Mahler". Who wouldn't want to engage an analyst like that; perhaps he could only be equaled by the analyst in Daniel Menaker's novel, The Treatment. It is a reminder of the influence that Freud and other thinkers had on culture in that era -- the excitement of discovery of those writers who, it seemed, could help explain a world ravished by two world wars. But I focus too much on the dark side, for there was lightness and the dance as well. This is a delightful read whose only downside is length - it is too short and you will finish it wishing there was more.

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