This year is the 5th anniversary of my book GERTRUDE AND ALICE AND FRITZ AND TOM. I know it’s a cliche, but I must say it anyway – “Where has the time gone?”
The book has found its way to readers around the world and just last week I shipped another five copies to Shakespeare & Company in Paris, which has sold more copies of it than any other bookstore or online retailer, which I find so appropriate and gratifying.
Would I do it again? Yes! Do I have more tales to tell, yes! But for now, here is my post from five years ago, as I awaited the first shipment of books from Singapore:
Wasn’t it Lady Macbeth who said “What’s done is done,” at some point either before or after that bloody dagger scene? (Just checked, it’s after the dagger scene – that would be logical !)
…the deed is done!
Well, I’ve done it too and feel a bit like a parent dropping off his first child at kindergarten hoping for the best as tears well-up and Miss Crabtree leads the young one away to join the other rascals.
Miss Crabtree in charge
So what is it that’s been done – the children’s picture book which I’ve been working on for…let’s just say many,many years is on its way to a printer in Singapore!
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There are certain people, both real or imaginary, who will always remain children in our memory.
From Peter Pan and his followers in Neverland, to Christopher Robin dragging Winnie the Pooh behind him, to the precocious rascals of the Our Gang comedies and the Depression-era tap dancing and ever-smiling Shirley Temple, these young ‘uns are ageless!
The ageless Peter Pan
A bumpy ride for Mr. Pooh.
All together now rascals!
Miss Temple tapping the blues away!
I’m adding to this menagerie of Shangrila cuties, Arthur Anderson Peters, who wrote under the name Fritz Peters. Fritz would have turned 100 years old today.
Fritz at the age he was in Gertrude and Alice and Fritz and Tom
It was the wonderful chapter in his memoir, BOYHOOD WITH GURDJIEFF, which inspired me to write my picture book GERTRUDE AND ALICE AND FRITZ AND TOM. I just couldn’t resist retelling the story of two young boys, Fritz and his brother Tom, reveling under the tutelage of GertrudeandAlice in 1920s Paris. (Woody Allen, there’s a Paris sequel for you!) And Fritz’s quote about his years at the boarding school outside of Paris helped to make the decision to do the book even easier:
“I have never forgotten that winter. The long evenings of reading and study in our warm rooms [and] looking forward to my visits to Paris with Gertrude and Alice.”
On his 100th birthday, I pay tribute to Fritz Peters, a tribute that is long overdue.
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I have often referred to the book CHARMED CIRCLE by James R. Mellow as it was the book that first got me interested in Gertrude Stein and her crowd.
Now I’m so happy to announce that the contemporary incarnation of an iconic institution that played a pivotal role in the lives of many members of Stein’s Charmed Circle is now selling copies of my book GERTRUDE AND ALICE AND FRITZ AND TOM (GAAAFAT.*)
[*not to be confused with what many a gay man is trying to lose at Gold’s Gym!]
That institution is Shakespeare and Company in Paris! The original bookstore sold and championed the works of Stein, Joyce, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald among many others. Its modern counterpart has continued the tradition for more than sixty years.
James Joyce, Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier in the original Shakespeare & Co., 1920
The current Shakespeare and Company at 37, rue Bûcherie, one of the Parisian landmarks included in Woody Allen's hit movie "Midnight in Paris."
I must confess that copies of the book are already at another Shakespeare & Co., the beautiful, little English-language book shop in Vienna located on the poetically named street, Sterngasse (“star way“), which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. But having copies of the books in Paris within a catapult’s boulder throw from Notre Dame is such a thrill.
Not to mention that were Fritz and Tom to turn around in the illustration in the book in which they are on Notre Dame’s tower (within the watchful glare of a gargoyle), they would have a direct view across the Seine to where the current Shakespeare and Co. bookstore has been located since 1951. (The bookstore, founded by George Whitman was originally named Le Mistral, but was renamed in 1964 as a tribute to Sylvia Beach who died that year.)
Whitman died in December of last year at the age of 98.
Born in Baltimore, Sylvia Beach moved to Paris in the last years of WWI and opened Shakespeare and Company at 8, Rue Dupuytren in 1919. Two years later it moved to its famous location at 12, Rue de l’Odéon. The shop was a combination English-language bookstore and lending library replicating the French version of the store that had been started by Adrienne Monnier who would become Sylvia’s life partner . Gertrude and Alice were among the first holders of “library cards”. In her autobiography, published in 1959 Beach recalls the “Two Customers from Rue de Fleurus”:
“Not long after I opened my bookshop, two women came walking down rue Dupuytre. One of them, with a very fine face, was stout,wore a long robe, and on her head, a most becoming top of a basket. She was accompanied by a slim, dark, whimsical woman: she reminded me of a gypsy. They were Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
…Gertrude subscribed to my lending library, but complained that there were no amusing books in it. Where, she asked indignantly, were those American masterpieces The Trail of the Lonesome Pine and The Girl of the Limberlost?
…To make up for her unjust criticism of Shakespeare and Company, she bestowed several of her works on us: quite rare items such as Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia and that thing with the terrifying title, Have They Attacked Mary: He giggled:A Political Caricature.”
A moment of intimate gossip between Sylvia Beach and Alice in Paris, 1959
Another connection between GAAAFAT and Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Co. is Joyce’s book ULYSSES.
Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson, the guardians of Fritz and Tom, serialized the Joyce book in The Little Review from 1918-1921. Publication of the book was halted when the U.S. government considered the material in the last installment obscene: it contained a masturbation scene.
Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson, mid-1920s
Heap and Anderson were tried and a portion of the book was declared obscene. They were fined $50 each. Sylvia Beach published ULYSSES in 1922, but it was banned in the U.S. until 1934 when it was judged “not pornographic, so it could not be obscene!” Only 1000 copies were printed and are among the most prized books by collectors of 20th century first editions.
The amusing book at Shakespeare and Company, Paris 2012
Well, now that copies of GERTRUDE AND ALICE AND FRITZ AND TOM
are at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, let’s hope that were Gertrude Stein to stop by today, she would be as pleased as punch to find that
amusing book there, a few shelves away from the American masterpieces by members of her Charmed Circle!
It’s Thanksgiving time and time to talk “food,” as if many of us need a holiday as an excuse to talk food!
In the annual food issue of The New Yorker magazine this past week, there is an article by Laura Shapiro, “The First Kitchen,” about the cuisine in the White House during the tenure of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Apparently the food was quite horrible, but not because of the Depression or World War II, but because of the cook that Mrs, Roosevelt had hired, a Mrs. Henrietta Nesbitt.
I couldn’t help but wonder if during their visit to the White House for tea in December, 1934, GertrudeandAlice encountered any of Mrs. Nesbitt’s culinary curiosities. And if they did, were they the perfect guests NOT whispering in Eleanor’s ear that “This Mrs. N. has got to go, for the health of the country!”
FDR carving the Bird!
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let’s turn to tastier things.
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