Special to the Enterprise
Allen J. Kourofsky, "A Paris Table: A Novel" (Peru, N.Y.: Bloated Toe Publishing, 2012)
Imagine a time when young Americans wanted to be starving artists in the Bohemian quarter of Paris, when their heroes were Hemingway and Joyce, painters like Picasso and George Braque, composers like Stravinsky and George Antheil. This was the 1920s, when Ezra Pound lived in Paris. Gertrude Stein had made it her home. Eugene Atget had already finished his famous photographic survey of the "other" Paris. Man Ray was teaching the camera to see surrealistically. Apollinaire was teaching poetry a similar language. Dada had dismissed the past. The world had been through a brutal world war. The past had failed civilization. Only the new could save it.
This is the world Allen Kourofsky of Ellenburgh Depot brings to life in his novel, "A Paris Table," but only as backdrop to a story about a young American who had studied accounting but instead wanted to be a poet. His experience driving an ambulance in World War I had given him a front row seat to the carnage, and like many in the decade after the war and before the market crash, he wanted to live as far as possible from the culture that had bred war. So, Montmartre it was, 1925, where bohemian culture had thrived since the 19th century.
The central character, never named, hangs out with four other young Americans in Paris at a caf run by Louis, a world-weary citizen of Paris who has seen it all but always finds ways to comfort his "lost" Americans. Into this picture comes a sixth, Lily, fresh off the boat, happy to find people who can teach her how to survive.
Kourofsky's hero sees Joyce and Sylvia Beach in her famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Co. He and his friends insist on going to the famous Quart'Z'Arts Ball, an annual bohemian rite of passage. At this gargantuan spectacle, our hero and Lily run into Gerald Murphy. He and his wife, Sara, were famous in France at this time for their wealth and their gift for entertaining, among many, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Fitzgerald made Gerald and Sara into the "Divers of Tender Is the Night." Kourofsky does a similar thing in A Paris Table by having Gerald Murphy invite his hero and Lily down to the Riviera for the weekend. They go, and among the surprises, John Reed shows up for dinner.
The central story of this couple takes a number of tight turns, which I won't mention, but if you want to visit a "lost" time and a "lost" generation, I recommend it highly.
It's wonderful that a dream should rise up in the Adirondacks so different from this place, and yet, to add a footnote, Sara Murphy (the real Sara Murphy) lived for a number of years in Saranac Lake to be near her son, Patrick, who eventually died of tuberculosis and, when the assistant Editor of transatlantic review appears briefly, she is most likely Jeanne Robert Foster, originally of Chestertown.
This review reflects the individual
view of the reviewer, not the views of the Adirondack Center for Writing or the Enterprise.