In Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris, Gil has a fantasy about being transported back in time to Paris in the 1920s. Call me Gil. My Paris fantasy began with reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast in 1965.
NPR’s “All Things Considered” was my favorite news program when I was on sabbatical at the University of Southern California in 1981-82. I listened to it evenings driving home from the campus.
One evening there was an interview with a woman who had written a book about her parents and their life in Paris. The parents, the products of wealthy families, were disillusioned with life in the U.S. in the 20s and made a decision to move with their three children to Paris.
The author described growing up around her parents’ friends who included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso, to name only a few. The story captured my interest. I wanted to purchase the book immediately; but, because I was driving, I was unable to write down either the author’s name or the title of the book. By the time I got home, I had forgotten both. For a librarian with excellent reference skills, that shouldn’t be a problem, I thought.
I spent the next twelve years—on and off—searching for that book. One evening in 1994, I turned on the television. The program that came on was A&E’s Biography featuring the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I stopped to watch before changing the channel. A woman was talking about her relationship to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The woman, Honoria Murphy Donnelly, daughter of Sara and Gerald Murphy, was the author of Sara and Gerald: The Villa America and Beyond. The book I had been searching for twelve years. At last I was able to acquire a copy even though it was then out of print. I read the book which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Everybody was So Young, Amanda Vail’s biography of Sara and Gerald Murphy, fueled my fascination with the Murphy’s and the expatriate American artists who lived in Paris in the 20s and 30s.
In Appetite for Life, Noel Riley Fitch’s biography of Julia Child, I learned that Paul Child lived in Paris in the 20s and was tangentially connected to that group. Later, Julia and he met Gerald and Sara in Paris.
My friend John and I went to see Midnight in Paris. I “got” it immediately. The story is my Paris fantasy. After the movie, I told John about my fascination with Paris in the 20s and the search for the Murphys.
“My mother’s uncle was Henry, “Mike,” Strater,” John said. “He was a painter who lived in Paris in the 20s and he was a friend of Hemingway’s. He painted his portrait.”
When I got home, I researched Henry Strater. Strater did two portraits of Hemingway. One of the portraits was used as the cover art for the dust jacket of Carlos Baker’s Hemingway: A Life Story.
“Six degrees of separation!” I shouted into the phone when John answered. “Through you, I am connected to people I have been fascinated with for 45 years. I am experiencing Midnight in Paris!”