On my last day in Paris, as I was walking through Luxembourg Gardens, I couldn’t help but thinking about Ernest Hemingway. Actually I was thinking of how unimpressed with him I was. That’s right – unimpressed. Why? Because I’m pretty sure I caught five pigeons without even trying (though I can’t be certain as I was trying not to throw up as they all flew into my face). So, if the rumors are true — he’s not much of a hunter, more of a grabber, if you will.
Of course, I also spent the last day visiting the original sites of Shakespeare and Company (there were two, but the later is the one that lasted longest and was most well known), and Gertrude Stein’s house (or should I say Salon?). If you read any of my articles you know I’m the one who stands in these oh-so-holy spots, not necessarily looking at the face of the building, but rather envisioning the steps on the sidewalk. Who walked here? Who leaned against this door jamb? How many times did so-and-so touch this handle entering the building?
While pressing my face to the glass of the entry way to Stein’s lobby, I had to wonder two things. 1.) How many people think I’m a creepy Peeping Tom (or Tom-ette in my case), and 2.) Who will be the literary legends of our time?
These writers and artists of the Lost Generation didn’t know the legacies they would leave, they were just creating their lives. Granted they lived to see success, but many of them moved to Paris because it was affordable and the left bank was friendly to artists and people with unconventional lifestyles (ex. both Stein and Sylvia Beach were lesbians… not exactly something that was embraced heartily in the culture of 1920’s United States). Was it just pure luck; the talent, the timing, the place — all combining at the perfect moment to make a generation that is revered? This, of course, does not just relate to literature — but other things as well (think politics/ Kennedys/ Camelot) that could never happen in 2011 even if it were re-created exactly.
So who will be the legends of our time? Which authors will be those whom our grandchildren and great-grandchildren (the highly bookish, obsessive ones of course) press their faces to the glass of the homes where said authors once lived… or “accidentally” fall on the writing desks or beds of?