Penn State

Sandra Spanier - Professor of English and General Editor, Hemingway Letters Project, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Being Geniuses Together 1920-1939

Author: Kay Boyle and Robert McAlmon

Book Description:

Kay Boyle (1902-1992) was one of the last survivors of the so-called Lost Generation of expatriate writers and artists who gathered in Paris in the 1920s. Being Geniuses Together 1920-1930 provides a valuable fresh view of that legendary literary era. Boyle narrates an expatriate experience far different from the more famous chroniclers of the period like Ernest Hemingway and Malcolm Cowley--and different, too, from those of the better-known women of the Left Bank, like Sylvia Beach, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Boyle was a working single mother as well as a committed artist. Her friends included Black Sun Press publishers Harry and Caresse Crosby, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and poet and publisher Robert McAlmon, whose own enormous influence on the literary scene is largely forgotten. In this book, first published in 1968 and expanded in 1984, Boyle attempts to rectify that injustice by resurrecting McAlmon's 1938 memoirs, interleaving chapters of her own to carry on an unusual one-sided conversation with a departed friend.

Early on, Kay Boyle was considered, in the words of Katherine Anne Porter, one of the most "portentous" talents of her generation. Boyle went on to write more than forty books--novels, short stories, poetry, essays, translations, and memoirs. She won O. Henry Awards for Best Short Story of the Year in 1935 and 1941, and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She also had three husbands and six children. Her career is a case study in the politics of literary reputation she is a classic example of an overlooked woman writer ripe for "rediscovery."


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