The Paris Review Eagle, or “the bird” as it was referred to, was designed by William Pène du Bois, the magazine’s art editor, in the spring of 1952. The symbolism is not difficult: an American eagle is carrying a pen: the French association is denoted by the helmet the bird is wearing—actually a Phrygian hat originally given a slave on his freedom in ancient times and which subsequently became the liberty cap or bonnet rouge worn by the French Revolutionists of the 19th Century. The bird adorned the top left hand corner of the magazine’s covers until issue number 27 when the artist Larry Rivers utilized the entire space with his design of a winged helmet; the bird, to the regret of some, vanished never to appear again, at least on the magazine’s covers. It did put in an appearance at the New York World’s Fair (1964-65) on a pair of metal pennants that hung from the crosstrees of the center pole of the Paris Review Booth (“The Smallest Pavillion at the Fair”) until the flags blew off in a summer wind storm.



The Paris Review Sketchbook

The first talks about the Paris Review were between Peter Matthiessen, in Paris with his beautiful young wife Patsy, and Harold L. (Doc) Humes, who had arrived in Paris not long before. Peter was then at work on his first novel Race Rock; Doc was already the flamboyant publisher (he carried a silver-headed cane and wore a beret) of a magazine called the Paris News-Post—once described by John Ciardi as “the best fourth-rate imitation of the New Yorker I have ever seen.” Among the names proposed for the new enterprise, and subsequently discarded, was Manuscript (what would have become, had it stuck, Ms.); it was thought bland.

Peter Matthiessen had met Humes in the Dôme in Montparnasse in the spring of 1951. “He was a remarkable figure,” Matthiessen remembered. “He wore a cape…burly and curly fellow with a deep laugh…a lot of style to him; he was appealing, aggressive, warm-hearted, curious, yet with convictions on every subject…all of which made him impossible. Doc wanted me to serve as fiction editor at the Paris News-Post, but the first story I acquired—“The Sun and the Still-Born Stars,” by a young unknown writer named Terry Southern—was so much better than his magazine that I persuaded him to put to death the Paris News-Post and start a new literary magazine, using Terry’s story all over again, which we did.”

Humes was expected to function as the first managing editor of the Paris Review. From his short experience with the Paris News-Post he was supposed to know something about the process of putting out and distributing a magazine: he knew the jargon of the printing shops. But, instead of doing what was expected of him, he took to reading Huckleberry Finn in the corners of the Montparnasse cafés, a supérieur of beer in front of him. He explained that it was best for the young staff of the Review to learn for itself. As its managing editor, he was doing the magazine a favor by remaining aloof from its activities. Besides, he had decided to become a writer; administrative work was behind him. That first summer of 1953 he applied to Harvard as a graduate student and was accepted. Archibald MacLeish took him into his English writing course. He left for the United States.

Those who put out the first issue of the magazine that summer in Paris took umbrage at Humes’s concept of his duties as managing editor. Somewhat peremptorily perhaps—since they forgot to inform him—they lowered him down the masthead to the position of Advertising and Circulation Manager—a somewhat curious title in retrospect, since he had as little to do with these departments as he did with managing.

Humes’s debasement came to his attention when the first shipment of magazines arrived in New York. He was furious. He hurried down from Cambridge. He had a rubber stamp made up with his name and an exalted title. Down on the wharves he got into the shipping crates where he began stamping the masthead page of the magazine in red ink, half a thousand copies or so, until his arm got tired.

Such was Humes’s indignation that in the next issue he was promoted and he appeared at the top of the masthead—along with Peter Matthiessen, the fiction editor, George Plimpton, who had arrived from Cambridge University at the invitation of Matthiessen to be the Editor and assume the active responsibility for the magazine, William Pène du Bois, the art editor, and Donald Hall, the poetry editor. Humes remained at that level until the fourth number of the Paris Review when still having done little discernible for the magazine he was shifted once again and designated an advisory editor—this time without visible rancor on his part, or stamping of inkpads.


John Train took over most of Harold Humes’s responsibilities. He liked to refer to himself as the “so-called managing editor.” He was the magazine’s managing editor until one day in 1954, after a year of organizing things in the office, he left a note in his In-box stating, “Do not put anything in this box.” By this he meant to tell the rest of the staff that he was moving on to something else.

He was a Harvard graduate (an editor of the Lampoon there), with a master’s degree in Comparative Literature. His clipped, wry perception of things was what one might associate with an Oxford don rather than a young graduate newly arrived in Paris. He would not suffer fools or people who bored him. Those he wished to discourage were diverted with an invitation to an address in Montparnasse where Train said he lived. There on a large sheet-iron gate on a wall too high for the visitor to see that behind it was a vacant lot, Train gummed his calling-card which, on occasion, he would replace. The hopeful guest, spotting it, would bend to read in Train’s neat hand: PLEASE KNOCK LOUDLY.

What Train recalls of the Review’s earliest days follows:


One proposition we all agreed on and did achieve was that we wanted to get away from the style of most of the other American literary quarterlies, with Partisan Review in the lead, which were steeped in literary and political theory, as were our French counterparts. I doubt if there was a single French literary magazine at that time that didn’t reflect some specific political orientation. You were not considered serieux unless you were politically engagé—no matter with what. I, on the contrary, after my postgraduate work in Comparative Literature, was convinced that theories, both literary and political, are the enemy of art.

My eyes were opened on this subject by Bernard Berenson. I was Staying with him in Vallombrosa, and one day accompanied him on one of his little walks, meaning not much walk and a lot of talk. Turned out in perfect light tweeds and carrying a small folded shawl over one arm, he would inch along, holding forth exquisitely. When you got a foot or so ahead he would clutch you by the elbow, spinning you around toward him, and make a point. One would then straighten out, resume the march and carry on until the next spin-around. On the occasion in question I was describing my objective of getting a doctorate in comparative literature when I noticed that B.B.’s expression seemed to have clouded slightly. “What do you think of Comp. Lit.?” I asked a bit anxiously. B.B. frowned and reflected, clutched my elbow, spun me around, and bayed hoarsely, “Comp. Lit. is dead as cold mutton!” He meant that to deflect one’s gaze—in one’s all too limited time—from art itself to forms of words about art was a big step down from the juicy reality toward the dry and derivative.

Anyway, at the Paris Review we were united on that point: no learned articles on who influenced whom, or the higher significance of whatever; just the prime matter, except perhaps for occasional newsy pieces on what was brewing on the European literary and artistic scene.

We had trouble over the name. There were, as might be imagined, innumerable suggestions. I claim to have devised the name Paris Review, and lobbied for its acceptance. I remember calling on our group one by one to push it. It seemed so logical: Paris, for the slightly exotic appeal— greater then than now—and because that was our distinguishing feature; Review because that’s what it was.

We took a long time getting started. Raising money was a problem, since although we expected to make money, nobody else could see any basis for that hope, particularly since we were in fact totally unbusiness like. (I doubt if the corporation has had even one shareholder’s meeting since its inception.) We worked out a deal to be sponsored for legal and house-keeping purposes by La Table Ronde, an established French magazine considered to have a conservative political tone although that meant nothing to us.

George came up with a money-making scheme of lofty simplicity. We would approach the Paris Herald-Tribune, he announced. Surely someone knew somebody there. We would offer to do a literary page in each issue; a whole page, filled with stimulating criticism, moving poetry, gripping fiction. We would make so much money from our page that the Review—and its editors—would be in clover. And how would we shoehorn this extra matter into the newspaper’s already congested format? Quite simple, George blandly explained. The Trib would simply chuck the stock pages. After all, none of us read the stock pages, did we?

To provide a keynoter for the first issue we turned to Bill Styron, who, in his late twenties and already a published author, was an elder spokesman of the group. He seemed very worldly-wise. After a while he produced a laborious piece wrestling with his own particular literary theories. It was my task to edit this effusion, and I blue-penciled it with vigor. Styron, nettled, fired back a rejoinder which unlike the original submission had feeling and strength, and, labeled “Letter to an Editor” (me), started the issue in good style. He took a whack at writers who used “terms like…Zeitgeist,” which, as a person of scholarly bent who was comfortable with the word, I somewhat resented. “As for Zeitgeist,” Styron riposted in his inaugural Letter, “which you accuse me of denouncing unintelligently, I still don’t like it, perhaps because I am ignorant of what it means.” (That problem seems at last to have been solved, since the word turns up here and there in Bill’s latest novel, Sophie’s Choice.)



Many of the early conversations about the magazine were held in Peter Matthiessen’s studio. William Styron wrote of the place (which he later used as a scene in his novel, Set This House On Fire): “Peter and his wife. Patsy, lived in a modest but lovely apartment on a Utrillo-like back street in Montparnasse; spacious, airy, its one big room filled with light, the Matthiessen pad (the word was just coming into use about then) became the hangout for many of the mob of Americans who had hurried to Paris to partake of its perennial delights, to drink in the pleasures of a city beginning to surge with energy after the miseries of the recent war. ‘U.S. Go Home’ was painted by the Communists on every wall—it was possibly the most ignored injunction in recent history. For the Americans happily established there, Paris was home, and no place was more homelike than the Matthiessen establishment on the Rue Perceval. To this I recollect with awe the sense of an almost constant open house, in which it was possible at practically any time to obtain music and food and drink (Peter was unfailingly generous with what seemed to be a nearly in-exhaustible supply of Scotch) or, if need be, a spot to sleep off a hangover and—of course always—conversation.”

Styron wrote the preface to which Train refers after discussions in the Matthiessen studio and, in the late evening, at tables in a Montparnasse bar called the Chaplain. A smoke-filled place, in which Styron used to say you could write your name in the cigarette haze with your finger, its entrance was on a little dog-leg street that was not far from the Dôme.

The Chaplain had a grand piano, actually in tune, which on occasion music students would play to test their abilities on an audience which included their own peers. Sometimes the mini-performances were excellent, but there was never any applause from the music students listening, as if to give any would be to acknowledge a level of superiority in one of their own. Once, Zaidee Parkinson, now married to the conductor Richard Dufallo, played there when she was very young, sitting like a school-girl with a straight back, her long hair hanging in a fall to the edge of the piano stool she sat on; she played an intricate piece by Scriabin: in the room the conversation dropped away. There was no applause when she finished. When she returned red-faced to the table, the Editor told her that traditionally there never was any applause in the Chaplain. Silence was the great accolade. She had received it. He envied her. He told her that when he played he had to listen to the jokes being told at the table alongside the flank of the piano.



Apothecker—the German word for pharmacist—was the collective name given the female volunteers in the early days of the magazine who came through Paris and moved on so quickly that their stay in the small box-like office on the Rue Garancière was scarcely noticed. The descriptive was inflicted on them by John Train. The male counterparts were referred to as “Musinskys”—named after the first of their breed, Frank Musinsky, who came to work for a Paris summer. Neither term was used to anyone’s face, naturally, and the Musinsky tag never caught on anyway.

Many of the Apotheckers and Musinskys moved on to greater things. Among the Apotheckers were Frances Fitzgerald, author of The Fire in the Lake, Jane Fonda, the actress, who left a permanent imprint on the magazine with a line-drawing of a coffee urn in the Paris Review #18, and Gail Jones, the singer Lena Horne’s daughter. Of the Musinskys, Colin Wilson went on to write novels and non-fiction of distinction. In Paris, he was a door-to-door subscription salesman, though somewhat self-serving as he used the receipts from his sales to return to England and help get himself started without leaving any of the proceeds back at the magazine.

Many of the Musinkys wanted to be writers. They practiced in the office or at the café tables. One of them was a Princeton graduate who owned a magnificent name (Peter Moscosco-Gongora) and such an unquenchable confidence in his capacities and his future as a writer that, rather than finding titles for his short stories, he numbered them, as one might musical compositions. The first story he sent out on the rounds was Number One, or what he referred to—as one would a symphony—as his “First.” He would ask, “Have you read the Fifth yet?”

The activities of another Musinsky of less artistic pretensions than Moscosco-Gongora were described recently by John Train: “In Paris we had a demon camelot, as in French one calls a walking vendor, named Vittorio Abrami, an impoverished Italian philosophy student. He would walk through the cafés handing out copies of the Review opened to whatever in them seemed most attractive, usually drawings of nudes by some new young artist, showing just a flash of them, like a dirty postcard vendor. He could sell five or ten in a good café sweep, which week after week became a significant figure. Abrami had to be relieved of his cash by evening, like a cormorant, or he would spend it and be so ashamed that he would go into hiding. Alas, he succumbed to unrequited love for a pretty French philosophy student, and to win her favor shaved off all the hair on his head, which made him so hideous that he lost his effectiveness as a camelot as well as an amorist.”



The first Paris Review office was in a small room in Les Editions de la Table Ronde, a publishing subsidiary of the house of Plon, a solemn, conservative, very austere publishing concern with offices around a great enclosed courtyard at 8 Rue Garancière opposite the walls of the Garde Republicaine. The editors of Plon worked in the kind of silence one associates with clerking in 19th century London banking institutions. One of its editors was an epileptic who had a mild seizure which came on schedule every month. There would be shouts and the sound of running feet…the heavy slam of distant doors. It was the only time that any suggestion of activity emerged from the grim facade of the building across the courtyard.

Charles de Gaulle was published by Plon. One day the General came to 8 Rue Garancière. Everyone was lined up to meet him, including, surprisingly, the Paris Review’s staff—all the Apotheckers and Musinskys standing in a row—perhaps to suggest how extensive the Plon operation was. The epileptic was due for a fit, so he was asked to watch the proceedings from a short distance—standing in the shadows of a courtyard door.

Every evening at six the concierge locked the door from Les Editions de la Table Ronde to the courtyard. Keys were not entrusted to Review personnel, so the procedure for editors working late was to leave by the windows—hanging from the sill by the fingertips and then dropping into the Rue Garancière below. It was a jarring descent, especially for the shorter members of the staff. On occasion, this exodus—which must have looked like the flight of second-story men surprised in mid-job—coincided with the return of the mounted Garde Republicaine from an official function—often the ceremonial arrival of a head of state at the Elysée Palace. As they turned into their quarters across the street, their horses’ hooves clattering on the cobblestones, they would glance haughtily from under the brims of their plumed helmets at the editors…as if a descent of cat burglars, their legs flailing briefly as they dropped from the facade of Editions Plon, was beneath their dignity to do anything about.



The Café de Tournon was around the corner. It was not only the hangout of convenience for the Review people, who would drop down from the office window after dusk to meet there for a drink, but it was removed enough from St. Germain-des-Près, where the tourists sat in the cafés and craned their necks looking for Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and from Montparnasse, where the older tourists sat in the Dôme or the Rotonde and chatted about that generation, so that it had a comfortable, private, and rather drowsy ambiance of its own. Regulars did not talk about the Café de Tournon too much…for fear it would be overrun and “spoiled.” Those who went there had an almost proprietary attitude about it.

One of the regulars was Eugene Walter. He lived across the Street in the Hotel Helvétia. He was known by many in the Café de Tournon as “Tum-te-Tum,” from the first words the editors of the Paris Review ever heard him say. He had pronounced them upon hearing that a story of his, “Troubador,” had been accepted for the first number of the magazine: dressed in a faded, linen suit he stood in the doorway of the board room of La Table Ronde, and upon the news of the acceptance from the editors, he announced, dragging it out, “Ah, Tum-te-Tum!”…providing a name which stuck, though he preferred to be known as Professor James B. Willoughby. That was how he signed his letters, under the salutation “mille fleurs.” He came originally from Mobile, Alabama. He knew not only a great deal about literature, but also about gumbos and other Southern culinary delicacies; he was uncommonly informed on the ballet and opera, costume and set design, and when he became an Advisory Editor he pressed a number of portfolios on the editors, including one of courtiers illustrated as different vegetables; his influence was such that Archibald MacLeish, who had taught a number of the editors and early contributors in his famous English S course at Harvard, wondered if the magazine was getting a bit fey.

 The monkey was Walter’s favorite animal. The highest accolade he pressed upon the girls around the Café de Tournon was that they were just a step or two below being “Queen of the Monkeys.” They adored him. In his hotel room he had a stuffed monkey under a bell-jar that he packed and moved with him. It went with him when he left Paris to take up residence in Rome…in a lovely roof-garden apartment that one remembered for his cats, and his plants everywhere, and the moist rain-texture of the place.

What follows is Eugene Walter’s reminiscences of the Paris he left, and especially the Café de Tournon:1


The Café de Tournon in the Rue de Tournon, just in front of the Palais Luxembourg, developed into a scintillation center, a firebox, a winter garden, a zoological park. Every café in midtown Paris has something going for it. And some specialité: lawyers, couturiers, actors, whatever. By accident, the Café de Tournon, mildly literary and professional to begin with, went wild, and became ever more so.

The day I arrived in Paris, I had moved into the Hotel Helvétia across the street from the café. The hotel, an 18th century townhouse, was immaculately clean, and I liked the marmalade cat who came up with M. Jordan, the proprietor, when he brought breakfast. The Café de Tournon was close; coffee there was good. I liked their Irish setter, Arnauld, a real silly who, with one enthusiastic lashing of the tail, could send whole trayfuls of drinks crashing off the little round tables outside on the sidewalk. Seeing people correcting proofs, and reading over their drinks, I realized I had found the appropriate climate.

Everybody turned up sooner or later. The very pretty, very witty Francine du Plessix; the minxey bright-eyed Bee Dabney, who drew wonderful cats and monkeys. The English poet Christopher Logue. He liked so much to propagate the idea that he was a somewhat shady character; he told wondrous wild tales to further the effect. I like his work very much. The Paris Review published a fine suite of poems in which precious stones speak in the first person; I still get a tingle on a line from “Diamonds”: “Brighter than a thicket of drawn knives, I…” When Christopher’s mother visited Paris, he tried to keep her under wraps, finally brought her to the Tournon. Everybody thought she’d be, at the least, a red-haired Polish gypsy, or a Tunisian midwife, but she was a pink-cheeked little English lady with a silk print dress and a cameo.

How many books were written in or around the Tournon? Who knows? I must say, I remember one day looking up from my Dubonnet and there were about ten people busy writing, staring into spaces, sipping endless black coffees or aperitifs. Some might have been doing accounts or lessons, who knows, but among those I saw scribbling on one occasion or another were William Gardner Smith, Austryn Wainhouse, Max Steele, Evan Connell Jr., Mary Lee Settle, Sissel Lange-Nielsen, Nanos Valaoritis, Daphne Athas, Jean Garrigue (whose short novel, The Animal Hotel was partially inspired by the Hotel Helvétia). All these and more, sometimes only jotting notes or reading proofs—or writing letters, for the post office was just at the corner. The place was a bee-hive. Jane Lougee, publisher of the literary review. Merlin, sometimes brought her Siamese cat when she came for a Pernod with the Merlin editor, Alexander Trocchi, or the gifted and intelligent Richard Seaver. Mary Louise Wainhouse was studying Russian and often gossipped with the Finnish art historian, Renata Fitzthum-Eckstadt. Stravinsky turned up a couple of times; so did Clara Malraux and Jean Duvignaud.

The Café de Tournon, in its early manifestation, was rather seedy and rundown; later it was redecorated with scenic murals: I liked the earlier aspect. Behind it, around the corner, was the Rue de la Garancière where was located the offices of La Table Ronde, which allowed the Paris Review a cubbyhole. The editors and writers of that publishing house turned up in the Tournon, along with some cabaret entertainers whom I never figured out. Where did they perform? I’ll never know. They must have chosen the Tournon for their between-shows “break.” They were very very French-looking young men; over-sexed and undernourished, and very very pale, their pallor accentuated by bluish eye-shadow and white powder. Once in a while they’d perform unaccompanied in the Tournon. There was a song I loved, which translated, “Give me your hand. Marquise, the minuet is the King’s polka…” I haven’t even mentioned the painters. Zev, that splendid solitary inhabitant of some realm equidistant from Constantine the Great and George Herriman, often rambled in the Tournon, as did the solemn young American painter, Robert Harris, sometimes Antoni Clavé and Douglas Davis, friend and limner of Edith Piaf. He died on the Atlanta plane.

M. Alézard, the proprietor, opened the place in the morning, with Arnauld, the red setter, zanier than most of his ilk. Later, Mme. Alézard would turn up. They made excellent fried or scrambled eggs on a hot plate not much bigger than a silver dollar. The coffee was superior: perhaps that is why it became a literary café. There was a whole bevy of completely delightful Brazilians who frequented the place, because of the coffee. They were very skitty, chattery, often sang. I loved them. One day the Brazilian currency was devalued and one by one they vanished. I still miss them. A delightful creature from Madeira, Celestino Mendès-Sargo, amused us mightily with a song in Portuguese about Jupiter and the Muses: “The only way to live, ladies, is to try everything…”

Gurney Campbell, author (with Daphne Athas of the Observer prize play, Sit on the Earth), was already outlining her trilogy of plays about Gandhi. The Dutch photographers, Otto van Noppen and Dominic Beretty, were part of all this. as well as Robert Silvers, who had just finished his military service and been sent to me by Cecil Hemley, the publisher-poet. Robert began to help in the Paris Review office. Edith Schor knew all the words and the music of La Carmagnole, the dance steps too, and we’d sing and dance it in a circle, lallygagging back to the Tournon after the play-readings. A catchy tune, Once a policeman cautioned against singing it publicly; another time we got a bucket of water on our heads. It was a people’s song during the French Revolution and is still frowned upon in the 6th and 7th arrondissements:


        “Ah, we’ll see it yet,

        We’ll see it yet:

        We’ll hang the high-born from the lamp-posts!

        Dance, dance the Carmagnole!”

Well, never a dull moment. The Communist bookshop on Rue Racine was blown up. A famous old restaurant closed and the cellar was found to be full of cat bones. Rabbit had been a great specialité on the menu. An eccentric Austrian committed suicide in the Hotel where Catherine Morison lived with her grandmother’s fans. The Café de Tournon buzzed and tingled day and night…gossip à gogo…

The biggest Percheron horses I ever saw or imagined came in mid-morning to bring the beer. The wine came in a tank-truck; a hose was inserted into a hole in the sidewalk opening into the cellar of the café. I used to time how long it took to fill the daily-depleted wine reservoir. One Monday morning, 23 minutes. The boy from the bakery brought paper sacks of hot croissants, but the long French loaves were stuck unwrapped into his bicycle basket. So much for finicky modern hygiene: the horses, the flies…but nobody ever died in the café, as far as i know. The poet and cinéast James Broughton was usually among the last few who closed the café at night. John Train would zoom up on a motorbike; zoom off, return, zoom again. About 2 A.M, the weary waiter, Charles, would start sweeping up cigarette butts, paper, etc., making cheerful insults about “these Bohemians.” The image of him at work seemed downright emblematic, like Father Time himself sweeping away. Ho-hum, another day, another decade. Oh well, it was all immensely young and stimulating and fun and now seems beyond belief innocent and productive, in this establishment which was literary salon, permanent editorial board meeting, message center, short order eatery, debating club, study hall. Four literary reviews in English, one in French; who knows how many books and other works springing forth from this noisy, smokey, clattery, raunchy, beat-up café?

I had come armed with two letters of introduction, one to Alice B. Toklas, one to Charles Lovatt and Thad Lovett, who lived with a mad Rumanian housekeeper, Sevastitza, in an Art Nouveau apartment with a huge oval window overlooking the Montparnasse cemetery. They gave grand parties where I met favorite and choice characters. Esther Arthur Strachey, for instance, President Arthur’s granddaughter. She loved to argue about history, would become quite heated, couldn’t contain herself, literally. Charles always steered her to an especially prepared chair with rubber baby sheets under a casually draped blanket.

“I stand with von Ranke!” she once cried testily, and stood up; the chair overflowed.

I had seen the ancient legendary actress Nance O’Neill in New York, where she had just made her TV debut, (“I only do sitting-down roles, now,” she purred.) and Alice B. Toklas made me describe the meeting over and over, for as a school girl in San Francisco she had seen Miss O’Neill at the old Alhambra Theater.

“Lizzie Borden had a crush on her,” confided Miss Toklas, “and invited her with all her troupe to spend the summer…she’d asked Nance over and over to recite Cassandra’s speech which begins, ‘this house smells of blood.’”

Natalie Barney, who’d come from Ohio around the turn of the century and stayed on (Rémy de Gourmont addressed Letters to the Amazon to her), had a marvelous weekly salon. One entered a dim cluttered hallway, received by an ancient servant, was led back to a huge room with a big round table in the middle loaded with sandwiches and pastries, a great divan in each of the four corners. Some major personality or beauty presided over his or her court from the center of each divan. Natalie wandered about, beaming, looking much like Benjamin Franklin. She even wore squarish glasses. I felt instantly at home because the 1910 chandeliers, glass grapes in shades of green and amber, were precisely those of the ones in the old Vineyard Restaurant atop the Cawthon Hotel I had known as a child.

The past seemed so recent in the chatter here. Most of those present had known Proust, some were angry at having been used as models for characters in his novel. Some were angrier still for not having been used. They had all seen Bernhardt, and spoke of Mary Garden’s Mélisande as if they’ve seen her a week before. Once Colette was there, had brought her scrapbooks covering her vaudeville days. She sat on one of the four sofas, preening like a great pussy-cat. I’m certain she flung her mascara on with a tablespoon, then took a toothpick to pry out a peephole. Bettina de Bergery enchanted me. An American lady married to a leftist French lawyer, she was a living illustration of what we mean by the word chic. (In the South, we say “nicely turned out.”) She shone among a dozen ladies of great personal style, attired in a simple apricot silk coat lined with snow leopard.

I had the pleasure of seeing Natalie alone a few times. She liked my book of Monkey Poems when John Train published it, and asked me to come read it to her. We had tea and she recounted a wondrous gothic tale about two high-born Parisian ladies who both fell in love with a charming young actress who led them both on merry chases before announcing that she intended to marry…a man. The ladies, in an uproar, became a conspiracy of two, went to Cartier to have a silver knife made, with which to deflower the heretic. No man, they said through clenched teeth, would have that privilege. Natalie’s house in Rue Jacob had belonged to the 18th century actress, Adrienne Lecouvreur, and in the garden was a pretty little Temple of Love. The ladies held the actress down on a table in this summerhouse…and there their rite was performed.

Isadora’s brother, Raymond Duncan, attended Natalie’s salon in dingy white wool Grecian draperies, bare feet in sandals; in cold weather his toes were literally blue. Those Paris winters! He had spent the war years in hiding. When the rumble of the Germans’ retreat was still audible, he had clambered over the slippery tile roof of his place in the Rue de Seine and raised the first post-bellum American flag in Paris. Once, in conversation with the Princesse de Caraman-Chimay, he punctuated his remarks by recklessly waving an éclair. He held it too emphatically and a great blob of the creamy filling popped out and splattered the Princess’s high-necked frock at bosom level. She stared in disbelief, as the cream slowly dripped.

Espèce de monstre!” she said through clenched teeth. Then she picked up an éclair, pointed it at Raymond and squeezed. But it backfired and she received another load of cream. She dropped the éclair with a little disbelieving gasp. They stared at each other; then she picked up another éclair and very carefully dropped it down the front of Raymond’s Grecian draperies. With a brisk and inevitable gesture she reached out and pressed his chest at the point where the éclair was lodged and there was an almost inaudible floosh sound as it squashed and released the cream.

“Well, if you will wear décolleté,” said the Princess loftily, and went off to look for water and towel. I couldn’t wait to report the episode to the gang at the Café de Tournon, so I left the party early.

The Paris Review crowd seemed to penetrate all of Paris. The Café de Tournon was the fixed point of reference, the launching pad, but my, how the crowd got around. Once I went to hell-and-gone in the suburbs to eat sorrel soup at a neighborhood billiards parlor, and three of the editors were already there. At the Opera, the Folies Bergères, one stumbled over one or more. The Flea Market, any café, any restaurant. A race of Dappertutti. Three of my favorites who had a way of turning up in this fashion were Guy Pène du Bois, his daughter Yvonne, and our own art director Billy Pène du Bois, who never stopped smiling the smile of an elf who knows too much. But it was George Plimpton, John Train, and that still underestimated gifted original, Pati Hill, who all seemed pleased with the gift of bi-location. If I left them at the Coupole bar, they would be back at the Tournon before I was. Did I see them at La Mediterranée with Tom Keogh and Marie-Laure de Noailles? Five minutes later, when I reached the Deux Magots, I’d find them already comfortably ensconced at a sidewalk table.


Pati Hill, as Eugene Walter mentions, was an habitué of the Café de Tournon and the quarter—one of a number of young Americans who had come to Paris at that time to try a hand at writing. Being an ex-model, she was certainly the most glamorous of the writers starting out, but what was unique about her was a fresh and very distinctive writing style and discernment. Her abilities were eventually recognized by publishing houses in the U.S. with the acceptance of The Pit and the Century Plant. She has been published regularly in the Review since the appearance of a story entitled “In the House Where She Was Born” in the second number of the magazine, in 1953. The following sketch about the Paris days is entitled “Writing About Cats.”


I thought they were a captivating and tantalizing bunch, but I was living with a jealous Frenchman in a razorblade factory on the outskirts of Paris and they hung out on the Rue de Tournon.

Later, I found a more lenient lover and moved to the Hotel Helvétia opposite Paris Review headquarters.

The room I lived in had been occupied by Jean Garrigue and when I went to look at it it was filled with sticks, stones, moss, seeds, wings, thistles, parts of dandelions, parts of pigeon’s eggs and snail whorls, etc.

After I moved in it was filled with borrowed gloves and free lipstick samples, but the aura of nesting and deep adventure lingered.

Sally Higginson soon followed wearing a beaver hat, a beaver coat and carrying a beaver muff.

Eugene Walter said “Lawdy” and “La di da” and cooked us southern delicacies over his alcohol burner.

When it began to snow Sally moved to a suite in the Place Vendôme and we had parties on her red plush carpet.

During one of them somebody took my picture staring intently into the eyes of a young serviceman named Robert Silvers.

Neither of us has any eyebrows or eyelashes because a lighted cigarette has just grazed the gas balloon we were holding between our foreheads.


“You like cats—write about cats,” said George.


Everything I wrote got printed by the Paris Review and nothing by Doubleday, Dutton or Little, Brown.

I thought it must not be much of a magazine to publish such doubtful writers.

My French friend assured me it would not last the winter.


In spring George and Bee Dabney came to the country where I was working on my second unpublished novel.

Bee gave me a handmade yoyo and made a beautiful sketch of the house which still hangs on my wall.

No one was ever like Bee Dabney, though some animals look a little like her.


“Anything the leader of ten million people says is bound to be interesting,” George insisted.

I failed to appreciate the truth of this.

Last month I began photocopying Versailles.

It had taken me some time to get started at it but if it had not been for George I might never have started at all.


Max Steele and I made an appointment to make torrid love in the afternoon but changed our minds in a welter of papers, I don’t remember why.

I remember my walk to his place by the wall of the Ecole Militaire.

I remember everything he writes when he remembers to write.


Last year my daughter, Paola, wrote her first story (about her childhood in a house a few kilometers from where George and Bee visited).

“Try the Paris Review,” Max advised.

Paola said, “Oh, I thought that was for professional writers!”


I more or less remember Natalie Barney. Offering some sort of hot muffins brought in by Alice Toklas, but what is there to remember?

They were only figures in our landscape, large though Miss Barney always seemed to me.

I believe it was at Natalie Barney’s house that I met Alfred Chester. A landscape himself.


The second and only other picture I have of Paris Review days shows the staff and some writers in front of the Café de Tournon.

The café has scarcely changed.

I pass it often and once I had a coffee in it with a young person who wanted to know what it was like in my time.

The more we talked the more I could see that we are part of a certain time, a certain place. Have become, incredibly, anchored in a then, but as soon as I left the bar the people in the picture re-became Us.

And, of course, the Paris Review has always been Itself.


One of the writers mentioned in Pati Hill’s sketch above is Max Steele. He was a novelist (Debbie) and an established short story writer. It was odd to find him in Paris. He hated the city. He hated Paris because the French lived in it. He was in Paris because a woman psychiatrist lived there who was trying to patch him together after a traumatic breakup he had gone through with a girl back in the United States. He was going to leave as soon as the psychiatrist had finished with him. In the meantime, he went seething through Paris. At times he wore a black French policeman’s cape he had procured somewhere with a small bar of pig iron in the nape of the neck, which was a regular piece of equipment installed by the Surêté to make the cape an effective weapon to flail at students in street riots. He refused to learn French. The psychiatrist worked on him in broken English. Among other faults, he felt the French had few original ideas; they were toadies and copycats. He would prove it. In cafés he often ordered up an extraordinary drink, calling out in a loud voice—so everyone in the place would overhear—for “un Coca-Cola chaud” (one of the few sentences in French he had bothered to master). The bartender, after a Gallic shrug or two, would set a glass of Coca-Cola under the nozzle of the steam-infusion machine, pull the handle and the Coca-Cola would smoke like a beaker in the laboratory of a mad scientist. Max Steele was never seen to drink the noxious stuff himself. The purpose of the exercise, and why he raised his voice so, was to get a gullible Frenchman to overhear him and assume that un Coca-Cola chaud was en vogue. Just the thought of a Frenchman sitting in some café trying to quaff a hot Coca-Cola was enough to get Steele rubbing his hands with glee.



Many writers came through at that time and stayed for as long as they could, because it was Paris, and inexpensive, and they had good company to find. William Styron came through in the spring of 1953 on his way to the Prix de Rome scholarship. He had just written Lie Down In Darkness, highly acclaimed in the United States, but in Paris no one knew much about Styron or his book. The Matthiessens took him to a Breton restaurant near their studio-apartment on the Rue Perceval. Ti-Jos the place was called, short for Petit-Joseph, famous in the Quarter for its fine oysters. After a few plates of these and some wine, Styron began to feel lachrymose and homesick for his native Tidewater country. “I ain’t got no more resistance to change than a snowflake,” he told the Matthiessens gloomily. “I’m going back to the James River and farm peanuts.”

Styron was not much happier when he reached Rome. “To top off all my woes,” he wrote the Matthiessens, “the other night I woke up in the gutter; a boy was standing there pelting me with grapes.”

Fortunately, a few months later Styron met Rose Burgunder, a beautiful young poet from Baltimore, and the following spring the two were married in Rome. The Matthiessens, who were awaiting the birth of their first child, sent their regrets from Paris…upon which Irwin Shaw, who was living in Rome then, sent a telegram: “What do you mean, you’re not coming to Rome? Don’t you realize that a man only gets married two or three times in his entire life!”



When Art Buchwald, the humorist, arrived in Paris in the early fifties, he checked into a hotel near the Gare St. Lazare which he thought was a hotel, but which turned out to be a brothel.

“At four o’clock in the morning, I looked out of my bedroom and saw a nude Chinese man running down the hall.”

“Didn’t you think this strange?”

“No, I figured that this was Paris, and that’s what Chinese men did here. But you know something? I lived in Paris for fourteen years and I never saw another nude Chinese man run down the hall. Had I known how special it was, I would have taken more of an interest in where he was going and in the sort of place we were.”



In the mid-twenties one of the contributory reasons for the number of Americans in France was the favorable rate of monetary exchange. Twenty-five cents could buy a full-course dinner and one could live well for a year on $1500. Malcolm Cowley remembers that a 500-copy run of Broom, an important literary publication of the time, cost $25 to print.

Equivalent economic advantages existed in the fifties. A quarter did not go far, but for a dollar, if one looked, a dinner could be had of biftek, pommes frites, and a glass or two of wine. A black market flourished, with a high exchange of francs for the U.S. dollar as well as for a carton of cigarettes. Rents were low. A room in a hotel in the student quarter, with a big armoire in which to store one’s belongings, could be rented for fifteen dollars a month. There were small hazards, of course, if one lived at this scale. Once, the Editor woke up in his Left Bank hotel room to find his arm swollen almost to the size of his thigh, numb, and surprisingly without pain, as if an arm transplant with a circus fat lady had somehow been effected during the night. Very frightened indeed, he found a doctor in the neighborhood and went to him supporting the huge arm as if it were a separate appendage; after being examined he was told that he was suffering from a violent reaction to the bite of an araignée.

“A what?” the Editor asked. A French-English dictionary was produced.

“A spider,” the doctor said.

The Editor went back to the hotel and showed the evidence to the concierge.

“Look at the huge arm! (bras enorme!) It has been attacked by a spider. Your hotel is infested.”

“Ah,” the concierge said with Gallic calm and with no concern whatsoever. “The araignée was not in the hotel. It came through the window!”



Naturally, with expenses so low, and with such a flux of aspiring writers on hand in Paris, it was not surprising that other literary magazines sprung up. Chief among those were Sindbad Vails’s Points (“A Magazine for the Young Writer”) and Merlin, whose editors included Austryn Wainhouse, Patrick Bowles, Richard Seaver, and Christopher Logue. Its publisher, Jane Lougee, was a pretty girl with a dark helmet hair-style. From Limerick, Maine, she lived at the time with Merlin’s guiding editor, Alex Trocchi, who had the face of a faun, with odd, pronounced ears. The editors met in the back of a garage where the magazine had its “offices.” The contents were much closer to the engagé French counterparts such as Les Temps Modernes—an amalgam of existentialism, avant-garde, and politically and socially oriented essays and fiction. Indeed, Merlin had an arrangement with Jean-Paul Sartre, the editor/publisher of Les Temps Modernes, by which he allowed its editors to print anything they wanted from his magazine. Merlin was also distinguished for how much Beckett it printed. In addition, it published (very much like its literary forebears of the Twenties) pungent and all-encompassing manifestos: “Merlin will hit at all clots of rigid categories in criticism and life, and at all that is unintelligibly partisan.” The magazine published four numbers.

Sindbad Vail, on the other hand, was more interested in what his magazine pronounced on its cover—a magazine for young writers. He came from an appropriate-enough literary background: his father, Laurence Vail had been one of the sixteen to sign the surrealist proclamation which appeared in transition and ended with the famous line, “the plain reader be damned.” Points ran for five years. A memorable issue of the magazine was one with a yellow cover to which the printer had forgotten to add the proper fixative, so that the cover came off on whatever surface it was laid upon—a coffee table for instance—and left its imprint behind…a kind of instant advertising hardly to be matched until the spray paint cans of the 1960’s.



A number of the writers on the Left Bank made a substantial amount of money (a thousand dollars a book) writing pornographic novels for Maurice Girodias’s Travellers Companion series, which was an offshoot of his Olympia Press. Alex Trocchi, the editor of Merlin, was among the more prolific. He wrote novels; he did translations, among them, Apollinaire’s Onze Mille Vierges. Late in the evening, on occasion, Trocchi would stand on a table in the Café Bonaparte and recite parts of the translation he had just completed—his Scottish accent softening the scatology so that the readings were more charming than startling. Friends would ask Alex in the streets: “Is there a reading tonight? Have you finished Chapter Four?”

During this time Trocchi wrote a serious novel entitled Young Adam which had as its background the gang wars on the Glasgow canals. While the manuscript was doing the rounds of U.S. publishers, Trocchi found himself in need of funds; he spent a number of days dirtying up passages of Young Adam, and adding a requisite scene or two for Girodias. No sooner was Young Adam published as a Travellers Companion (Girodias was able to do this very quickly), than Trocchi received notice from a Boston publisher that his novel had been accepted. To his despair, Trocchi found himself having to explain that the manuscript had been substantially altered and was no longer available.

Usually the writers used pseudonyms for their Girodias efforts, or d.b.’s (“dirty books”) as they were called. Trocchi’s was Frances Lengel, and under that name in addition to Young Adam he wrote Helen and Desire, The Carnal Days of Helen Seferis, and White Thighs. Other pseudonyms included Count Palmiro Vicarion (Christopher Logue), Faustino Perez, and someone who wrote under the name Wu Wu Meng. The most famous of the Traveller Companion Series, other than the Henry Miller “classics,” was the parody of Candide written by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg and published in 1958. It was entitled Candy and sold, as did all its ilk, for 3.75 francs (75 cents). Its famous line, “Give me your hump!” was a form of greeting one heard around the cafés at that time.

The Editor tried to write such a novel for Girodias. It was based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Suicide Club…with the difference that the bored club members, rather than killing themselves off, committed frightening sexual indignities. There was a dreadful character in it with a steel hook for an arm. Bee burst into tears reading it—to think that she was having anything to do with anyone with such a demented turn of mind! Girodias did not like it either. He had never turned down anything anybody in the literary colony wrote for him, but two chapters of this thing of the Editor’s were quite enough.



Since there were almost as many artists drawn to Paris by the prevailing economic circumstances, the Review hoped to enlist their skills to improve the looks of the magazine. This in itself was an innovation in literary magazine formats which traditionally focused entirely on print, so that, however perky its title, the typical literary magazine with the contents listed on the cover and the gray pages of text within always looked like a copy of the Columbia Law Review.

The art editor enlisted for this was William Pène du Bois, primarily known for his illustrations of prize-winning children’s books. His father, who also lived in Paris, was Guy Pène du Bois, famed from another era, primarily as a representative of the Ash-Can School. He was among the artists that his son asked to contribute to the magazine. A Guy Pène du Bois line-drawing of Francois Mauriac illustrates the author’s interview which appeared in the second number of the Paris Review.

Other artists were persuaded to illustrate the fiction and to provide art portfolios. Du Bois fils did the covers of the first tour numbers and then realizing that this pro bono labor might engage him into perpetuity he assigned the task to others. One of the du Bois contributions which created a considerable stir in the early days was a portfolio of twenty-odd pages of line drawings from the Livres d’Or of Paris—the large guest books kept by restaurants for the signatures of dignitaries and often sketches by artists, sometimes in payment for a dinner. In one Livres d’Or, du Bois discovered an extraordinary Toulouse-Lautrec line-drawing of a horse…which Life Magazine subsequently republished across two of its pages.

Billy Pène du Bois, reminiscing about those early days, has written three little pieces which follow.



My wife Jane and I had had the good fortune to be lent a complete house and garden along with a toolshed in the middle of Paris. Plimpton stayed with us for a while. He unfolded himself, clown-like, from a Fiat Topolino. He was wearing a short Aristide Bmant cape, a red scarf and a snap brim fedora. It was a cold wet winter in Paris, and George slept in the toolshed with seventy-odd live alley cats. One could easily spot one of George’s girlfriends: her anatomy was criss-crossed with cat scratches.

The rent for the house was paid up for six months by a State Department employee who had been transferred to another country. The place came with a freezer full of hot dogs and a cupboard jammed tight with tinned baked beans, emergency rations in case of a communist takeover. The U.S. State Department thinks along those lines. William Styron got wind of this and appeared one morning, reached in his suit coat pocket from which he extracted an egg and said, “I have here a very fresh egg. Could not the three of us make it into a lunch?” This literary query had an Arabian Nights ring to it. “I have here seven grams of semolina. Let the three of us now sit to a feast of couscous!” The three of us sat to plates of hot dogs and baked beans. William Styron came to our house six days in a row, each time with a very fresh egg in his suit coat pocket. Each time we gave him hot dogs and baked beans. Then on the seventh day he came empty-handed so we made an omelette.



John Pell Coster Train next arrived in Paris, staked out his territory like a wolf, and challenged all comers to fifteen rounds of caustic badinage. He was the only one of us with a thin silver pen and pencil set, a Patek Philippe watch and three-piece suit made of matching material, so we made him managing editor.



Literary magazine people never work. They spend hours on end playing pinball machines in cafés.

The most memorable poet of those early days was not the well-fed Donald Hall but a lean and hungry English lad named Christopher Logue. Christopher Logue lived in a dirty duffle coat and a pair of skinny trousers which were creased like the tissue-paper wrapping of a sipping straw when one pushes it to one end to remove it. He wore dangerously pointed shoes which were called periwinkle-pickers. He had a warm smile which revealed a complete set of unmatched teeth.

One sunny summer day when Paris cafés accordion-pleat their fronts, opening up from sidewalk to back wall and bar, Christopher Logue, Sindbad Vail and I were taking turns at a pinball machine. With beers at the bar, Sindbad and I were watching Christopher Logue working the machine closely to tilt and furiously activating its flippers. I believe he had dropped but one ball, had three to go, when a rachitic tattered crone, right out of a Gavarni drawing, bent double over a stout stick, ever so painfully dottered up to starboard of the pinball machine.

Without missing a flip, Christopher Logue noticed this apparition, and then spotted the object of her quest—a ten centime piece she had dropped lying on the barroom floor close by the machine. Quick as a rattlesnake, a skinny foot of his dangerously shod in a periwinkle-picker, shot out and smothered the coin. “Good God!” Sindbad Vail shouted. He could see beyond his mother’s millions—the Guggenheim fortunes—into the more fragile aspects of a fellow human being. The bartender, showing incredible nimbleness, vaulted the bar, grabbed Christopher Logue and held him aloft. The old hag bent and picked up the coin and plunked on out into the sunshine. Red with rage, the barman shook Christopher Logue, who in turn, still hanging on to its sides, shook the pinball machine which in turn made a pistol-shot sound indicating that a free game had just been won.

Christopher Logue never got to play his free game. The three of us quickly split, not daring to look back. It was the first time any one of us had been called a sale énergumène.


The Editor remembers the State Department official who owned the house with the toolshed William describes in the first sketch. One night at dinner with the du Bois the official told a story.

In New Mexico, apparently, he had attended the funeral of Duff Twysden, who was the real-life model for Lady Brett from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The pall-bearers had been gathered hastily—in the heat it was important to get the deceased underground as quickly as possible—and at the top of a long slope of cathedral steps in the small hill town where she had died one of them stumbled and lost his balance badly enough so that the others began to collapse and they let go their hold on the coffin. It bounced once and then opened. Lady Twysden emerged. She did not crumple on the steps as one might imagine of a lifeless corpse. The State Department official’s eyes widened as he described the awful descent of the shrouded figure, stiff, so that it vaulted from step to step in increasing bounds toward the small knot of mourners at the base of the cathedral steps, the winding sheet unraveling and trailing like a vast scarf behind. “If you had known her as I did,” he said, “it seemed absolutely appropriate that she came for us in that flamboyant way. Shall I tell you what I did? I turned and ran.” 


John Marquand Jr. (his pen-name was John Phillips which he used to dissociate himself from his famous father) became an advisory editor of the Paris Review at its founding in 1953. He did very much what one hoped of an advisor. The magazine published his own fiction (“Bleat Blodgette” and “The Engines of Hygeia”); he was the co-interviewer of Lillian Hellman for her contribution to the craft-of-writing series; he discovered for the magazine a long-neglected novella by Malcolm Lowry, Lunar Caustic. Furthermore, in his capacity as a social historian, he kept a quizzical eye on the activities of the Review personnel, most of whom were his good friends. What follows is a memoir of the earlier days:


Long ago in 1951 the literary critic John Aldridge, who some predicted would be the new Edmund Wilson, published After the Lost Generation. That was, to my knowledge, the first appraisal of the writers who “came of age in World War Two.” It considered Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and others: how they stacked up against Hemingway, Dos Passos, Fitzgerald and the rest. These contemporaries did not stack up well, alas, in Aldridge’s basilisk eye, though that assessment hardly mattered once you’d read the critic’s melancholy estimate of the original Lost Generation. And as to his opinions of the expatriate epigoni who gathered in Paris in 1952 for the Founding of the Paris Review, Aldridge was mercifully silent.

One drew from that book a strong inference that by forsaking their native soil for Paris and other parts of Europe the 1920s generation had copped out somehow on their obligations to American letters. Perhaps a result of their inconsistency was the succeeding generation’s utter lack of moral values. Moral Values and our dearth of the same were of great importance to Aldridge, and I, for one, was determined to seek them out. At about the same time I had read as entertainment of a lesser order the autobiography of a big game hunter in what used to be French Equatorial Africa. Since I planned to abandon my country and its literature for at least a year, it struck me that it might be possible to seek for Moral Values in French Equatorial Africa. I discussed the idea with my friend Thomas H. Guinzburg, who also was preparing to go abroad. Tom agreed to join me in this quest.

Africa, we decided, would be our ultimate destination, but before we went there Tom had something to do in Paris. He said he was supposed to be starting a little magazine in that city: he and some people named Plimpton, Matthiessen and Humes. It sounded like a law firm, but Tom said it was a magazine and it was going to publish the best new writers available. Plainly Tom had not read John Aldridge; he did not understand that the last place to find moral values would be among “new young writers,” especially in Paris. Nonetheless Tom’s heart was set upon this venture: the closest we ever got to Africa and the jungles teeming with values and wild beasts was on the Rue de la Croisette in Cannes, the City of Flowers and Fashionable Sports, where we remarked a flamboyant blonde leading an ocelot on a leash.

In early November, 1952, Tom Guinzburg and I flew from New York to Paris, arrriving at Orly on a dank and chilly morning. George Plimpton met us; he was more gaunt and exhausted than I have seen him since. His nose was red and running, he wore no overcoat but a very long white evening scarf (silk, I’m certain) that dangled the not inconsiderable distance from his throat to his knees. Peter Matthiessen also was there to greet us. We four drove into town in a Volkswagen, with Plimpton at the wheel. This slight vehicle had recently collided with a larger one and had been restored but partially to the condition in which George had acquired it from its titular owner, Harold Humes, who had returned to New York after a long time in Paris, the City of Lights.

“Partially” restored I say because the new fenders bore only a rust-colored priming coat that contrasted angrily with the mauve painted chassis. Equally conspicuous, it seems, were the irregular license plates, and there must have been something conspicuous, too, about George’s driving. On the outskirts of the city we were stopped by a motorcycle patrol, two big French cops in goggles, crash helmets, and black leather.

George uncoiled from the cramped front seat and rose like a jack-in-the-box onto the highway. If he was not so robust as they, he was surely taller than the glowering policemen. Grinning his “aw, shoot” grin, lanky and amiable as Jimmy Stewart, George bid the officers a disarming “Bonjour.” There followed an exchange of courtesies, then George was asked for his passport and for the papers to the car. “Passport?” said George. I see him again as he stood on the highway, smiling vaguely now; he sounded surprised and perhaps affronted, as though he’d never talked to a policeman. “I must have left my passport at home,” said George.

Peter Matthiessen sat beside me in the back of the Volkswagen. I asked why George did not at least produce the papers which proved the car belonged to Humes. “I regret to say the papers are forged,” said Peter. So we sat, Peter, Tom Guinz and I, and let our vague and graceful driver talk softly to the policemen in the French language. What is your occupation? I am a student. A student of what? “A student of Beaux Arts,” George simply said; and that was all, they waved us on. What other man, embroiled with a traffic cop, would have the elegance to identify himself as a student of Beaux Arts?

Through the long winter I was repeatedly impressed by the sang-froid and savoir-faire with which the Founders of this journal withstood the lack of moral values. They knew their way around town better than I and that bothered me; I was jealous. I had been in France long before them—while a soldier, if you please, during the Second World War. It was hard to make my point without sounding vainglorious, and yet I wanted them to know that I, too, had been in Paris. I had roamed the Place Pigalle when we soldier chauvinists called it Pig Alley and GIs in filthy fatigues and muddy boots were hauled in from the front by six-by-six trucks and dumped loose on a forty-eight hour pass. The whores gathered at the truck stops to select the evening’s clients, removing a man’s helmet liner, running fingers through his scalp to check for lice. In wartime, in that sea of cocksmen, the Angels of Pig Alley could afford to be choosy. “II n’est pas beau,” you heard them say. “Hier soir j’avais un beau cheri.” I was keen in my recollection of such details but the jaded sophisticates of the Paris Review found them mostly boring. They said, “Tell us some war stories, John.”

George Plimpton, a bachelor like Guinzo and myself, was more indulgent of my nostalgia. I listened to him describe Paris by night; he talked of the Maison des Langues, where a naked mark was massaged with banana oil and the oil licked slowly off his skin by a squad of barebottomed teenyboppers, and of partouzes and spectacles and cinemas couchons for voyeurs of most any predilection, but chiefly of the city’s immemorial bordels that had supplied material for many a visiting writer, including Thomas Wolfe and Arthur Koestler. Well, why not Plimp and me?

The Hotel Bar Americain, at Pigalle, was a fair sample of the bawdy world to which George appointed himself my cicerone. He led me into dim-lighted room with a bar and tables and beyond that a parlor in which the patronne assembled the personnel for the ritual of “le choix.” The six or eight girls appeared in the parlor not at all en negligée, nor rouged nor coiffed nor remotely like a Lautrec poster: they were attired like the insipid, Metro-riding shoppers they very likely were by daylight. None would remove her clothes until a bargain was struck and she was alone with her mark in a little room upstairs. It was in defiance of this decorum that one evening I sought to act out for George a tale I’d heard about the orgiastic ways of the French Foreign Legion. In a burst of ribaldry I clapped my hands and ordered champagne for the house. The bottles were popped and poured for all—for the choix, the patronne, the beefy barmaid and the wrinkled crone who served as upstairs maid. We all drank down and I bellowed for more, and I pounded the bar and I yelled, A poil! A poil! Tout le monde à poil!” And yet for all my urging not a button in the house, not a zipper came unfastened. I pounded and I bellowed, and still to no avail. George looked amused but all those scarlet women merely whooped with mirth.

“You’re crazy, big spender,” Chantal breathed in my ear. For Chantal was my companion’s name; Plimpton had chosen the more amenable Claudine, who had anyway removed a shoe. “You are completely mad.” Not at all, I said: this was how they did things in the Foreign Legion. “You want to join the Legion?” Chantal challenged. “Okay babe. Je suis à toi.” If I really were a big spender and a sexual Tarzan, I could prove it to her alone upstairs, just us two. Then we were at last in our little room and just as Chantal was about to reveal her charms and I to demonstrate my manhood, Plimpton’s Claudine burst open our door in a fury. She commenced to shriek at Chantal that her American had no money, not a sou; she had gone through his trousers. Then I beheld long George Plimpton in his Brooks Brothers underpants seated boyishly on a bed in the room across the hall, while Claudine in her soutien-gorge repeated to Chantal that George had said I was a very rich and magnanimous john on my first night in town and that I would gladly finance the evening’s revel: Chantal, champagne, pattonne, barmaid, crone, and Claudine. Both women began demanding that I make good George’s commitment then and there or the patronne would call the cops. And George smiled vaguely, sadly throughout, with his “aw, shoot” dreamer’s smile, as the boulevardiers’ idyll in the chambers of Venus was terminated in pandemonium and bankruptcy, and with it my most searing experience of the advent of the Paris Review.

Among my first mentors on the scene was Terry Southern—a silent, inscrutable presence on the Boulevard Saint Germain. Night after night he sat with one or more equally inscrutable friends like Aram (“Al”) Avakian, a jazz enthusiast, and embryo film-maker, in the Old Navy café and stared at our table of earnest Ivy Leaguers. The Old Navy, across the Boulevard from the Place Mabillon and the Odéon Metro station, was not in fact a café but a pedestrian bar-tabac. It provided bitter coffee, watery beer, wines and digestifs and a couple of prewar pinball machines trademarked in Chicago. I suppose its quaint English name derived from a brand of cigarettes that might have been popular when the authentic Lost Generation was in town and when expatriates hung out in the famous places named Flore, Deux Magots, Dôme, Coupole. The Navy was certainly not where you would have met Sylvia Beach or James Joyce when they were into little magazines, but it was where Terry Southern and Al Avakian hobnobbed with bizarre companions talking a strange—“hey, man,” “ho, man,” “aw, man,” “man!”—patois. Not the speech of Archibald MacLeish or E.M. Forster who were friends of the Paris Review.

If after many evenings of being solemnly scrutinized by Terry in those cramped premises one tried to acknowlege his presence with an overture of any form—an innocent wave or friendly nod, or wink or mere “hi there”—which could be construed as collegiate and uncalled for, it was mercilessly ignored. There was no penetrating that Texas cool. Eagerly we mistook Terry for a “hipster.” One’s search for values had not overlooked the seminal essay by Chandler Brossard on the hipster’s subculture which appeared well before Ginsberg’s Howl or Mailer’s The White Negro. We believed we had come near to new existential mysteries that might be vouchsafed us if only we interlopers played our cards right and kept our cool in the Old Navy.

One was particularly seized by a young poeticule who had recently returned from Rabat. There he’d had a disappointing love affair. His girlfriend had bitten off the lobe of his ear. He carried that morsel of his flesh preserved in salt inside a metal jujube box. This flâneur and singularly unfavored youth was a cynosure for us apprentices to Bohemia with our button down collars and rolled-up sleeves, coughing in the fumes of our Gauloises Bleus. To be sure the frazzled sandalfoot was as American as apple pic—his father may have been a member of the Century Club or a realtor in Tenafly, NJ.—but for us he was from another galaxy. The Rabat nightmare, the lover’s wound, the poet’s air all made him a Rimbaudian figure. “A mythological literary type,” we said.

Compared to Terry Southern’s banditi this one was positively gregarious. He said “Hello”; he let us see the salted earlobe. And he had a connection with the Orient that enhanced a literary person’s respect for the self-damned nature of the artist, his dedication to the systematic derangement of the senses. A friend of his had flown in from Hanoi with tins of liquid opium, which he spooned like honey down his throat and poured over the couscous on which he fed in Arab restaurants. The result was further to relax his superego and free him to confront his daemon. He divulged his innermost aesthetics in a flash: “You have to burn out. Burn out, baby. Go beyond art.”

As an Advisory Editor of the Paris Review it was my duty to save for posterity a dark soul’s oeuvre before his renunciation of Literature was complete. I hoped to send on to the Poetry Editor something to match Un Saison en enfer. I urged this maudit to show me a bit of manuscript. So it was that as dawn was breaking over the Old Navy I was suddenly handed a greasy page executed in green ink by a meticulous Palmer method penman.


Into The Funk

Gotta get into the Funk


Debunk Art

Like Henry Mitter would do

These are only the lines I can recall. That the rest are now lost to us is a fact for which I carry the blame. A certain slovenliness of procedure prevailed at the Founding of this periodical. Manuscripts were mislaid, sometimes indefinitely, in cafés and public lavoratories. Although in later years, as the names of cultivated housewives in Westchester and the Hamptons swelled the masthead, and the Advisory Editors’ roster reached its present telephone-directory proportions, manuscripts have slipped unread and unnoticed for months beneath Frigidaires and Exercycles, these are often recovered.

Advisory editing was a lot tougher in the early days. I was so struck in the impact of that verse that the page fluttered from my fingers and try as I sincerely did I never found it on the floor. The only copy of “Into the Funk,” and a holograph at that, may still be retrievable from some cockroach crevice in the Old Navy, but I don’t think so.

My consternation for the vanished page was however immensely relieved by, of all people, Terry Southern. Terry had observed the furtive submission of the Ms. and the suspiciously abrupt disappearance of its bearer outside into the existential dawn on the Boulevard St. Germain.

“It’s not worth looking for,” the Texan said rather loudly, the first sentence I ever heard him say. “It’s the work of a false poet. Un faux artiste. AND I SAY GOOD RIDDANCE TO THEM BOTH. It was a plagiarism, you know. A RANK PLAGIARISM.” To my astonishment he cleared his throat and chanted in a voice like Dylan Thomas, the above quatrain from “Into the Funk” verbatim. “That no-good stole it. Stole it every word from my dear friend Al Avak. Avak is a poet at heart,” said Terry and he bowed smartly to the proud moustached person at his side.

But we were going to publish Terry Southern, strange as he was. Those who knew Terry Southern best were careful not to tell us that when he first came to Paris under the G.I. Bill, slender and silent as the owl he kept for a pet in his tented room, Terry had been about as callow as the rest of us. He had worn a necktie then, tied in a big Windsor knot, and a blue pin stripe suit with wide padded shoulders. His persona had not yet developed into the aloof enigma one met in the Old Navy.

A new generation hardly born in that epoch is inheriting this erratic but stoutly enduring quarterly. In Paris there was an oracular figure, older than we, and wiser, who haunted all the night places where we sat. He wore jodhpurs and riding boots and hawked religious pamphlets which he promised as our salvation. None of us ever accepted a pamphlet. To us this proselytizer was just another figment of the Paris fun. We hooted and jeered at his approach. He always went away, but at the door he’d turn and face into our derision and declare, God’s truth: “La jeunesse passe.”


The Editor remembers the evening Marquand describes in the Place Pigalle bordello quite differently—namely that Marquand newly arrived in Paris and flush with the proceeds of a book-club sale of his novel, The Second Happiest Day, got carried away and purchased not only champagne for everyone in the Hotel American Bar but the entire house itself and everybody in it to do with exactly as he wished for one hour. Word got out into the streets that an fou americain was doing this; quite a few poules came rushing in from the neighborhood beats to see what they could garner from his largesse. The Editor remembers the giggling from an upstairs room where John sat amongst them. The Editor remained below, sitting decorously in the parlor chatting with the Madame while the girls hurried in from the streets. He remembers one in particular—a huge 250-pounder whose name was either La Blanche or La Maison Blanche…he believes it was the former name, though the latter would be more accurate. She was enormous; he recalls the loud rustle of silk from her voluminous dress as she swept by on tiny stilt-like heels. He remembers the squawk of dismay drifting down the stairwell at the moment, presumably, when La Maison Blanche presented herself at the doorway to Marquand’s room, clearing her throat to let everyone in there know that she had arrived.



Many people felt that the Paris Review was somehow involved with the C.I.A. as a recipient of its funds through the agency of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. That was not true, though over the years it has been very hard to shake the rumor. Terry Southern, who was in Paris in the 50’s, the young Texan described in John Marquand’s chronicle and then beginning his literary career, came around the office a number of times and recently recalled his suspicions, thus:


For many years, one of our senior staffers was employed (as were many other Review staffers) as a top operative in Paris with both the KGB and the CIA—using the Review and its literary activities as his “cover.” I first became aware of the whole cloak-and-dagger business at the Review when, as I was entering the offices one afternoon, I caught a fleeting glimpse of two figures, in trench coats, atop one of our large editorial desks, writhing in what was clearly an impassioned sexual embrace—“going at it,” in point of fact, like a pair of maddened wart hogs. Their conduct in itself was not unusual. The Review offices were certainly no stranger to excess in every form—indeed, the great din and clatter, the flailing and thrashing, the ceaseless torrent of “oohs” and “aahs” emanating from Review offices, and audible to passersby and in adjacent shops, was a vrai scandale and a source of the deepest chagrin to many of us. Great God, when I think back on the number of éclairs, Napoleons, frou-frous and other friandises variés sent crashing to the floor of the neighboring pâtisserie, from the hands of the startled customer or patronne in response to the blood-curdling ecstatic shriek of one of the Review girls, “LE VOILA! CA Y'EST! AIEE-EEE!!” which all too frequently resounded from one end of the Rue Vernet to the other…I should have perceived however, (and doubtless would have, had not my senses been dulled to torpor by P. Matthiessen—if, indeed, that is his name—and his damnable wog-hemp!) that this “coupling” was no casual “bit of the old in-and-out” as our editor-in-chief called it, but more. Their garb—trench coats (collars turned up, belted, buttoned—partially buttoned) was, of course, the real clue. In my näiveté, however, I assumed that some of the more impressionable members of our crowd had fallen under the influence (hopefully brief) of the multinational group known simply as “Les Amis” or more fully as “Les Amis du Toile Caoutchouctique”—a fairly odd lot, in my view, whose tastes and practices involving “rubberized-canvas” were enjoying a certain vogue among the Quality Lit Crowd.


The first publisher of the Paris Review was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, half-brother to Aly Khan, and the second son of the famous potentate H.R.H. Aga Khan, who occasionally put himself on a pair of scales and was paid his weight in various forms of tender, as a kind of tribute by his Ismaili Muslim followers. Sadri—as everyone knew him—was Harvard-educated, on the Lampoon there, and interested in arts and letters and those of his contemporaries who practiced them. He was persuaded to take on the role of publisher in 1954 during the running of the bulls in the summer of that year in Pamplona—being asked by the Editor as the two stood in the cobblestoned streets, waiting for the rocket to go up down by the pens signifying that the bulls had been let loose. It was an unfair time to ask anything of anybody…since what one wanted to do was rid the mind of everything except the thought of what was in the street and coming up behind. So Sadri said yes quickly (“Oh, for God’s sake, yes!”) and then concentrated on his running technique.


His name appeared at the top of the masthead in the Paris Review #8 . He rarely came to the offices. He was busy representing his father in their constituencies around the world. But if it had not been for a financial commitment, the Review could not have continued. The sum was not at all large by publishing standards, but it was enough not only to keep the magazine alive in Paris, but to generate a sense that he was there to help should the need arise.


In 1956 he married an astonishingly beautiful girl, Nina Dyer, the former Baroness Von Thyssen. She had a black panther that she walked at the end of a leash. She would lie on her back on the beach with the panther on top of her, his paws crossed at her throat, looking down into her face with his yellow eyes. T’Iamo, the panther’s name was. He had very little to do with anyone other than the Princess.


She had an amazing affinity with animals. The Editor saw a goat try to climb into her lap at Sadruddin’s château-farm outside Paris. The Japanese representatives to Vichy who had lived there during the Occupation had planted oriental trees and shrubbery and built a tea house on the grounds, but after the collapse of Vichy the place was deserted and had been let to grow over. The driveway was choked with vegetation, like a woodland path. The Editor drove out with the Prince in his sports car, its top up, and as the car moved carefully down the driveway, it was through a caress of willow boughs, heavy with rain, the droplets spattering on the leather of the car seats beside them and on the back of their necks.


The Princess came out of the château with a crowd of dogs with her. Close in beside her was a pair of Afghans, so that it was impossible to see her feet on the cobblestone; it looked as if she were being borne along by the dogs, one hand resting slightly on one of their backs. As she reached the side of the car, a parrot flew out of the darkness of the château door behind her—a macaw…tail feathers streaming, wings beating frantically, and for an instant the Editor thought it was going to land on her shoulder simply to embellish this scene of her extraordinary rapport with animals. But he flew in a wide circle above the courtyard and disappeared back into the gloom of the château.

The interior was in the process of being decorated. In the Great Hall the only piece of furniture was a wooden-legged card table at which the three ate lunch. The great dogs lay about, staring at the Princess, their elbows scrabbling and knocking on the stone floor as they shifted nervously about. The parrot was underfoot, the eerie sound of his claws clicking against the stone as he went from one table-leg to another, wiping his beak sharply on one, and then gnawing on other. The Editor tried to contain his nervousness, his toes curled inside his shoes, but the Princess seemed as relaxed as if the parrot by her feet was as harmless as a fallen napkin. It felt safer outside when they went to see her black panther in his cage, and the goats.

Their lives changed, Sadri’s father died. The marriage fell apart. Sadri’s responsibilities, and his sense of them, increased. His wide knowledge of global problems was recognized with his appointment by U Thant, then Secretary General of the U.N., as High Commissioner for Refugees. But despite his great responsibilities the Review always seemed to remain an involvement. When Sadri gave his first speech to the General Assembly a press release placed on the desk of each delegate made special mention of his publishing position with the Paris Review.


When the new publisher took on the financial obligations of the Review, they were in truth small—not more than $500 owed to the printer on the Rue Sablière—but his presence on the masthead gave a great sense of stability to the magazine. Also of considerable importance was that he persuaded his father, the Aga Khan, to establish an annual fiction prize. His father not only set up the prize but entered the competition with two entries of his own. They arrived in white vellum folders—short stories of considerable if somewhat antique charm, both markedly influenced by his close friend and neighbor in the South of France, Somerset Maugham. The Aga Khan was not discouraged that the judges (Brendan Gill, Hiram Haydn, and Saul Bellow) passed over his stories; he again offered the prize the following year (though no further stories of his appeared at the office in the mail) and his son has continued the prize in his name to the present day.

There was another important award whose beneficiaries appeared in the magazine—the Gertrude Vanderbilt Humor Prize. This award (of 1000 dollars) was established in 1959 by the wife of Harold S. Vanderbilt, the financier and America’s Cup yachtsman, to help alleviate the solemn tone of contemporary fiction. She never laughed at the stories which won the prize bearing her name. She read them dutifully when they appeared, “hoping for a little guffaw” (as she put it), but she always came away disappointed. Nonetheless, she never renounced the idea of the prize itself, though on occasion the editors’ choices seemed almost obdurate. An early winner of the award, for example, was Terry Southern’s “Grand Guy Grand”—about the bizarre behavior of a billionaire who squanders his money in the most it responsible and eccentric manner imaginable. Mrs. Vanderbilt sighed when she finished the story and wondered why Southern had not included as one of his character’s lunatic traits that of helping a small literary publication.



The Quat’zarts Bal is held in early July. Members of the Paris Review staff were occasionally invited by the French art students who give the affair. The march to the site of the Bal started in the early evening. Just about any kind of excessive behavior was condoned that day. There was always a motif…with a costume to suit it, which very often came off during the march. The paraders, semi-nude, would break way and help themselves to food and drink from people sitting in the street-side cafés. All of this was treated with resigned amusement by the Paris populace. They gave up their glasses of wine with a shrug. The police behaved. It only lasted for 24 hours—from noon to noon the next day. A college friend of the Editor’s went up to Montmartre after the Quat’zarts one year and sat naked on a bar stool, chatting merrily with people coming in for breakfast or an aperitif, until at noon a flic sauntered in and told him politely that the twenty-four hours of the Quat’zarts were over: it was time to get dressed. He took a taxi, which the doorman at his hotel paid for, and he went naked through the lobby up to his room. Everyone knew that on that day it was nothing out of the ordinary.

The tradition had gone on for years. In the twenties as many as three thousand people attended them…in huge ballrooms such as the Luna Park at the Porte d’Auteull. Harry and Caresse Crosby—the glittering voluptuaries described in Malcolm Cowley’s Exile’s Return and Geoffrey Wolff’s Black Sun—went every year from 1923 until 1929. In 1923, Crosby returned from the Bal (as Wolff described it) “drunk and naked in a taxi, having been removed from his Roman toga, his underdrawers, and his money.” In 1926 the motif was Incan, and Crosby, painted in red ochre, went wearing a necklace of three dead pigeons, while his young wife, Caresse, arrived with him at the Salle Wagram barebreasted, wearing a turquoise wig; she was paraded around the ballroom in the jaws of a papier-maché dragon. The next year (the motif was Cambodian) Crosby went painted green; he increased the number of dead pigeons in his necklace to seven, and he carried along ten live snakes in a bag. Two days later Crosby wrote his mother “…at about one o’clock it was WILD men and women stark naked dancing people rushing to and fro…From our loge I opened the sack and down dropped the ten serpents. Screams and shouts. Yet later in the evening I sat next to a plump girl who was suckling one of the serpents. Dear me! Somewhere about two o’clock lovely nude models ivory-white against a black velvet curtain standing upon a dais. Deafening applause.”

The motif was Hun the last year Crosby went (six months later he killed himself and his mistress, Josephine Bigelow, in a studio in New York City’s Hotel des Artistes); after the Bal he awoke to find himself one of seven in bed, not counting the family whippet, Narcisse, and a stranger standing in the corner in a pale blue undershirt playing “Paris C’est une Blonde” over and over again on a phonograph machine. Crosby described all this in letters to his mother.

The Editor went to the Bal de Quat’zarts a few times. He did not describe the evenings to his mother. Sometimes, he could not remember enough to describe if he had wished to. But it seemed very much like what it had been like in Crosby’s time.

One summer the Editor went with a group which included some of the Merlin crowd—its editor, Alex Trocchi, his girl, Jane Lougee, Christopher Logue, and some others. The theme that year was Greek. Everyone wore sheets cut to tunic length.

It was at the Wagram. At ten, after the march was over, the doors were shut, locked, and they would not be opened again until dawn. The crowd milled around the dimly-lit hall. Those who wished to remove themselves from the hectic goings-on that would begin below peered down from the boxes and balcony-seats.

Order was kept by a group of art students whose bodies were painted from head to foot in black ochre. The cadré noir this contingent was called; it moved together in a tight bunch, rapidly, through the vast straw-strewn rooms carrying long wooden staves which were used to pry young couples apart if either member seemed to be objecting to the other. The cadré noir were duty-bound not to drink, so that their judgment in such cases would not be impaired. Nobody else was bound by such requirements; many of the celebrants wore tin cups to drink from that hung from chains or thongs around their necks. The cups thumped on their naked chests as the frenzy of the dance began.

The music for the dancing was provided by a military band that sat safely out of harm’s way up in the second balcony. The music blatted down—much of it from tubas and other horns…a kind of military stomp. The dancing was indecorous, and often disintegrated into long crack-the-whip lines…a file of half-naked dancers and snap! the two or three at the end would sail off on the fly into the straw heaps set about around the circumference of the hall.

At one point in the evening, each of the ateliers performed a “spectacle” up in one of the boxes or, for the larger effects, on scaffolding constructed in the balcony. Invariably, what was illuminated in the beam of a searchlight was a kind of “living statue” tableau. A grand prize was offered for the most spectacular. One of the ateliers suspended a naked girl spread-eagled high in the hall. The searchlight discovered her and the crowd gasped. She was painted a cerulean blue from head to foot. Because of the shadows in the Dôme above her she appeared to hang in the air without support…as if suspended by the volume of air she had inhaled in fright at being up so high: the whites of her eyes glinted in the searchlight glare. When the spot on her went off, the crowd below, staring up, began to call for her again, “La Bleu, la Bleu!” and the searchlight suddenly blazed anew, but the place high in the gloom of the hall where she had been suspended was empty; the harsh blue white beam poked around the hall looking for her, illuminating distant faces, eyes blinking, but the blue girl was gone.

The Editor’s hosts, the smallest of the ateliers, did not have a tableau prepared. The students were embarrassed about it. Alex Trocchi told them rather grandly, with only fifteen minutes or so to go before the searchlight picked out their box, that his group would put on a living tableau on their behalf that no one in the hall would forget, and which, to boot, would probably win first prize. The tableau would feature Alex himself and Jane, the beautiful young publisher of Merlin, copulating on the velvet balustrade of the box, visible to the crowds below, their bodies glowing in the searchlight glare while the rest of his group stood in the shadows of the box with long palm fronds and fanned them.

All of this came as somewhat of a surprise to the French student-hosts, and also to Alex’s friends, especially Jane. But such was the excitement of the moment—the booming from the military bands, the frenzied movement of the dancers, the searchlight in the darkness—that the scheme seemed inspired. Jane rushed up the little circular staircase to the box above to prepare herself. Sheafs of hay were collected to act as palm fronds. Alex reached for a tin cup hanging from a friend’s neck and had himself a drink.

When shouts from above indicated that it was time for him to get into position, Alex started quickly up the circular staircase to where Jane, lying naked on the box-railing was waiting for him; in the darkness and in his hurry he conked his head on an overhang just at the entrance to the box and knocked himself out cold. He tumbled back down the stairs. While he was being ministered to, laid on a bed of straw, shouts drifted down the stairwell inquiring what was going on…it was just seconds away from the searchlight…where was Alex?

When the searchlight reached the “tableau” it illuminated the back of a naked girl half-reclining on the balustrade, her head turned away looking back, as if expecting someone, into the recesses of the box where in the shadows, a single figure (the Editor) was discernible waving a stalk-life sheaf of straw. No one knew what to make of it. The searchlight gazed on the scene for an interminable fifteen seconds or so and then moved on. Afterwards, there was a rumor that the atelier had won a prize for “symbolic effect.”

Alex was furious. “Why didn’t one of you take my place?” he asked. Nobody was quite sure how to answer that.



The printing of the early numbers of the Paris Review was done in a gloomy plant on the Rue de la Sablière. A single light bulb hung over an ancient flat-bed printing-press that looked like a steam locomotive lying on its side. Proofreading the big sheets that exuded from between the roller-wheels of this vast Brobdingnagian structure was never easy in the dim light of the composing room, and no one seemed good at it anyway. An advertisement for the Alliance Française announced that it was “the oldest and last expensive” language school in Paris, which of course—as was pointed out by the horrified advertisers—was supposed to read “the least expensive…”

Perhaps the most memorable printing error from the Sablière days occurred in the Paris Review #5 when a poem by Christopher Logue was somehow settled snugly in the innards of a long epic by Patrick Bowles entitled “The Visitors.” Both poets were extremely upset. John Train, the managing editor, said of the matter, trying to put the best face on it possible, that he felt that both poems had been somewhat improved by their unnatural coupling.

When Bob Silvers became the Paris editor in 1956 he moved the printing operation from Paris to Nijmegen, Holland. Every time the magazine was about to be printed, a small contingent would “go up to Nijmegen” or make “the Trip.”

The printing plant in Nijmegen was run along somewhat archaic principles: women were not allowed in the printing-machine rooms. When Joan Dillon, who was the assistant Paris editor, would appear on the premises with corrected proofs, the Dutch workers would stop what they were doing and gaze moodily at her. Mr. Van Zee, the head of the plant, called his workers together and informed them that Miss Dillon was a red indian, indeed a descendant of Pocahontas. For some reason the Dutch were assuaged by this odd disclosure, and subsequently when she appeared in their area, they ignored her.

Maxine Groffsky, the last of the Paris editors, always spoke of the trip to Nijmegen as being seemingly as long as a trip to America:

“One had to leave from the Gare de Lyon at 6:00 A.M. There was a change somewhere in Holland where one waited on a platform with crates of peeping chickens and tulip shipments. Holland seemed to me always to be very cold. Finally, the Nijmegen train would arrive. When it eventually pulled out, it just barely crept through the countryside. I always thought that was to compensate for the small size of the country…that the trains were made to travel slowly to give the people on board an idea of great distance.

“In Nijmegen we stayed in the Esplanade Hotel for four or five days. Everyone spoke English. Everyone sounded like Bill de Kooning. Everyone was helpful. It was terribly boring. The movies in town were in Flemish. Finally, I gave up going to Nijmegen and everything was done by mail.”



The masthead of the Paris Review has always been one of its features—largely because it is one of the more populous listings not only in literary magazine history but even amongst general-interest mass circulation magazines. In a study it made in 1976, the Paris Review turned out to have sixty names on its masthead. Of its brethren, Partisan listed forty-five; Antaeus, twenty; the Hudson Review, thirteen; Transatlantic Review, nine; Ploughshares, five; and Unmuzzled Ox only four. The Paris Review was far ahead of the New Republic (35), the Atlantic Monthly (31), Esquire (50), the National Lampoon (55), and the New Yorker which only listed seven names, Mr. William Shawn, its editor, not among them.

The reason for this vast masthead is that since its beginnings the magazine has not been able to compensate those who have come hoping to work for it. One of the inducements, delivered in somewhat crestfallen fashion, was that anyone who stayed with the magazine for a month or so would be “put on the masthead.”

“You mean to say there’s no question of a salary?”

“I’m afraid not. You’ll learn a lot though. Good experience.”

“But I’m not sure I can afford it.”

“Well, there’s always the masthead.”

“The what?”

“The masthead. You’ll get put on the masthead.”

Once on the masthead, it was almost impossible to get pruned away. There are thought to be some people on the masthead who are deceased. No one knows for sure.

The purpose of keeping the names on the masthead is in the hope that those so honored would feel an obligation to keep their interest up…scratch around for material, or even better, financial aid.

That has not turned out to be the case. Editors, assistants, the Apotheckers and Musinskys moved on to better things. Some of the editors felt that the magazine should die off—that was what happened to all its great predecessors in Paris anyway…transition, Blast, Transatlantic Review, Exile, the others…they had short, butterfly existences.

One editor who never felt this was Blair Fuller, who was the Paris editor in 1960-61. He never wished to shake off the weight of the magazine; during his subsequent career as a writer, teacher, and administrator (he is the director of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers) he has continued an active interest in every aspect of the magazine. What follows are his memories of its early days:


After several years working in West Africa, I had got an advance on my novel, A Far Place, and had chosen to finish the book in Paris. The Paris Review had published a story of mine in its second issue and, at George Plimpton’s urging, I had sought out the office as soon as I had found a place to live and write. I met Bob Silvers, then the Paris Editor, and had begun to read manuscripts and do odd jobs for the magazine in the afternoons.

The founders of the Review, Peter Matthiessen, Harold Humes, and the editors, John Train, Donald Hall, and Plimpton had gone home to America as had, a few years earlier, the flock of post-war G.I. Bill students, many of them aspiring writers. By 1955, France, with a sharply inflating currency, already at war in Algeria and soon to experience Dien Bien Phu, was scarcely as attractive to artists as it had been. The resident American writers were relatively few, and were in Paris for practical reasons.

I saw Richard Wright occasionally at the Café de Tournon, where he was a regular. I had met him in Accra when he was collecting the material for his book on the emergence of Ghana as a nation, Black Power, a phrase that I believe his title coined. In the fall of 1955 he attended the Bandung Conference and there witnessed, with the deepest visionary excitement, the birth of the “Third World,” a phrase I first heard spoken by him.

At the Tournon, he was usually wearing the demeanor of a respected and gregarious French intellectual—rumpled suit, raincoat, umbrella, and beret—and it was difficult to associate him with the pain in Black Boy, to remember his communism, or to recall to what extent he would have been socially uncomfortable in the United States walking the street with his white, American wife.

Alfred Chester was sometimes seen and heard nearby in the cafés of St. Germain-des-Près. Wearing a bright red wig, penniless and shriekingly “gay,” Alfred was said to be a refugee from a scandal at Columbia’s graduate school. In the spring of 1956, Bob Silvers and John Train published a collection of his brilliant stories, Head of a Sad Angel, and Alfred absconded with a sizeable portion of the revenues. His clear defenselessness, however, protected him as no other armament could have.

On the other side of town, leading a busy and glamorous Right Bank life, was Irwin Shaw. John Phillips introduced me to the Shaws one evening at a party at their house. Stella Adler and her then husband, Harold Clurman, were also guests. “I was really beautiful,” Miss Adler told me.

“You are beautiful,” I said.

“I mean really beautiful,” she said. “Wasn’t I, Harold? Tell him.”

I later played tennis with Irwin, actor Mel Ferrer, and screenwriter Cy Howard at a splendid tennis club in St. Cloud where we lunched afterwards. Howard’s stream of Hollywood wisecracks had the effect of removing all of France from the scene.

As Paris Editor, Bob Silvers was mostly concerned—and thus I was—with finding European writers to publish in translation, and with finding artists who would give us drawings to publish in “portfolios” within the magazine. The artists Eugene Berman, Pavel Tchelitchew, André Masson, Ottaviano, Zev, Antoni Clavé, Oskar Kokoschka, Anita de Caro, Jean Jones and Pierre Tal Coat all appeared in issues number ten through fifteen. We published far fewer European writers but they were equally interesting, and just as diverse: Kenneth Tynan, Henri Michaux, Jean Genet.

Genet often drank in the evening at a St. Germain bar, Le Village. He was short and portly, absolutely bald in middle age, an aging cherub in a leather jacket. As he gestured and smiled animatedly to his companion, both of them sitting on a banquette behind a tiny cocktail table, his imaginative powers and his prison history would have been difficult to guess.

In the course of the winter I glimpsed Samuel Beckett one day in the anteroom of his publisher’s office. He was tall and thin, and shabbily dressed. His tweed jacket looped up at the rear and hung low at the pockets. I knew of him because the Review had earlier published an extraordinary section of his novel, Malone Dies.

Then, as now, most of what the Review published came from America. Like all new little magazines, I should think, the Review had begun by publishing writers who were known to its editors. How else can good things be found to publish for little or no money in a new and obscure journal? The editors were a strong group in this respect, and particularly, perhaps, in poetry, the record is remarkable. Donald Hall published virtually every American poet who is well known today in early issues of the magazine. In issue number nine (I pick at random) the poems are by Robert Pack, Adrienne Rich, Louis Simpson, James Wright, Cecil Hemley, Thom Gunn, Joseph Langland, and Wilfred Watson. In the summer of 1955, the first Paris Review Prize for Fiction (“established through the generosity of His Highness Prince Aga Khan for the advancement of contemporary literature”) was announced. Whether it was the money offered, ($300 first prize, $200 second prize) or the caliber of the judges Plimpton had inveigled into serving (Hiram Haydn, Brendan Gill, and Saul Bellow) the magazine was suddenly offered material in a quantity that it had not seen before, and from writers who, until the contest, had probably never heard of it. The winners were published in issue twelve, spring of 1956, which also included Jean Stein’s famous interview with William Faulkner. First prize was shared by Gina Berriault and John Langdon, and second prize went to Owen Dodson. Good stories, I thought, and I laughed, reading Plimpton’s letter which accompanied the manuscripts, when he said that the judges had missed the best things, but that we would publish some of them in subsequent issues. “Honorable Mentions” in the contest, indeed, include these names: Evan S. Connell Jr., Nadine Gordimer, Frederic Morton, Terry Southern, and Richard Yates, and stories by others on the list whose names are not current— Jack Cope, William Fain, Lawrence Sturhahn—turned out to be fine stuff. In this period we also got and published two things which had not been submitted to the contest but which in my opinion were the best sub-missions of all. They were a part of Evan S. Connell’s novel, Mrs. Bridge, and a part of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

One also remembered, of course, the daily life of the times…those late winter afternoons keeping warm in cafés with Bob Silvers and Gaby von Zuylen, who had turned up from New York with a note from George, and sometimes Tom Keogh and others, mainly of Bob’s acquaintance, talking about the Review’s problems and prospects, and those of the rest of the world. Several years later Bob would return to New York to become Associate Editor of Harper’s and then, in 1963, to found the New York Review of Books, which he continues to edit.

An undergraduate at the University of Chicago at the age of thirteen and the Yale Law School’s youngest student ever at seventeen, Bob had dropped Law School midway, became a reporter, and then Chester Bowles’s Press Secretary by the time he was twenty-one. Early in 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Bowles, a Democrat, Ambassador to India, and Bob was scheduled to go to New Delhi as his Press Attaché when he was drafted by the U.S. Army. He was stationed in France, took his discharge there, when John Train and George recruited him to run the Paris office.

It took me time to learn a number of things about him. In Paris he was suffering from chronic insomnia, was chronically fatigued as a result, ate voraciously for strength, and sometimes vanished into waking sleep. He nonetheless read faster and spoke with a quicker grasp and a greater breadth of knowledge than anyone I had known.

He sought to improve the look of the magazine by moving its printing from Paris to the G.J. Thieme printery in Nijmegen, Holland, and using heavier, whiter paper stock. These improvements began with issue #11. For the printings of issues #12 and #13, I drove up with him to Nijmegen. After work we drank Dutch gin at little rug-covered tables in cafés, and sometimes were treated to dinner by the owner of the plant, Mr. Van Zee, whose courtesy was impeccable and whose English was maddeningly slow—very hard on Bob’s insomnia. One dinner in a restaurant constructed within a medieval castle, just the three of us sharing the fondue speciality, is the longest meal in my memory.

On our first trip, we continued on to Amsterdam and met Gerard Kornelis van het Reve, an early contributor to the magazine. He always signed his letters with his full name along with the mysterious salutation “Time, Strength, Sexuality, Money.” The letters would begin, Dear Mr. Silvers or Mr. Fuller, and would continue, approximately: “I understand that you have been seen in the Luxembourg Gardens begging little girls for samples of their toenail parings, wrapped in something I am too discreet to mention…” When we met Gerard Kornelis van het Reve, he was not disappointing but not so patently strange as his letters. Amsterdam, which I had not seen before, was dank and dark. Van het Reve was dark, too, and soft of voice. He sneered a good deal, in silence. He spoke of money. He showed us student cafés as though we should take an interest in them, although they were of no interest to him. He showed us the whores sitting behind their polished, picture windows, each in her carefully contrived setting—one a “kid” in blue jeans and sweater, reading a pop magazine, the next one, candle-lit, in a black velvet dress with waist-length hair. He seemed curious as to whether the women would appeal to American lusts, although he had passed that way long since.



When Robert Silvers became the Paris editor in 1956 he moved the office to a loft in the Editions Stock offices in the Rue Casimir-Delavigne. just around the corner from the Rue Garancière. Then, for a time the magazine was published out of an office on the Rue Vernet just off the Champs-Elysées. It was the one foray of the magazine onto the Right Bank. A defrocked priest lived down the hall…and also a man named Williams who had been on the Long March with Mao Tse-Tung in the 1930’s and had played bridge with him every evening in the encampments.

For a time (1956-57) the magazine was edited in part from a Thames River grain carrier moored near the Place de L’Alma, conveniently near Chez Francis across the cobblestones of the square, the restaurant of the Madwoman of Chaillot. Peter Duchin who had a half-ownership in the barge writes:

“It was the center then of Paris Review activity, not only because Bob Silvers, the Paris editor, lived on board, but because we had no phone. That meant that anyone (poor starving writer, poet, or correspondent) who wanted to deliver a manuscript or have an editorial conference was forced to come by the barge. There was a stand-up piano on board so the editorial conference would invariably find me in the middle of a jam session with musicians like Alan Eager, Chet Baker, Kenny Clarke, David Amram.

“Plimpton used to stay on the barge when he came through Paris from New York, his feet sticking out of the bottom of the army cot he slept on. He would get up in the morning (late) and amble up the street to the Hotel Plaza Athenée to write home letters on their embossed stationery assuring his family that all was well in Paris and that his lodgings were splendid.

“In the spring of 1956, communication with the barge became more difficult: the flood waters of the Seine covered the quais and reached the elbows of the stone statues of the Zouave soldiers on the face of the Pont Alma—the greatest flood since those of 1910, when towboats were out on the Place de la Concorde and the waters reached the necks of the Zouaves. We had the barge anchored in mid-stream—with a line, a kind of breeches-buoy arrangement, attached to a tree ashore over which onto the barge we would pull in baskets of supplies (Teddy and Gaby Van Zuylen sent out splendid patés and the best wines) and pull ourselves hand over hand to the quai in the barge dinghy when we wished to go ashore. Once, when Bob Silvers was hauling himself into shore, the dinghy slipped out from under him and left him dangling above the Seine wearing my Hotchkiss sweater. Fortunately, he was close to the quais. The waters of the Seine were swift and angry. They were for weeks. A dead cow floated by and thousands of wine bottles.”


Joan Dillon was the daughter of Douglas Dillon, the Secretary of the Treasury in the Kennedy administration, a graduate of Foxcroft, subsequently Princess of Luxembourg and now Duchesse de Mouchy. When she worked for the magazine it would not have been applicable then to think of her as one of the Apotheckers. A charming and practical person, the artistic side of things interested her less than the magazine appearing on time and that the office should bear some semblance of order…a concern which lends a certain poignancy to a reminiscence of an evening when the magazine had its office in the Rue Vernet on the Right Bank. “I was working alone in the office,” she wrote. “Nelson Aldrich, who was the Paris Editor then, was out delivering. He was due back about 5 P.M. Suddenly a couple of horrors pushed through the door speaking a language incomprehensible to me. I recognized at once that my intruders were Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. They were doped to the hilt. They had an idea that we had the original correspondence with Ezra Pound and wanted to go see it. I told them this was not true and asked them to leave. They tried to get at my files (the first existent in the Paris office…Robert Silvers just stacked his papers on the floor). I defended the files physically, behaving abominably, as I had no wish to clean up the mess they were sure to make. They remained, talking their strange language—‘Mother-this…Mother-that.’ I began to stamp envelopes for a future mailing drive so as to look busy. Then they decided to take another tack; they lay down on the floor to make love. It was just about 5 P.M. then—the hour when friends usually popped in to ask one for a drink up at the Stockholm, which was the neighboring café, after work. At least five people looked in and fled without doing a thing!

“Then the telephone rang. It was Nelson. I politely told him that we had guests and who they were. Nelson’s reaction was, ‘Oh, my God, do you think they can tell I have a tuxedo on? I’ve been asked to a fancy dinner. I was going to stop by but now I can’t. You cope.’”

“The situation was solved by a slight, well-dressed English friend who worked for the Ogilvy advertising agency. He appeared at the door and flew at the tangle of whatever and booted them out with inimitable English scorn and ridicule. I saw the two of them a few years later at a party. They had become successful. They were surrounded by lawyers and business people. Both were wearing ties and ill-fitting blue suits. It seemed a change.”



A feature of the magazine from the start has been the interviews on the craft of writing. One of the early ideas was that while it would be difficult to elicit original material from established authors—the magazine could hardly afford their work—it might be possible to get them to talk about writing in an interview. Their names would appear on the cover. That would help sales and subscriptions.

The magazine was fortunate that in 1953 the Editor was studying at King’s College, Cambridge, where a great literary personage resided…E.M. Forster, “Morgan” as everyone, both students and faculty, called him—a somewhat rumpled, very shy personage who lived in rooms overlooking the Great Lawn of the college and was then considered the greatest living novelist in the English language (Passage to India, Howard’s End, and so forth) though in fact he had not published a novel since 1924. Forster was seventy-four in 1953, the year the Paris Review began in Paris. At the time he was writing an opera with Benjamin Britten (Billy Budd) and he would ask undergraduates, “What…um…do you know about writing operas?”

That was very much in the tradition of the college—that intellectual curiosity was shared among those within its walls, whatever their reputation or age. Typically, Forster took an interest in the Paris Review. The Editor had come back from Easter vacation in Paris that year and told him of the plans to start up the publication. There had been talk of limiting criticism in the magazine, and if a contemporary author was to be the subject, the hope was to interview him first-hand rather than relying on an interpretive study. In fact, would Forster agree to be the first interviewee?

He agreed and the interview, which was conducted by P.N. Furbank and F.J.H. Haskell, one writing down the answers in pencil while the other concentrated on the questions (tape recorders were still a few years away) was a feature in the first issue of the Review. In it Forster talked about the problems that made it difficult for him to write fiction, namely, what he called “fiction technicalities.” The form of the interview established that of subsequent interviews, over a hundred conducted to date, many of them compiled in the five volumes of Writers at Work, published by the Viking Press.



One of the most distinguished interviewees on the craft of writing, Graham Greene—his interview appears in the Paris Review #3—would not allow his interview to appear in the Viking collection. Every time a new volume was planned, he was asked if his remarks could be published but the answer was always a polite no. His nephew, Graham C. Greene, worked for the magazine in London at one stage. It was thought that perhaps that would do the trick. Surely he’d now agree to appear in the Viking volume—the Viking people were his publishers to boot! His nephew asked him. Sorry. No.

The Editor’s theory always was that the author’s reluctance went back to the time when he was interviewed in 1954. Simon Raven, subsequently a novelist of considerable note, and Martin Shuttleworth—both King’s College classmates of the Editor—had been asked to do the interview. Greene had agreed. The two interviewers had an extremely boozy evening the night before they were scheduled to meet Greene. They arrived at Greene’s door feeling quite wobbly, especially Raven. Indeed, his queasiness overcame him just as Graham Greene answered the bell and, with a welcoming smile, was standing framed in the doorway to his flat, his hand out-stretched; at that instant Raven was sick as discreetly as he could be under the circumstances into the only receptacle at hand, which was his own hat.


The Review missed many writers it would have had the chance to talk to if it had been slightly more dedicated to the task, and less contemptuous of the odd notion that time passes and opportunities are lost. In Paris, Colette died in 1954, on August 11, after a small sip of champagne. Paul Claudel died in 1955. Apparently he only wrote for a half-hour a day, and yet he produced fifty volumes. He would have been interesting to talk to. Some say that the last thing Thomas Mann ever heard on his deathbed was a Paris Review interviewer at his door…“Now wait a minute here…I have an appointment.”

Some writers, of course, though asked, turned down the opportunity—J.D. Salinger, Samuel Beckett. The magazine had its best chance to interview Samuel Beckett when Patrick Bowles became the Paris editor in 1962. Bowles, a fine poet who had previously associated with the Merlin contingent, was Beckett’s translator—occupied with the curious task of helping the Irish-born writer translate his novels of the period (Molloy, Watt, among them) which were composed in French back into his native English. The two sat at a café table and argued about the correctness of a word as if they were scholars working on a medieval manuscript by a Flemish monk.

Bowles had a curious habit—which was that presented with a tough question, he would place his hands to his head and squeeze as if their pressure would produce an answer. In the Paris office nothing made him press his head harder than to be asked why Beckett would not agree to a few questions about the craft of writing.

John O’Hara would never submit to an interview. That was odd because for a couple of years he would entertain the Editor at Princeton after the football games. But then that stopped. When O’Hara was approached for an interview, the letter and telephone messages went unanswered. Something had gone wrong. The Editor scratched his head and wondered how to make contact. He wrote him a letter on Porcellian Club Stationery in the hope that O’Hara would recognize the green boar letterhead (one of his famous stories, “The Pig,” is about a Porcellian member), but even this feeble stab at catering to the author’s well-known snobbish attitudes did not work. Neither did intermediaries speaking on behalf of the magazine. The oddest thing was to call him on the telephone. As soon as the Editor introduced himself, O’Hara would fall silent, but he would not hang up the receiver. The Editor could hear him breathing, rather hoarsely, at the other end.

“Mr. O’Hara? Mr. O’Hara?”

No reply. The breathing would go on. One’s inclination was to stay on the line—perhaps the author was having a spell of laryngitis, or perhaps he was thinking…at the very least his resolve would break down and he would say something.

“Ahem. Mr. O’Hara? Mr. O’Hara?”

Finally, it seemed a game—the two breathing moodily at each other, with the loser eventually the one who would give in, shrugging his shoulders, and hanging up the phone. It was the Editor. The interview was never done.

An indication of what might have been wrong was offered by Alfred Wright, an editor-writer at Sports Illustrated and a friend of O’Hara’s who often stayed with him in Quogue, Long Island. “The trouble was,” Alfred explained, “that you made the mistake of interviewing Ernest Hemingway before you asked him. That rankled; he told me so in so many words. You must remember,” Alfred went on, “that he was not only a very competitive, but a very sensitive man. Budd Schulberg, who lives in Quogue, used to say that he was as sensitive as an oyster without a shell.”

“Is that so?” the Editor said.


In 1954 the Editor saw Hemingway for the first time standing at the end of the long corridor in the Ritz that connects the Place Vendôme lobby with the back of the hotel on the Rue Cambon. The corridor is noted for the glass cases that line its length displaying the wares of various jewelers, couturiers, and parfumeries. Among them is the vitrine of a shop which specializes in miniature lead figures: a detachment of mounted Coldstream Guards stood for years in its case in perpetual formation until one day an English gentleman walked the length of the corridor holding his cane by the foot and swinging its knob-head against the glass cases, first to one side, then the other, leaving a train of desolation behind him. He did it not in order to loot the cases, it was discovered when he was apprehended at the end of the corridor by hotel employees alerted by the racket, but simply to vent some internal and mysterious rage. The Coldstream Guards lay strewn in and out of their case as if scattered by some monstrous minie-shell.

At the Rue Cambon end of the corridor stood a bookstall, which had mostly magazines for sale, among them the Paris Review supplied by a staff-member who carried a small bundle to the Ritz at the publication of each issue. It was here that the Editor spotted Hemingway. The Editor and the small group with him had just left a fancy wedding reception for Joan Dillon, the daughter of the Ambassador to France, later herself to work for the magazine. The group was jovial, its members swaying dangerously towards the display cases as they meandered down the corridor toward the Ritz bar on the Rue Cambon. Someone tried to shake the display case with the Cold stream Guards inside to see if any of the lead soldiers on their horses would topple over. They remained upright. Apparently, since the time the Englishman’s cane had crashed among them, the bases of the horses were fixed to the velvet shelf.

The Editor had consumed a substantial amount of champagne at the wedding reception, but when he saw the famous author at the bookstall, he held out his arms across the width of the corridor to keep the group from continuing further. In abrupt silence they all watched Hemingway pick up a copy of the Paris Review, the second issue—its blue cover illustrated with a white vase—and then reach in his pocket for money to buy it.

Subsequently, the Editor was introduced to Hemingway in the bar. It was Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris. He had ordered seventy-three martinis for his friends when he came into the bar a few hours after General LeClerc had liberated Paris in 1944. It always put him in a good mood to come back. He asked the Editor to join him. Drinks were ordered. Hemingway talked about the pleasure of shooting clay pigeons from the stern of the Ile de France on which he had crossed a few days before: a man who shot with him had missed every bird until those watching from the deck wondered if it wasn’t on purpose so he could watch the discs settle prettily into the wide turbulence of the wake.

After a time the Editor nervously broached the idea of an interview—could Hemingway be persuaded to talk about the craft of writing for the magazine? Hemingway agreed, but when the Editor suggested that an interesting form for an interview might be to conduct it during a day’s walk through Paris, past all the places that had meant so much in Hemingway’s life there—the apartment above the sawmill on the Rue Notre Dame des Champs, the Closerie-des-Lilas, the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop on the Rue l’Odéon, perhaps past where he had lived in the Rue Cardinal Lemoine or where Gertrude Stein lived at 27 Rue de Fleurus, and wasn’t that where Ezra Pound had sat on a delicate little chair and broke it so that he wasn’t asked back again?…In the middle of this litany Hemingway, whose eyes had widened as it went on, interrupted and said it was a godawful idea. He was willing, if reluctantly, to give a straightforward interview, but he was damned if he was going to tramp around Paris to do it. The interview was eventually done. It appears in the Paris Review #18.

Hemingway remains the only person the Editor has ever seen buy a copy of the magazine.


The novelist, Irwin Shaw, was always very much on hand in various places on the Continent while the magazine had its Paris offices…Klösters in Switzerland where he skied (“looking very much like a boulder coming down a mountain” as an observer described him), St. Jean de Luz, Rome, the South of France, Paris itself…Wherever he settled, Shaw was hospitable to those associated in any way with the magazine. Indeed, the practice for many editors leaving Paris for a week’s vacation was to find out Shaw’s whereabouts and then take lodgings or rooms somewhere nearby, the more inexpensive and rundown the better, because Shaw, as a host, would provide every contingency of food, drink, or entertainment. His houses were focal points for Americans from the literary, and also the movie world, when they arrived in Europe. In later years, James Jones and his wife, Gloria, provided the same kind of gathering-place at their home on the Ile St. Louis.

Here is what Irwin Shaw remembers of his Paris Review friends:


When, in an article in the New York Sunday Times Magazine, Gay Talese described the group of young Americans who frequented my apartment in the 1950’s and 60’s and went on to found the Paris Review, Talese wrote that they were looking for a Hemingway. At the end of his piece, as I remember it, he declared that I was not Hemingway. Whether he meant this as a compliment or not only time will tell, but it seemed to me that what the young men were really looking for were all the pleasures and educational opportunities the city could offer them. As far as I could see, they found them in abundance.

As a group they differed greatly from the aspiring writers I had known in Brooklyn and Greenwich Village when I was their age. My contemporaries, growing up in the depression, were ferociously competitive, honest in their opinions of their friends’ work to the point of snarling hostility, fanatically and openly ambitious, poor, and out of grim necessity ready to do any kind of writing that promised to support them and their families. This included writing soap operas, advertising copy, newspaper fillers, and in some cases lurid pornographic novels to order, under a variety of assumed names. They could be seen after night school arguing in downtown cafeterias in the unmusical accents of the streets of New York about the merits of Proust and Hemingway as they sat hunched over thirty-five cent blue plates and nickel cups of coffee. Their idea of a vacation was a ride on the subway to Coney Island with drab but insanely virginal girls who condemned them to nights of desperate celibacy or desolate marriages; and behind them you could almost hear endless bitter debates in their homes during which they were branded by their parents as loafers who refused honest jobs to pursue the chimera of The Great American Novel.

In contrast, the literary hopefuls of the Paris contingent spoke in the casual tones of the good schools and could be found, surrounded by flocks of pretty and nobly acquiescent girls, in chic places like Lipp’s on the Boulevard St. Germain or on the roads to Deauville or Biarritz for month-long holidays. They were mild-mannered, beautifully polite, recoiled from the appearance of seeming ambitious and were ready at all times to drop whatever they were almost secretly composing to play tennis (usually very well), drive down to Spain for a bullfight, fly to Rome for a wedding or sit around most of the night drinking. As far as I could see, none of them had a job and although they all lived frugally in cheap rooms they gave the impression that they were going through a period of Gallic slumming for the fun of it. One guessed that there were wealthy and benevolent parents on the other side of the Atlantic.

They were invigorating to be with and voiced what opinions they had softly and I was happy to have them drop in and drink my booze, both in Paris and in St.-Jean-de-Luz, where I spent my summers in a big barn of a house, overlooking the valley of the Nivelle. There they appeared, ready for long nights at the Café Basque and picnics on the beach, to which Ben Bradlee, less powerful then than now, and I would ride through the sun-tanned traffic in an open car holding a huge flower vase of ice-cold daiquiris on the way to the elegant bodies sprawled on the expensive sand along the edge of the blue sea.

Perhaps with a tinge of my youthful jealousy of young men like that i did not let them off wholly unscathed. Using an innocent anecdote about a near-drowning I had heard from three of them, in writing a story about the incident, I had, for the purposes of art, shamelessly transmuted the three characters, making one boy a coward, crafty and disloyal, the other betrayed and simple-minded, the girl immoral and a tease. The principals recognized themselves immediately when the story was published and laughed, amused, at whatever malice the story contained.

In those sweet summers laughter came easily.

It was that comparatively serene time when America, at least, was not engaged in any war and the phrase, The Silent Generation, was used to describe the young men and women of the era. While my friends talked a great deal and were unaggressively in favor of Adlai Stevenson, they bore President Eisenhower no malice and the description, unfair as it was, was perhaps as fitting for them as any other. They went off on no crusades, they did not seem to be tempted by the Left, either French, American or Russian, and if, for want of a better word, they might have been termed capitalists, they were not intense about the system which cradled them. The political turmoil in France over Algeria did not really involve them, as they could only be spectators, not actors in the drama.

They were too young to have seen much of World War II and one way or another had escaped Korea and were free of the permanent dark spots within the soul that marked writers like James Jones and myself, who were also in Paris at the time and who thus had a different view of the world from them.

Unlike other little magazines, such as the Kenyon Review, Poetry, Story and Partisan Review, to name several that have come and gone or have changed unrecognizably, the magazine they debonairly were conspiring to produce had no thesis to promote except, as it turned out, that of eclectic excellence. I must confess at this late date that I was somewhat surprised when a group that I considered rather light-minded and dilettantish turned out a quarterly of such bold and professional quality.

I should have been warned that something serious was in the air when the Paris Review’s first award for a short story was given to a very young man named Philip Roth, presented by Aly Khan in the rather incongruous luxury of his mansion facing the Bois de Boulogne. Even so, given the wandering habits of the editors and contributors and the exigencies of the careers ahead of them—novels to write (Styron, Matthiessen, Marquand Jr., Harold L. Humes, Blair Fuller) and explorations of the Amazon, Africa and the Arctic (Matthiessen again), activities such as boxing professional heavyweights, living through a training camp of the National Football League as a rookie, photographing the biggest elephant in the world on its native grounds, playing the triangle with a symphony orchestra, swinging from a circus trapeze and memorializing these excursions, among many others, in hilarious books and television shows (Plimpton), I privately predicted a short life for the infant publication. And now, lo and behold! it is twenty-five years later (where has all the time gone?) and the magazine is still with us, elegant and vital and from its pages has come a series of searching interviews with writers of all sorts that has made an important contribution to the understanding of modern American literature. The people who were responsible for it then and whose names still are associated with it, though graying or balding here and there and not as quick on the tennis court as once they were, are just as pleasant to be with as they were then, and, if they were inclined to boast, as they are not, could look back with satisfaction and say, “Look what we have accomplished.”

At any rate, my house is still open to all of them, even if it isn’t in Paris or on the Basque Coast, and the booze is still free.



One of the serious problems about publishing the magazine in Europe was that upon arrival in the U.S. the shipment was carefully inspected by a U.S. Customs, which was far more conservative and rigid than even the U.S. Mails. As any-one knew who came through Customs in the 50’s, a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer or any of Maurice Girodias’s publications, even Nabokov’s Lolita, could subject the traveler to confiscation of the book, and fines. Every shipment of the Paris Review that came through New York was scrutinized as carefully as if it had arrived under the shirts in a tourist’s suitcase. It was held under threat of being bonded and then destroyed on the city dump if its contents did not pass inspection.

So, in Paris, the Editor was very careful. It was not only the U.S. Customs who put a curb to the publication of scatological stuff. The Editor was raised in a New England family in which the strongest language ever heard was his mother’s, “Ye Gods and Little Fishes!”—and this only at times of extreme distress. Thus, it was not surprising that four-letter words disappeared from original manuscripts being prepared for the printer.

Sometimes, the author, and quite justifiably, would kick up a fuss. In the first number of the magazine, a state trooper in Terry Southern’s short story, “The Accident,” tries to calm an irate motorist by telling him, “Don’t get your shit hot.” The Editor changed the offending word to “Crap,” and then finally, just as the issue went to press, the Editor sighed and removed that word, so that the officer’s command was a somewhat subdued, “Don’t get hot.”

Southern took exception to what had been done to his text. He turned up in the Rue Garancière office and protested with such vehemence that at one point the Editor found himself saying, “Terry, don’t get so hot!” which did not help matters.

Peter Matthiessen tried to put matters right. He remembered of the incident: “Terry had then submitted a 15 page letter of protest, and as this document could not be digested by our new and slender publication, and as I was the only one who knew of the location of his dark abode, I set off to reason with him. Terry refused to open his door. I don’t know what was going on in there, but through the door he told me that he refused to shorten his monstrous letter, even when I pointed out that it would take up one-third of the next issue. So, in high dudgeon, I threw out the letter and composed an in erratum, after which we parted company for several years.”

The erratum read as follows: “Terry Southern is most anxious that the Paris Review point out the absence of two words from his story ‘The Accident’; The sentence ‘Don’t get hot’ should have read, ‘Don’t get your crap hot’—an omission for which we apologize to all concerned.”

Art Buchwald, the humorist, felt that it was the funniest erratum notice he ever expected to run across. He wanted to write about it in the Paris Herald but he knew that the editor there did not have enough nerve to print the word crap. It was a problem that bedevilled everyone then.


In charge of the department of the U.S. Customs in New York which dealt officially with problems of this sort was a Customs officer named Mr. Demcy. His office was on Varick Street. The desk down from him was occupied by the Customs official who specialized in woolen goods. Mr. Demcy’s field was literature. Danish nudist magazines lay on top of his desk. His judgment as to whether these were obscene was a simple one: if pubic hair showed, pornographic! The only nudist magazines which could be admitted into the country were those which had been air-brushed, so that the offending areas of the young women playing volleyball had taken on the alabaster sheen and innocence of children’s dolls.

When the Editor returned to New York in 1956, he would regularly visit Mr. Demcy to discuss the contents of a newly-arrived issue…which would not be allowed off the docks until Mr. Demcy had given his O.K. The two would argue about what was obscene. Mr. Demcy, who read each issue from cover to cover, had a theory that since there was no legally workable definition of obscenity, each case “stood on its own merits” and that if prurient the material might endanger a “young person” or what Mr. Demcy called a “susceptible reader.”

Thus, there was a great deal of discussion in the musty office on Varick Street about the typical Paris Review subscriber and his possible “susceptibility.” Mr. Demcy agreed that the Paris Review reader probably would not be depicted on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (“not a typical Norman Rockwell, if you know what I mean,” he once said) but that nonetheless the subscribers might well be family people with youngsters who could happen upon a copy of the magazine and get to browsing through it.

The Editor, on the other hand, provided a counter-portrait—a crag-faced subscriber who was a fusty ex-professor living alone in a made-over Vermont barn, working on his novel about parricide, a writer-manqué who subscribed to the Review only to verify that his own stuff was better than what was being published; as soon as he had done with it, he smugly tossed the magazine into the Franklin stove.

A great failing-out with Mr. Demcy occured with the Paris Review #21, which arrived on the New York docks on the eve of a longshoreman’s strike. The Editor pleaded with Mr. Demcy to let the issue through customs before everything closed down. He assured Mr. Demcy, who had not seen an advance copy, that nothing in the issue would outrage the sensibilities of the Custom official’s hypothetical “reader.” He did not mention a story by Alex Trocchi, an excerpt from his novel, Cain’s Book, in which a few formidable expletives appeared. The Editor knew of them, of course, but they seemed so proper to the context of the story and its characters that he surmised that even Mr. Demcy would appreciate their appropriateness.

He was wrong. Mr. Demcy let the crates of Paris Review off the docks but in checking a copy the next day, he ran across the line, “Give me that spike quick or I’ll slit your fucking throat!” (To find this, a single line, in a magazine of almost 200 pages of print and poetry suggests how zealously Mr. Demcy tried to protect his constituency.) In a rage he telephoned the Editor. How dare the Editor have said that there was nothing salacious in the issue? Why, what about this “slitting throat” line in the Trocchi story (Mr. Demcy could not bring himself to say the offending word)? He went on to say that the next morning he was sending the U.S. marshalls out to bond the issue. Most likely, it would end up being burned on the city dump. Where was it?

The Editor refused to tell him. He asked Mr. Demcy if he had read the T.S. Eliot interview in the same issue? Was it not fine? Mr. Demcy was not placated. Where were the copies? Again, the Editor would not say. Mr. Demcy hung up. Since the crates were in the distribution company’s warehouse, which Mr. Demcy might well guess, and dispatch his marshals there, the Editor led a crew of Review people to the warehouse that evening; a number of crates were spirited away to various cellars in the Village.

Eventually, the proper authorities in Washington reviewed the issue No. 21 and determined that it was not anything that should end up on the city dump. The subscribers eventually got their copies. Thereafter, the gap between the antiquated codes of the Customs and those of the U.S. Mails, whose censorship authority had been so drastically changed by the implications of various court cases, especially Roth vs. the United States in 1957, became indistinguishable; the Review never had to deal with Mr. Demcy again.

He retired in 1965. He was always very proud of a book he published during his years with the Customs people. It was entitled, How To Cope With United States Customs—dedicated to his mother, whose name was Reggie. The Editor received an inscribed copy.



Once, the freighter carrying the Paris Reviews from Europe collided with another in New York Harbor and was in danger of sinking. Every morning the editors looked at the pictures in the Daily News of the ship, listing markedly, with a hole in her side. The mailing of issues was delayed for over a month. There was some thought that the subscribers should be informed (…due to a harbor collision, etc.). About that time a Cleveland businessman had complained to the Better Business Bureau that because his Paris Reviews were not arriving on schedule, he had cancelled his subscription and felt that others should be warned of the magazine’s tardiness. But John Train, the “so-called managing editor,” felt that the Cleveland businessman was in the minority and there was only an obscure chance that the typical Paris Review subscriber was poised by the bay window, drumming his fingers on the sill, waiting for the postman to appear down the lane.

Indeed, many of the subscribers did not look forward to receiving the Paris Review at all. An aunt of the Editor took a look at the contents of the Paris Review #58, in particular a story named “Flesh, the Pleasures of,” and boiled the issue in a pot.



Donald Hall was the magazine’s first poetry editor. A Harvard graduate, an editor of the Advocate there, a classmate of the Editor in Archibald MacLeish’s English S course, he was studying at Oxford in 1953 when the magazine was first being discussed. He had won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry at Oxford for a work entitled “Exile” which was published in the first issue.

Allen Ginsberg wrote the Editor that Donald Hall would not know a poem if it buggered him in broad daylight. Perhaps it was Hall’s early conservative “White Guard” phase which explains Ginsberg’s assertion. Many of Hall’s poets wrote in iambic pentameter, many taught English, many were English…The second issue included Geoffrey Hill’s “Genesis”; later followed Thom Gunn, Charles Tomlinson, Ted Hughes, and Donald Davie. Early American contributors included Bly, Wright, Simpson, Dickey, Levine, and Merwin.

X.J. Kennedy took over briefly as poetry editor for 1961-3 and carried on printing mostly traditional poems, featuring work by Donald Justice and James Simmons among others. With Tom Clark, who took over from 1963 for almost a decade, the wheel as they said in those days came full circle; the magazine made up for modernist lost time, printing Zukofsky, Olson, Oppen, Bunting, Creeley, Dorn, Snyder, Duncan, Ginsberg, Ashbery…The East Village/Bolinas axis contributed Berrigan, Padgett, Coolidge, Kyger, Sanders, Waldman, MacAdams, and Aram Saroyan. The dead helped out in the form of Frank O’Hara who posthumously contributed some of his best works.

Towards the end of his tenure Tom Clark became bored with his usual criteria for selection, and by his own admission began to accept poems coming in over the transom by poets who had never been published before or would be subsequently. Many examples of this unique selection process can be found in issues #50-#54. There was a certain amount of grumbling in the home office at publishing these curious things, but never any real pressure applied to make Clark abandon his methods of selection. Perhaps, though, it was with some relief that the office was eventually informed that Clark had decided to pass on the reins…handed in 1973 to Michael Benedikt. Each poetry tenure has lasted about seven years, and seems to have some kind of itch involved as the cycle draws to its close. Benedikt’s resignation was hastened by his being asked to carry a small packet of rejection slips back to Boston with him. Somehow this suggested that he was being thought of as a “beast of burden,” as he put it, by the people in the office, which was surely not compatible with the heady duty of soliciting and picking poems for publication. He resigned.

Benedikt had occupied the chair from 1974 to 1978, and like Clark printed many young poets. He printed again some of the poets with whom the magazine had started (Bly, Simpson, Merwin) but especially brought the magazine up to a new movement of the young: Orr, Gregg, Epstein, Boiarski, Saleh, Soto…

In 1978 Jonathan Galassi, a poet and editor at Houghton-Mifflin, took over, who like Benedikt published some exemplary translations, not to mention new poems by Grossman, McMichael, St. John, and Charles Wright. It may be that Geoffrey Hill’s “Genesis” (#2) finds its weighty counterpart thirty years later in Frank Bidart’s “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky,” which is to be published in the Paris Review #80.



Margaret Anderson, an editor always eager for the “new,” once announced that she had toted up the number of “isms” or schools her magazine, the Little Magazine, had supported, and it came to twenty-three. Obviously, as many demarcations have appeared in the Paris Review but none of these have been “supported.” The choices have been dictated by the editors’ tastes, which have been eclectic. The subscribers were never considered, as they must be in the editing of commercial magazines. Nor did the contributors’ influence dictate the contents as they do in any number of small cult-magazines. Indeed, the practice was to turn down works of those who had been published a number of times in the magazine to give a chance to someone else, lest the Paris Review could be thought of simply as a showcase for a few individuals. “Well, haven’t we published enough of this person’s stuff?”

The one exception to this rule was the serialization of Harry Mathews’s long, brilliant, and intricate novel The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium, which began to appear in the winter of 1971 and went on until the summer issue of 1972, prompting such remarks as “Hey, has that stadium gone down yet?”

The championing of Harry Mathews’s work was carried on by Maxine Groffsky, who was the last Paris editor before the center of operations moved back to New York in 1972. Fictionalized as Brenda Patimkin in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus (a novella first published in the Paris Review in 1958) her effect on the male was described in the first scene of that work: the young hero’s “blood jumped” when she caught the bottom of her bathing suit “between thumb and forefinger and flicked what flesh had been showing back where it belonged.”

This kind of effect continued in Paris. Her arrival at the Dôme or the Rotonde inevitably caused a great stir—a turning and peering of heads over banquettes and in the far reaches of the room people stood to watch her entrance, and check on her companions. What she wore could not contain a fine undulation when she moved. A poet, once watching her, suddenly remarked:


…when I cast mine eyes and see

that brave vibration, each way free,

O how that glittering taketh me.”

 “What on earth is that?” the Editor asked.

“Herrick,” the poet said. “I don’t remember when I learned that damn line, but Maxine makes it ring in my head. She brings a lot of poets to mind,” he went on. “Herrick’s just one of a bunch of them.”

Maxine ran the magazine from 1966 to 1973. In the summer of 1967 she edited the magazine in a villa on the Via Antiqua north of Rome which had been taken over for the season by Brigid Bardot and Gunther Sachs. “They were as interested in what I was doing as, I guess, they could be,” she once told the Editor. “They tended to like comic books. Roger Vadim was making Barbarella. He and Jane Fonda were a couple of houses down the road. There were a dozen people in the house—free-loaders, friends, beaux. I was there with Harry Mathews who was writing the script of an expressionist film about a woman in love with an animal.”

She is now a successful literary agent in New York. The vivid impression she makes has not diminished in the slightest. Richard Cohen, an English fiction editor, recently described in Publishers Weekly a meeting with Maxine while on a visit to New York: “My first appointment is at 9 A.M. with Maxine Groffsky. I have yet to buy a book from her, but she has excellent taste in serious fiction, and is anyway a delight to meet. We talk about books, until Maxine learns I have a tear in the seat of my trousers. Out comes patch and needle, and soon I am talking about the New American novel in my underpants.”



In the United States, the magazine had a number of offices—the first set up by Thomas H. Guinzburg at 2 Columbus Circle where the Huntington Hartford Museum afterwards stood, and then a railroad loft at 401 East 82nd Street with a burlap-sack curtain which separated the front office from the “back room.” A number of transients took up a temporary residence behind the burlap sack. Alex Trocchi stayed for a while after boredom had overcome him on the stake boat he lived on in the New York harbor. He was a caretaker out there—tending to the great barges attached to his stake boat until dock assignments became available for them. A winter on the barge was as lonely as lighthouse service…compounded by the sight of the lights of downtown Manhattan shining across the dark water, close, and yet Trocchi was only able to get there once a month when a tender came out to fetch him.

The present office is in a ground floor room on East 72nd Street in New York City. The Editor and his family live upstairs. A lion-trainer’s chair, laced and ripped by claws, hangs from the ceiling, its seat inscribed with a salutation by Dave Hoover, the star of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. circus to commemorate an occasion when he took the Editor into the lion’s cage with him. There are also hooks in the ceiling from which to hang the staffs bicycles to give everyone more room below. It was the Editor’s idea, but it is too arduous a feat to hoist the bicycles to the hooks, so the machines crowd the stairwell outside, and are chained to the lamp standard out on the street. The office is crowded.



Harold L. (Doc) Humes’s name usually came up when people began talking about the Review. When he had returned from Paris he had busied himself with his own work. He wrote two novels, both excellent—Underground City (1957) and Men Die (1959), published by Random House. His vast energies went into overseeing everything that was being done in their production. He went to the printing plant and saw them through the presses. At every stage he had advice to offer. He parked his huge motorcycle in Bennett Cerf’s anteroom at Random House, and often the publisher would arrive for a day’s work to discover Humes asleep on his office couch.

People spent a lot of time removing Humes, as one of his friends complained halfheartedly. Editors at Random House wondered how to remove him from his part-time residence. He was removed from a riot in Washington Square shouting the obligatory “In a time of injustice, the place for an honest man is in jail,” from the rear of a paddy wagon. He invented and built a paper house on the estate of the Editor’s parents in Huntington, Long Island, promising to remove it after a month; it stayed for two years until finally the Editor’s parents, kept awake by the plunk of guitars and the sound of revelry drifting up the meadow from the neighborhood kids who had discovered the structure and used it as a kind of clubhouse, had it removed themselves. Columbia University worried about Humes on its premises. They asked him to leave. One spring day in 1969 he suddenly began dispersing money—$3000 he had received in his father’s will—handing it out to those he referred to as “interesting-looking cats. We’re spreading a little sunshine.” The handouts were in $100 and $50 denominations and were given out in the street to anyone who struck his fancy—mostly students. “It’s only bread,” Humes said of the money. “From the breadbox—the bank.” The idea of the giveaway, he told the newspapers, was what he called the “amplification factor”—the theory that money multiplies its productivity with each exchange. He announced: “We make perturbation and then time the return of the reverbatory wave.”

Columbia University was not amused. Nor in later years was Harvard University. Officials tried to remove him from the campus where he had taken up a kind of roving residence. He gave seminars in students’ rooms…warning them and mesmerizing them with tales of international and cosmic intrigue. Finally, the college had him arrested for trespassing and he spent some time at the House of Correction in Billerica, Mass. He has said since that Harvard was prodded into pressing charges, most likely by the C.I.A.

Humes had begun to change back in the early sixties. The trouble, he says, started when he “collided with British intelligence.” Apparently, he “knew too much. ” In Barnstead Hospital in Sussex, England (a place he refers to as a “brain laundry”) a microwave implant, so small that it could be put on the point of a hypodermic needle, was settled into one of his teeth while he was sleeping. He has described the device as apparently not unlike a radio except that it bypasses the ear; its effects appear in the thought-processes, and cause emotional distress, writer’s block (Humes has not been able to work on his literary projects without becoming ill), anger, and mental distraction. He became what the French call “téléguidé.” Humes would wonder why he suddenly got on a bus to a small village outside Rome, say, with no conscious idea of why he had determined to go there.

On December 26th, 1969, (he is very exact about the date) while walking across the Princeton campus Humes discovered one of his implants (he believes a number of them were inserted) affixed to a piece of chewing-gum in a microscopic-sized oval of what looked like pink dental gum. He also found a whisker of tungsten and some additional miniaturized mechanical devices.

It is natural enough to discuss all of this with Humes, or at least ask him questions.

“Well, now, Doc, can a dentist take a look at your teeth and discover an implant there and remove it?”

“Of course,” Humes told the Editor. “That is if you’ve got an honest dentist…one who’s not part of the Organization, not one of them.”

Who are they, one wants to know.

Humes describes them as “a whole bunch of people left over from World War II—international nationalists who for thirty years have been trying to keep nations at each other’s throats.”

Has he ever seen them?

Oh yes. Once he had driven by Mansion House in London and seen their big cars, among them Gulbenkian’s Rolls-Royce, parked  outside in rows with the chauffeurs standing by the long front hoods.

These people are up to “mischief”—a favorite word of Humes—and he feels that his own function in life is to discern manifestations of “global mischief” and to inform those authorities who are not in cahoots with them and their various secret services what is going on. He subjects his friends, invariably by telephone, to constant calls to alarum. He can be very convincing. One of his friends said, “As I listened to him my stomach was in a knot. I kept remembering Gore Vidal’s wry description of a paranoid as someone who knows all the facts.

What is particularly fascinating about the phenomenon of Humes’s plug-in to international shenanigans is that he has an ally—a black monitoring box circling the earth. According to Humes, it was put up by a group of M.I.T. engineers shortly after the nuclear infestations started after World War II. Apparently, the scientists felt that humankind had to be watched by a kind of detection device to warn the populace of excesses and what the U.S. Constitution refers to as “public danger.” Thus the black box is a variety of doomsday clock. It even has a name—Fido—and has been described by Humes as a complex set of computers which have the “characteristics of a St. Bernard’s dog and the tactical inventory of Lassie.” However, the box is not straightforward; it does not broadcast simple warnings that anyone can hear, but instead produces a number of signs or portents which must be interpreted. Humes sees himself as a self-appointed watchman, a kind of cosmic tea-leaf reader. Cloud formations, electrical failures, hailstorms in summer, water shortages, gypsy moth infestations, train derailments, huge starling flocks, the Red Tide off Newport…any phenomena of this sort are cosmic messages manifested by the black box (invariably signalling “mischief”) and which are “sent down” for Humes to interpret. One summer he spent aloft on a room high in New York’s Essex House reading portents in the cloud formations drifting over Manhattan. He would then call his friends to explain to them why they should reach their congressmen or senators and convince them to convene so that he, Humes, could explain to these men of consequence and power what was happening. His monologues are long, non-stop, brilliant, and larded with the aside “Dig?” the Beat Generation equivalent of the now ubiquitous “y’know.” A favorite receiver of these calls was the Editor, whose father had been Ambassador to the United Nations with Adlai Stevenson and who Humes believed—even after he had long left the position—was capable of convening the General Assembly so Humes could address its members. “Dig?”

 Sometimes, Humes takes matters into his own hands. On one occasion, he told friends, with a terrible war imminent (according to the black box), he sat down in a chair in the middle of his room and acted as an intermediary between the C.I.A. and the K.G.B., both of whose organizations had bugged his room. Humes talked to both sides, swiveling his head and speaking into the respective hidden microphones, for over an hour, until he was able to persuade the upper echelons to come to their senses; the cataclysm was averted.

Humes from his earliest days with the Review had never been one to hold conventional views. A great touter of cannabis (marijuana), he believes that heroin addicts can be detoxified by the ingestion of cannabis combined with deep massage techniques he has invented. Apparently the massages are terrific. When he was in the correction facility at Billerica he practiced on both wardens and prisoners, who were grateful and quite sorry to see him leave. He continues to give massages. In a street-front window facing Central Square in Cambridge, he and his young “interns” (he has a number of disciples who hang on every word) give free massages; passersby can look in the big plate window and see a beneficiary sitting in a straight-backed chair, his coat off, eyes half-shut, a contented smile, being worked on.

Always, there were actions that still suited Matthiessen’s description of him in Paris so long ago—“appealing, aggressive, warmhearted…” In 1978 he turned up at James Jones’s funeral in Bridgehampton, Long Island, with an enormous boulder in the back of his car. He had seen the boulder in a field near the Finger Lakes. He had never met James Jones, but something about the great rock made him feel that it would be an appropriate tribute. He was on the trip alone, but when he got to the Jones’s house, it took three men to get the boulder out of the back of his car while he stood by—as would be the case—and gave directions. Those watching shook their heads thinking of the labor and effort for one man to pry the rock out of the ground and get it into the car. It sits on the Jones’s lawn to this day.



The Editor’s apartment on East 72nd Street in the walk-up overlooking the river had a lot of activity. The food the Editor served was bland—invariably Dinty Moore’s Beef Stew and Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice, each in their separate wooden bowls, with loaves of French bread on the side to dip in the gravy. Perhaps the guests got tired of it. In the early 70s the habits changed and the procedure was to meet and spend the evening in restaurants (“Let’s get together up at the Large Lady’s”). Maggie Paley, who was a charming and valued associate on the magazine remembers those times before that happened:


When the Paris Review was ten years old, Plimpton ran it out of his New York apartment. On the walls of his bathrooms were photographs of the young Americans having fun in Paris with whom he’d started the magazine. Most of them were in New York now, having some literary success. Their names continued to appear on the masthead and they were known as the “Paris Review crowd.” The fun had not stopped.

In New York Plimpton was well-known for giving parties. At the first of his parties I went to, Jacqueline Kennedy, then the First Lady, was there, and Gay Talese was taking notes for an article on the Paris Review crowd that would appear in Esquire.

Talese’s article was called “Looking for Hemingway.” It described the romance of the typewriter and the male idea of the writer as war hero. Accompanying the article was an Esquire chart of the New York Literary Establishment. The Paris Review was in the “hot center.” Plimpton’s apartment, in a crowd, was as hot as you wanted to get.

The purpose of the Paris Review was to give writers of quality a place to publish. At his parties Plimpton extended this function by introducing writers to agents, editors, other writers, good ideas, and beautiful women. He was the most relaxed of hosts. Parties usually started at six and after a few hours he’d serve some Dinty Moore’s Beef Stew and a brie cheese. Clean, square-cut Gordon’s gin bottles were lined up at the bar. Intense literary flirting went on. In the crowd everyone felt at home. They put their cigarettes out in cups, plates, and scissors-holders and forgot their scarves and sweaters. Sometimes, late, a couple would sneak off to the bedroom, to thrash on the bed amid the remaining coats. Plimpton considered these assemblies a business activity.

I wanted to work with him. At the time I had an editor’s instincts. I wrote, but not for publication, and admired writers who took themselves seriously. I thought it would be a privilege to help them. I began reading unsolicited manuscripts. They were mailed to me in bundles from the Flushing office and were on the whole unpublishable, though I read them through to the end to see how the writers worked out their plots. I yearned in vain to discover a star. Plimpton got those few stories I thought he might enjoy. He was often out of town on writing assignments and always months behind in his reading. One summer he edited the magazine from the Detroit Lions’ training camp.

Fiction had to be “right” for the Paris Review, and in the end that meant something Plimpton liked well enough to publish. Though the magazine had no subject except good writing, he paid attention to anything about expatriates in Paris. Paris in the fifties, bohemian poets in cafés, love and literature on Left Bank afternoons, jazz at night—I hadn’t been there but it was easy to feel nostalgia for all this. I bought Django Reinhardt albums for Plimpton’s apartment and we’d listen to them in the office, having the first drink of the evening.

Maybe once or twice a week I worked in his living room. Empty, it was huge, with old, polished floors, comfortable couches and four windows facing the East River. His ashtrays were trophies from club racquet sports tournaments, in which he always seemed to place second.

When he wasn’t on the phone or typing in his office, Plimpton spent time watching the boats go by, and the traffic jams on FDR Drive. I used to wonder why—did the sight of others moving slowly, and having trouble getting where they were going, clear his head? Sometimes he played on the piano long, melancholy pieces that sounded like the tide rippling in and out. He’d composed these himself, in the manner of Debussy. I listened closely. I wanted to be him.



Another view of the activities at 541 has been supplied by Elaine Dundy, the former wife of Kenneth Tynan, the critic, and herself a novelist (The Dud Avocado) and essayist:


Norman Mailer tells me that what he most recalls about the Paris Review parties in the fifties and sixties was their charged atmosphere. “All those writers,” he says, “myself included—walking rigidly through that packed room towards the drinks, our heads erect, only our eyes swiveling sideways to identify the enemy.”

Twenty years ago Stephen Spender, comparing the English Literary Scene with the American one, wrote that the former resembled a cozy conspiracy while the latter a battleground or brothel. Clearly he had done his research at the fortnightly literary salon held in the Paris Review’s offices on 72nd Street which was also the apartment of host George A. Plimpton. For over a decade it was the only Quality Lit game in town.

I, too, remember those parties filled with their dangerous, challenging, sometimes near-fatal mixture of novelists, critics, editors, and publishers stewing together in the pressure-cooker of that long narrow room. And I remember the thrill of fear with which one realized that once across the threshold the only exit offered seemed to be the icy East River darkly flowing outside the windows.

However frightened, no one seriously engaged in the literary scene dreamt of missing these regular confrontations and no one dared come unarmed. Norman Mailer brought his seconds, his boxing chums. Terry Southern brought his fellow hipsters, Boris, Kooky, and Shadow. Bill Styron brought his charming wife, Rose. And Jimmy Baldwin brought the fire next time. I, myself, wore several suits of armor. Sometimes I came as a wife, sometimes as an adventuress. I never came as a novelist, except as an amateur one, deflecting the foe with assurances that my first novel was a fluke; for what was immediately apparent in those days was the lack of serious literary ladies. The women there, highly decorative for the most part, were strictly utilitarian: wives, mistresses, girlfriends past and girlfriends possible. In all the years I attended these soirees I never once came across Mary McCarthy, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter or even Lillian Hellman.

Only now recollecting in tranquility these discordant gatherings do I realize what was taking place was not merely a series of black comedies or shell games. What emerges for me now is something ineffably poignant. Beneath the surface squabbling, sniping, and stalking, the antagonism went deep and it was real. It was an antagonism based on warring philosophies. Each of the young men there—the writers, poets, editors, and publishers—genuinely stood for something…which meant each was against something else.

Hip, Beat and Square were philosophical concepts that translated themselves into literary styles. The poets Ginsberg, Orlovsky and Ferlinghetti were, of course, Beat. Mailer at that time was so obsessed with Hip that in Advertisements for Myself he ran a list, pages long, of things he considered hip with their dreaded square equivalents: “nuance,” for instance, was hip and “fact” square. Styron’s novel Set This House on Fire hadn’t gone past the fifth page before the “I” of the story was stalwartly declaring himself a Square. Southern’s philosophy was that of the arch-prankster-intriguer: the gadfly in the Venetian manner of Mosca or Iago.

 By word and deed guests expressed themselves with unrestrained freedom. Often the words were very funny. I remember Mailer attacking a rival as “White, Protestant and wrong,” and Southern informing a startled middle-aged wife in a hat that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Mrs. Sprague, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Mike Nichols reported the following exchange upon being introduced to a Hipsteress:

Nichols: “How do you do?”

Hipsteress: “I thought you’d be cleverer than that.”

Clashes were not only verbal but, at a fair rate, physical. Sometimes they involved animate objects, sometimes inanimate. It was in dealing with these skirmishes that George Plimpton excelled. Benevolently watching over us all with a sort of awed enthusiasm, our host, with his infinite tolerance of his guests’ vagaries and umbrages which could end in fisticuffs, collapsed coffee tables, broken glass, or tears, really made the whole thing go with a stylish swing. One guest, momentarily out of control, who had saved up her money and apologies for a month before confessing to bashing an enormous wall mirror in the room, was quickly absolved by him with a generous “It’s all right. It was bound to happen one day.” That grateful guest was I.



One of the questions most asked about the Paris Review is what goes on in Flushing, which is the address listed on the title page. Out there, in a small room in a house on a tree-lined street, Lillian von Nickern conducts the business affairs of the magazine—seeing to the subscriptions, the billing, and so forth—and she has been doing this since 1953 with a short hiatus in the early sixties. Very few people on the magazine have been out there. On occasion, visiting writers, new in town, go out by a series of subways and buses to Flushing by error, expecting to find a beehive of editorial activity: half-filled coffee pots, perhaps a poet standing on a table reading from his own work, or even better, from the work the visitor himself had submitted the week before…the editors sitting around transfixed…to find instead the tranquillity of a suburban street, a dog waving his tail from behind the screen door, children calling from the back of the house. Lillian von Nickern offers the writers coffee, sympathizing with them over the arduous travel route to Flushing; after a discussion about the difficulties of the writer in contemporary times, she sends them back to New York.



One of the more ambitious money-raising projects was a succession of “Revels” (appropriately named by Fred Seidel). These were fund-raising benefits held in New York, dances mostly, of which the first three were held in the Village Gate in Greenwich Village, one in a vast honeycombed West Side discotheque named the Cheetah, one in an abandoned church amongst a grove of trees on Welfare Island in the East River—this in 1969 before Welfare became Roosevelt and the island was attached to Manhattan by a tramway—and the last one on a decrepit sidewheeler steamer moored at the South Street Seaport. The Revels were memorable affairs, with so much effort spent by staff members that often the fund-raising aspects of the events were forgotten.

What many people remembered about the Revels was the use of mixed-media devices—especially films, which were shown simultaneously on a multitude of screens. These were artfully spliced by Christopher Cerf of the Review from reels of 16mm stock purchased at cut-rate out of 42nd Street camera-shop bins—many of them old Pathé newsreels so that the revelers would look up to see on the great screens hung around the halls, or, in the case of the island Revel, set among the trees, a curious variety of image…a ping-pong match, a chimpanzee on a bicycle, the slow, writhing collapse of the suspension bridge at Yakima, Washington, a zoot-suit fashion show, a sequence of a monster grasshopper attacking a Quonset hut from a science-fiction film, a Krazy Kat cartoon, a series of rocket failures at Cape Canaveral in which the missiles would bestir themselves briefly and then sit back down on their columns of flame and disappear in gigantic explosions…all of these activities going on concurrently and silently, the projector beams crisscrossing, the screens in a constant movement of image. This kind of visual decoration was very much of an innovation then.

The Editor was invariably in charge of the movie projectors. He hurried through the crowds from one to the other. Sometimes he ran the big reels backwards: a rocket would mend itself and sit back down on its column of billowing flame and extinguish it; a ping-pong match lost very little in reverse, and the giant grasshopper, retreating awkwardly from his victims, took on a poignant helter-skelter demeanor.

The effort put into the Revels was at once an advantage and a detriment to the success of the affairs: people bought tickets and came, but the expense of making the occasions memorable often cut sharply into the receipts. At the Welfare Island Revel, for example, two rented pianos were placed out in a glade of shade trees. The evening was cool, the weather threatening. Very few discovered the pianos. James Blake, the ex-convict writer who had written an extraordinary prison chronicle for the magazine entitled “The Joint,” played one of the pianos at two in the morning…a slow barrel-house…a few people standing to listen in the light of hurricane lamps hung from the trees, with the great skyline of midtown Manhattan behind them through the leaves, and the faint hum of traffic coming across the water from the East River Drive. A couple of hours later a rain shower swept through and ruined both pianos. Almost all the profits from the Revel were paid to the piano rental company…indeed the total realized from that Revel, to which almost a thousand people came, was about fourteen dollars.



What Malcolm Cowley described as unique about the Paris Review in the history of literary publications was that it was willing to use commercial devices in promoting itself. He referred to the practice as “enterprise in the service of art.” From the magazine’s beginnings, portions of the editors’ energies were devoted to getting it subscribed to, and distributed as widely as possible. Posters were pasted up on Paris walls by flying squads supplied with paste and brushes; for years the tatters of a Paris Review affiche remained affixed to the ceiling of the lavatory in the Café du Dôme. The grandest (and most foolish) of these enterprises was the so-called “Booth” which was introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. It stood outside the Pavillion of Paris on the Avenue Harry S. Truman down from the Astral Fountain and the “Vatican” where the Pièta was on display. The booth was designed by the magazine art editor, William Pène du Bois—a charming mushroom-like structure with a moveable roof that was winched up along a center flagpole. It was built in Katonah, New York, at no great expense, by a firm of swimming pool specialists. It was occasionally referred to as the “smallest pavillion at the Fair.” It was made of wood, only ten by ten. But the booth had great style. There was a metal flagpole at each point of the roof, which was octagonal. The sides of the booth were decorated with blow-ups from pages of the Paris Review—both artwork and text—a chunk of Céline, Hemingway, Frost, a line or two from an interview with Evelyn Waugh:

Interviewer: What about Ronald Firbank?
Waugh: I enjoyed him very much when I was young. I cannot read him now.
Interviewer: Why?
Waugh: I think there would be something wrong with an elderly man who would enjoy Firbank.

Passersby would circle the booth, reading it. The sales-people in the booth were as decorative as the booth itself—a series of very young, pretty girls, a few of them French, all of whom were in love with the managing editor of the magazine at the time, Peter Ardery. In the booth they usually worked in pairs. They would arrive early in the morning, crawl on hands and knees into the booth from the little side-panel, crank up the roof and set up the counters for the day’s work; at closing time the roof would be cranked down and the girls would emerge like hedgehogs from a burrow onto the Avenue Harry S. Truman. Most people walking by took the structure to be an information booth. On a weekend day, a thick ring of people would cluster around it, the ones in the back rising up on their toes and shouting over the heads of the others to get directions to the “Vatican.”

On sale was the Paris Review as well as the other literary magazines. It was a brave display—not unlike what is in the window of the Gotham Book Mart on 47th Street, except not as dusty. A feather-mop duster was kept in the booth, and sometimes a brisk wind swept down the Avenue Harry S. Truman and riffled the pages of the magazines.

The booth was open for the last five weeks of the Fair’s 1964 season—by the end of which time the total gross sales had amounted to $379.70. The best day brought in thirty dollars, the worst—a rainy Tuesday—a few cents more than a dollar.

While a more prudent organization might have foregone the second year of the Fair, the Paris Review decided that an intensification of effort might bring better results. The booth was expanded into a complex by adding three bookstalls, modeled after those on the quais along the Seine. Enrique Castro-Cid, the Chilean sculptor, was persuaded to build a four-foot tall weatherproof robot which was to stand in front of the booth and do something to attract attention. No one actually saw what it looked like or indeed what it was programmed to do. There was word that it looked like a giant erect green grasshopper; within was a voice box which was to produce a sound or a sentence to alarm passersby and make them stare at it—at which point the grasshopper would wave an antenna-like arm at the booth. This was conjecture, because Castro-Cid became entranced with the sculpture and as it slowly took form in his studio he decided not to risk it on the Avenue Harry S. Truman.

Nonetheless, in its second year of operation things went much more briskly. The booth sold French magazines, such as Elle, records, books, little French flags on black wooden stands, French cigarettes, posters, Charles de Gaulle face-masks, tinny Eiffel Towers and Statues of Liberty, some fitted out with red light bulbs, just a tremendous glut of doodads and gimmickry. And in there somewhere, just a pie-slice of them now on the counter, were the literary magazines—Hudson, Sewanee, Partisan, the less-known affairs of the heart, and the Paris Review, along with Paris Review T-shirts and sweat shirts. The big sellers were shopping bags and French cigarettes. One of the booth girls thought that the de Gaulle face-masks might catch on. So she wore one. What a sight it was to approach along the Avenue Harry S. Truman and see a Charles de Gaulle (sometimes a pair of them if she had a friend working with her) peering out of the shadows of the booth! One day she saw someone coming down the avenue whom she recognized as a close relative—an aunt maybe, or a cousin. She had the option of calling out through the mouth of the de Gaulle mask, “Hi, Aunt Genevieve,” or whomever. But she didn’t. She just let that person cruise on by—past that strange little complex with all those crazy things for sale.

After the Fair closed, the booth was moved to a small promontory on a duck pond in Bedford Village, New York, onto the property of Joseph Fox and his family. Jill Fox, who read manuscripts for the Review, wrote of it recently: “Ah, the booth! I imagine it is now crouched low in wild undergrowth ignored by man—a haven for small rodents and bees. There was a time—for years—that we raised the roof and the flag each spring and lowered them in the fall. The ropes and pulleys got cranky and frayed over a few seasons and harder to deal with until (to the children’s delight) the roof was left down permanently. The boys had used it right along as a meeting and storage place. I entered it for the last time (on hands and knees, of course) and was so startled by the arsenal of home-made weapons, porno, maps, and cigarette butts that I decided a change was necessary and moved us all to N.Y.C. where things got considerably worse.”



In 1975 Bernard F. Conners became the publisher of the Review. He succeeded Sadruddin Aga Khan, who had become immersed in his duties as the U. N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Editor had known Conners since their military days in Italy. When Conners left the Army, he joined the F.B.I. He spent nine years in that organization, involved in cases ranging from espionage (the Rudolph Abel affair), kidnapping (the La Rossa case) and the Victor Reisei blinding incident. He was the first F.B.I. agent to be sent on board an airplane to look for a bomb. “That was in the mid-fifties when that sort of extortion was unknown: there were no known procedures,” he once told the Editor. “We hardly knew what a bomb looked like.”

He left the F.B.I. to become an assistant to the president of Canada Dry. Touring the country to learn the bottling business, he became the director of merchandising and then, branching out on his own, he began acquiring bottling properties whose advertisements started appearing in the pages of the Paris Review when he became its publisher.

His interest in the magazine came coincidentally with a novel he wrote about the F.B.I.—Don’t Embarrass The Bureau it was titled. It was in the course of discussing the book with the Editor, and asking his advice, that Conners heard about the Paris Review with its never-ceasing financial problems and that it was lacking a publisher. He wondered aloud if he could help. Naturally, almost before his musings were done, he became its publisher. He could afford to do so. He had made an immense success of his career in soft drink distribution. With his family he lived in a Tudor mansion on a considerable estate in Loudonville, in upstate New York near Albany. He was in the process of building a gatehouse at the entrance of his property—a Tudor-style structure with an arch across the driveway; a spiral staircase led to a bedroom with a library off it, and bay windows to look through and see the sleek tops of the limousines going by underneath…certainly the most substantial gatehouse, if not the only one, built in the United States in recent decades.

And yet there was little about Conners which suggested the tycoon—no airs whatsoever. His looks had not changed since his army days—trim, a Marine’s haircut, a boyish demeanor, and a remarkably self-effacing attitude about himself so that the perquisites of his success—such as a Roils-Royce Silver Cloud—never really seemed to suit him: he got into the car as if he were hitching a ride.

Possibly what Conners wished to be was an athlete. Of the Paris Review publishers, he was certainly the most athletically gifted. True, Sadruddin Aga Khan was an excellent skier and raced large powerboats in the Mediterranean, but Conners was not only a Golden Gloves champion—a featherweight when he was barely 15 years old, and a light heavyweight when he was 20—but as a football player at St. Lawrence University, he was the leading ground-gainer in the United States, at least for the first eight games which constituted St. Lawrence’s entire schedule. He was typically humble about that statistic: “it wan’t difficult considering the opposition. Every time I took the bail I immediately found myself in the other team’s secondary.” Nonetheless on the strength of those statistics, Conners had a tryout with the Chicago Bears. “It was the most ephemeral of experiences,” he reported, “just long enough to take a shower.”

Up until a few years ago Conners, at an age where most people are content with a round of golf or the Labor Day country-club tennis tournament, continued with his football, playing in the Atlantic Seaboard League for such semi-professional teams as the Hudson Vikings and the Albany Maulers.

“The Maulers? M-a-u…?”

“No, I’m afraid it’s the Mallers,” Conners said. “For the Albany Mall.”

One of the highlights of his tenure as publisher to the Paris Review was a large fund-raising party Conners gave at his estate in the spring of 1975. The guests were Loudonville neighbors and friends. Part of the arrangement was that each had to buy a subscription to the magazine. People in evening dress wandered around the grounds, “The Paris Review? The Paris Review?”

Conners had ordered a green and white striped party-tent, along with a polished, inlaid portable dance-floor. There was an eleven-piece band including one chap who played the English Horn. Galvanized tubs filled with ice and bottles of Mumms champagne stood about in amazing profusion, like trash cans in a state park. “The Paris Review? The Paris Review?” Just before dusk a stack of parachutists dropped out of an airplane three or four thousand feet above the guests. They trailed orange smoke behind them for a while and then the parachutes billowed open. They landed down the slope. The Conners children ran down to meet them. That wasn’t the only aerial activity—not by a long shot. Conners had hired a helicopter to take a party of guests up for ten minutes to look down on what was going on, and perhaps, since that majority of the guests were neighbors, to fly off and look at their own estates from a new perspective. Every ten minutes the whack-whack-whack of the copter’s blades cut into conversation around the bars. “The Paris Review? The Paris Review?” The Editor put on a small fireworks show when it got dark—about twenty Japanese chrysanthemum shells, the loveliest he could find.

Conners felt the Editor should explain what was going on. The guests should be addressed with a justification, a speech. He led the Editor up to the third floor of the mansion and showed him through a window out onto a small porch that looked down on the lawn below and the guests milling about in the darkness. “Tell them what’s what,” Conners said, and he disappeared to get the waiters below to scatter across the grounds and announce that the guests would have a chance to discover why they were there.

Eventually they were gathered. They stood with their glasses of champagne, looking up, their faces pale in the soft evening light. The Editor spotted the parachutists in a group at the edge of the lawn. He wondered what to say. He stood with his hands on the stone of the balustrade like a dictator. The scene was very theatrical. The Editor was tempted to call down:


Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,

And ye that on the sands with printless foot

Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him

When he comes back; you demi-puppets that

By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make.

Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime

Is to make midnight mushrumps, that rejoice…

But he resisted. “The Paris Review,” he shouted, “is a small literary magazine…” hardly believing the circumstances of his saying this line as the dinner-jacketed crowd shifted uneasily below.

Since everyone who came to the party had to subscribe to the Paris Review, for a while the magazine had over 200 subscribers from Loudonville—probably the heaviest per capita density of subscribers to a magazine in the country, including the Reader’s Digest. The monopoly did not last long. No one seemed to resubscribe when the subscriptions ran out. Now there is only one subscriber in Loudonville—Bernard F. Conners.



The magazine tried very hard to ease the publisher’s financial obligations by initiating projects to raise money on its own. One of these was a poster program underwritten by Drue Heinz and directed by Jane Wilson. Wilson (herself an artist of considerable note) asked a number of her peers to produce posters promoting the magazine in an edition limited to two or three hundred, signed by the artist, and with the proceeds to benefit the Paris Review. A large number of artists—very likely out of affection for Jane, but also, perhaps, out of respect for the publication, became involved in the project—among them Richard Lindner, Robert Motherwell, Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Nevelson, Ernest Trova, Saul Steinberg, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Marisol, Jack Youngerman, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Willem de Kooning, and Andy Warhol.

Warhol’s poster was a blow-up of a bill to the Paris Review for two bottles of vodka from an East Side liquor store. At that stage of his career Warhol was producing varied objects such as the helium-filled silver pillows which drifted eerily around his art studio, the so-called Factory. He did not involve himself directly in his art. It was manufactured by his apprentices. He further removed himself from the traditional behavior of the artist by refusing to sign what was being produced. His “works” were signed by a rubber stamp with his name on it, invariably stamped on the piece of art by one of his minions. When he agreed to do a poster for the Paris Review he wanted an artifact associated with the magazine which would be reproduced and then stamped. What did the Review have that might be appropriate?

The Editor suggested a subpoena from the law firm of Greenbaum, Wolff, and Ernst which had been served on the magazine for the non-payment of a bill. The document was quite fancy. It had been elicited because a member of that firm, Harriet Pilpel, a distinguished lawyer known for her large hats, had been hired by the magazine to look into the possibility of achieving tax-deductible status. After a day in Washington Mrs. Pilpel determined that the magazine, being by definition a profit-making concern, was not eligible. The Editor was informed of this by telephone, and duly a large bill arrived by mail. The amount was so large that the Editor felt that there should be concrete evidence that some work had been done. Since the amount of the bill was equivalent to what a first novelist would get as an advance from a publishing house in those days, the Editor asked Greenbaum, Wolff, and Ernst to supply a report consisting of a substantial number of pages—he specified at least one hundred—on Mrs. Pilpel’s trip to Washington. She could flesh it out if she wished with a description of the train ride and some observations on the weather. The text could even be triple-spaced. But the Editor wanted something he could heft to show for the money spent.

The law firm was not amused. It demurred and after a while the subpoena arrived. It was this document that the Editor thought Andy Warhol could use for his poster. The print type was large and ornate; it was something of an historical document as well, since law firms, especially prestigious ones, almost never go to court to collect their fees…much less from itinerant literary magazines.

But Warhol preferred the liquor bill.

“Oh, it has…er…um…it’s nice…”

“You don’t like the subpoena?”

“Well, oh…um…it’s nice too…but…um…”

So the liquor bill for the two bottles of vodka was enlarged to poster size and printed. Warhol was very upset at the finished product. Apparently, he wanted his poster to remain the same size as the original liquor bill. He had not instructed that it was to be enlarged.

“But Andy, do you mean to say that you wanted the poster to be four by six inches?”


The Editor pointed out that the sales potential for such a miniscule poster would be marginal. No one would ever guess that it was a poster. Besides, his signature stamp was too large to fit on the smaller version. If it were stamped on, it would obliterate the bill. No one would be able to figure out that it was a Warhol work.


So he finally agreed on the poster-sized liquor bills stamped with his signature. The liquor store had one framed and it hung in the window for a year.



Tlooth was the curious name of a brilliant and rather difficult novel by Harry Mathews. Tlooth (parts of it appeared in the magazine) was the first novel published by the Paris Review Editions, a book-publishing offshoot affiliated with Doubleday and Company for three years…publishing books which included two—by Joy Williams and Louis Zukofsky— which were nominated for National Book Awards. Not untypical of the Review’s tradition of commercial enterprise in the service of art was the magazine’s attempt to promote Tlooth by having its odd title skywritten over the Greater New York area. The skywriting people said that for $350 the title could be written 1500 feet up over three locations—Far Rockaway, Yankee Stadium, and Jones Beach. The notion seemed irresistible—those mammoth, mysterious letters drifting in the sky.

 “If the wind’s down, those letters’ll stay up there for a half-hour,” the man at the skywriting offices at the Flushing airport said. “You’ll get a visibility of three maybe four million people spotting that word. What does it mean?” he asked. “Some kind of brand name, uh, for toothpaste, maybe?”

“Well, that’s not quite…”

“It’s not Czech for fuck or anything like that?” the man asked.

He need not have worried. The Doubleday promotion people did not think highly of the idea. It seemed an extravagance. They doubted that potential readers of Tlooth were to be found sunning themselves on Jones Beach, or in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium. The idea was tacky—like stenciling a book title on the pavement. Predictably, a small ad appeared in the New York Times Book Review. Nor did the promotion department authorize a somewhat less ambitious display…which was to skywrite the letters over the city of Duluth, which was not only cheaper but rhymed.



The third publisher of the magazine was a young record producer, Ron Dante. He lived down the street from the New York office of the magazine. He liked to say that he won the magazine from the Editor in a pool game, which is a fine story (and accurate as an assessment of the Editor’s ability at pool compared to Dante’s) but unlikely, since the magazine was not the Editor’s to lose. Besides, the Paris Review as legal tender was hardly an attractive example of gambling booty, at least not if its never-ceasing financial obligations went along with it. More likely, Dante noticed on his occasional visits to the office, and when he played pool with the Editor, that faces were long at the end of 72nd Street, and that this was because of financial strain. He said at one point that he was in a position to do something about it.

Dante’s background, which was out of the pop music field, was far removed from either of his predecessors. Blessed with a clear and adaptable singing voice, Dante’s first musical recording triumph was a “ghost group” in which he sang all twelve voices from bass to falsetto on a single record entitled, “Sugar Sugar.” The record, which was produced in 1969, and supposedly performed by a “group” known as the Archies, sold an astonishing 10 million copies around the world.

Dante made a specialty of this unique method of producing records: he did all the voices of a “group” called the Cufflinks. Because of his exceptional range he was able to make this “group” sound (as he has said) “like a real gang.”

His solo voice, especially in its higher range, became a staple in television’s singing commercials—for Pepsi-Cola (“you’ve got a lot to live!”), American Airlines (“doing what we do best!”), Lifesavers (“Lifesavers…part of living!”) and Budweiser (“when you say Budweiser…you’ve said it all”), among others. “People could not turn on television without being assailed by my voice, but they never saw my face,” Dante once said. “That was good, because no one could ever guess that all those voices were one and the same.”

In the early 70’s, while recording a Doctor Pepper commercial, Dante met the Pinnochio-faced pop-composer and pianist, Barry Manilow, who was then working as an accompanist and arranger for Bette Midler. By then a record producer, Dante suggested that the two form a partnership. Their first success was a Manilow song entitled “Mandy. ” Every year since that record’s appearance in 1975, Manilow-Dante albums and singles have been on the annual best-selling charts.

In recent years Dante has branched out as a producer in other fields—with particular success in the theater world: two plays with which he was involved (Children of a Lesser God and Ain’t Misbehavin’) won Tony Awards. In 1978 he succeeded Bernard F. Conners as publisher of the Paris Review. He does not wish to preside over its demise. “The last organization I was involved with which went down the drain,” Dante remarked at an early meeting, “was appropriately enough a singing group called The Detergents. The swan song was a dreadful tune named ‘Leader of the Laundromat.’ But that was so long ago I can barely remember.”



One of the curious aspects about the magazine, especially as time goes on, has been the feeling of support given it by those no longer actively involved. When he came through Paris in the early seventies William Styron would drop in the little office on the Rue Vernet. Maxine Groffsky remembered that he would always ask with great concern, “Maxine, how are we doing on subscriptions?”

“I’d look at him in surprise,” she recalled. “We had all of 213 subscriptions in Europe. I’d say, ‘You must be kidding. Bill.’ But he did care. People who had been associated with the Review came to the office as if they were on a pilgrimage. They sat around. They wanted to know if everything was O.K. They cared. They had a wistful and nice nostalgic feeling about it.”

Apparently, friends, as well as the writers and editors had a proprietary feeling about the magazine and the people who worked on it. Jacqueline Onassis wrote a note about the 25th Anniversary: “A 25th Anniversary issue of the Paris Review? That cannot be. It and you belong to the time when everything was beginning.

“The Paris Review weaves in and out of my Paris memories. All the most brilliant and romantic young men were involved with the magazine and all the girls were vivid. We were discovering a city, discovering Europe, literature and art sur place—slight expatriates all, determined that our lives would not be mundane.

“There was a certain amount of running off to Pamplona and talk of the Black Sun Press!

“I remember sitting with you in an airless hole of a night club on the Boulevard Raspail when I was a Junior Year Abroad student. You, rather pale in a black turtleneck sweater, told me how the blue notes of saxophones through smoke-filled haze ushered in the dawns for you, and how you would walk the gray Paris streets in the first light back to a strange bed. Your evenings sounded exotic to one who was spending hers swaddled in sweaters and woolen stockings, doing homework in graph-paper cahiers.

“Later you told me that when you established the Aga Khan Prize for fiction, with a donation from the Aga, he had sent in his own story to compete for the prize. I think you should publish his contribution in your 25th (or 50th) Anniversary issue.

“Every time I open a Paris Review, I pause at William Pène du Bois’ drawing of the Place de la Concorde. You can feel his delight in every element translated into every line. That drawing represents the way I felt about Paris.

“Now there are students running off to Paris to be like you. Congratulations, dear George.”



Many of the people in the background of the Paris Review sent messages upon news of the 25th anniversary of the magazine. One of them was Archibald MacLeish who had taught a number of the editors in his English S class when he was the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric at Harvard in the early fifties, and they were undergraduates. Mr. MacLeish wrote as follows: “I would never have believed, left to myself, that a Harvard writing class, meeting on the top floor of Widener in the winter dusk—even a Harvard writing class composed of such as you and Don Hall and Blair Fuller and the rest—would produce what the Paris Review has turned out to be. I was as proud of it when it first appeared as if it were my own doing, which, of course, it wasn’t, but yours and Peter Matthiessen’s and Sadruddin Aga Khan’s. And now that it has survived for a quarter of a century and become one of the distinguished publications of the time, I find it hard to credit my own recollections of those distant days.

“Oh, English S had a role to play but not through me—through you and those young faces I can still see in the dim light of that one window. I suppose that was why I responded as I did when you asked me for a manuscript page to go with my The Art of Poetry XVIII in number 58. What I sent you was not a proper manuscript but an unpublished poem about George Barker’s eulogy of Dylan Thomas who had just died—unpublished, as I wrote you, ‘because Dylan’s death was too great a loss and George Barker’s piece was too deeply felt to fool with in a tone like this.’ It was called—my poem—Whistler in the Dark, and it is still unpublished except for its appearance under somewhat false pretenses, in the Review. It would comfort me if you would publish it properly, not as a manuscript but as itself—as a poem—my homage to your magazine and to the others and to you. Thus:


Whistler in the Dark

George Barker, British poet,

wrote a eulogy of Dylan Thomas:

calls him whistler in the dark

and great because the dark is getting darker.


Is it? Was the dark not always darker?

Have we not always had these silver whistlers?


                  That’s Chaucer like a bobolink.


I think it’s not the darkness growing darker

makes for whistling well. I think

it’s knowing how to whistle.



That’s Dylan trilling like a lark.



Obviously one cannot do more than suggest the history of an enterprise such as the Paris Review with sketches of this sort. There is not enough here about the contributions of Thomas H. Guinzburg who set up the New York business end of things in 1953; or of Molly McKaughan, an attractive and energetic Smith graduate who ran the office in the mid-seventies and was responsible for arranging the magazine’s operations in the U.S. when everything was pulled back from France and the bills were finally paid in Nijmegen; there should be something about the horse, Paris Review (by Noholme II out of Pride of Paris) which won the Prince of Wales Stakes at York in 1974 and not much subsequently, and is now standing peacefully at stud in Australia; any mention of Australia should bring to mind Vali, the orange-haired gypsy-girl from that continent with the blue jeans and the worn red ballet slippers who danced at L’Escale under the fishnet ceiling; and what about the softball games in the long grass at the country-places outside of Paris on the weekends, or the weekends at Haar-Zuylen where Gaby and Teddy invited those who had been to Nijmegen to the castle whose great hall had a carriage in it as a piece of furniture. There should be a description of Philip Roth receiving the Aga Khan Fiction prize at a rather formal ceremony in Paris and his unease upon being asked by Prince Aly Khan, who had not read the story, to describe the plot before the assemblage…which was difficult to do gracefully since the story (“Epstein”) concerned the woes of a retired Jewish paper-bag manufacturer who thinks he has come down with a venereal disease. Perhaps there should be a description or two of the dramas, the Great Gestures—the time Gregory Corso put a huge revolver to his head in front of the Café des Deux Magots and said he was going to pull the trigger because he was “disappointed” in France and the French (how Max Steele would have applauded, eh, Max?) and how the French police took him away and then released him almost instantly. The French police understood about the Great Gesture. They took away his pistol, but he returned to drink with the very patrons at the Deux Magots he had intended to jolt out of their chairs. There were others who tried—Christopher, for unrequited love, who travelled down to Barcelona planning to emulate Samuel Beckett’s story “The End” by rowing out of sight of the detested shore and pulling the bailing plugs in the bottom of the dinghy to settle into the sea, but it was winter, and boats were not available for hire, and he didn’t have enough money to buy even the most decrepit, so that Alex Trocchi, who had found where he was going, discovered him sitting mournfully on the beach with a tin of poison with not enough left of his funds to buy a can opener to go along with it: out on the beach he had tapped at it speculatively with a little stone. When the two returned, the writers working at the little tables out on the sidewalk in front of the Café de Tournon began to add the obligatory “Barcelona” scene into their manuscripts. There were others who succeeded where Christopher had failed. Oskar Dominguez was one, the Surrealist painter from the Canary Islands who went everywhere with Marie Laure de Noailles, majestically ugly (he’d had elephantiasis apparently) and possessed of a brutal handshake that one was warned about in the salons (the Editor once heard a sharp whelping cry and looked over to see William Faulkner writhing in his grip) and who cut his wrists and ankles and painted a mural in the blood of his lingering suicide on the walls of his little apartment. The French authorities sealed off the room; talk went around that a Commission was going to inspect the “painting” to deter-mine whether the apartment should be declared an artistic landmark; the Editor subsequently heard that the work was judged sans importance. But that could be checked out. There should be more about the city, what Paris was like then. What had John Ashbery said about it?—“Once you have been happy in Paris, you never can be happy anywhere else—not even in Paris.” Yes, and how appropriate considering how things were not the same: the Rue Perceval, where the Matthiessens had entertained in their studio with the sunlight dappling the floor through the ivy on the skylight, had vanished in a cluster of modern buildings including a fifty-five story skyscraper called the Antigone which had a press club in it, a swimming pool, a shopping center, and a hall for public meetings. One could leave that out of the sketches and what had happened to Les Halles. Better to have more about Bob Silvers, or Eddie Morgan, and the James Jones’s apartment on the Ile St. Louis with the police dog—Sir Dog he was called—waiting at the top of the stairs and the bar made from a pulpit, and the tall windows looking out on the Seine and the old-model tugboats whose tall smokestacks folded back on great hinges so they could get under the bridges. There is not enough about Fayette Hickox, who is the present managing editor and the master of delicate notes explaining why manuscripts have yet to be judged or might even have gone astray, or about Alex Trocchi escaping across the Canadian border from the drug authorities wearing two of the Editor’s suits, one over the other, along with a number of the Editor’s shirts and underwear, all “borrowed,” so as not to attract attention with a suitcase. There is no room in this issue for all this. It will have to wait—perhaps until the thirtieth anniversary. That would be appropriate enough. But the only guarantee that such an anniversary issue will be printed—especially if in its fashion it arrives three years late—would be if its subscribers and supporters continue to indicate an active interest in those whom Archibald MacLeish calls the “silver whistlers” and in the publications of their work.

That is easy enough. Below is the Editor’s calling card—both sides. One side, it will be noted, is a subscription blank. He presses them on family and friends. He leaves them on bus seats and slips them into the occasional open pocket. No harm done. No harm in filling one out.




1. Copyright 1981, Eugene Walter.