Nostalgic yet psychologically acute, 'Parisian Lives' chronicles the strange interconnections between Sir Arthur Lyly's career as a painter and his increasingly dangerous and desperate loves- for a Chicago gangster, a disturbed British sailor, a young Parisian tough, and a Spanish peasant boy....
|Number of Pages||:||211 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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Parisian Lives Reviews
Excellent, and unjustly forgotten. With its crystalline prose rendering gleefully raunchy queer hijinks during a storied moment in history, think of something akin to A Moveable Feast penned by Jean Genet, even if that doesn't at all get to the wonderful singularity of Steward's fictionalized memoir.
Sam Steward a.k.a. Johnny Mac Andrews creates a fictionalised account of inter-war lives in Paris and a not so gay, gay underworld. His main character apart from himself is Sir Arthur Lyly, a painter, friend of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas and incurable seeker after dangerous emotions. Sir Arthur is no doubt fictional but probably comprises traits of a number of real characters Steward met on his trips to Paris in the thirties and some of the other characters also reappear in different form in other novels, like André the sadistic thug who has a clear 'brother' in the 'flic' in the later novel 'The Caravaggio Shawl'. Interestingly, in the latter book the flic gives Steward's alter ego the benefit of his treatment while here it is Sir Arthur who seeks the raw emotions of being beaten up and f...ed. Steward's writing is clear sighted and the story of the artist who, seeks ever stronger emotions and through them destroys the objects of his desire, is credible even if I find Sir Arthur not likeable at all. Steward doesn't pretend he is and neither does anyone else in the story least of all the deadly Miss Toklas who Steward is tone perfect at portraying and whose sharp insight could puncture an armoured tank. Beyond the pleasure of having found another of the elusive Mr Steward's literary works, I have to admit the best parts of the book for me are the ones with the inimitable Gertrude Stein and the terrifying Alice Toklas. Ms Toklas was the secretary/companion of Stein and as such supposedly the second fiddle. What comes out in Parisian Lives more than in the other two novels I have read where these two appear, is the reason just why such a towering character as Stein would be with Toklas - because she could hold her own with Gertrude any time and then some! So ... Parisian Lives is a very worthwhile read; highly intelligent and revealing about what it meant to be gay in the pre-WW II States and Paris; brilliant in the portrayals of real and other characters; unflinching as Gertrude would have wished of human weaknesses and foibles; but finally not as much intelligent fun as the two 'Whodunnits' (Caravaggio Shawl & Murder is Murders is) and, despite a lot of things going on, obviously nowhere near as raunchy as any of the 'Phil Andros' offerings. It's probably a bit unlucky I should have read that just before 'Bitter Eden' which grabbed my be the soul-strings and overshadowed a bit of the pleasure I had reading Steward on Paris and Stein & Co.