Friday, November 23, 2018

the last book I ever read (Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, excerpt eight)

from Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell:

Four days after Beer stood him up, Van Vechten invited around a poet named Wallace Stevens, who brought the manuscript for Harmonium, his first collection of poems, which Van Vechten had helped persuade Alfred Knopf to publish; it would come out in early 1923 and become one of the defining events of American modernism, including such now-classic poems as “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and “Anecdote of the Jar.” “I do not know which to prefer,” Stevens famously wrote in Harmonium, “the beauty of inflections or the beauty of innuendoes.”

In life, however, it seemed that Stevens had less difficulty identifying his preferences. After drinking “half a quart of my best bourbon,” Van Vechten reported, “Wallace told me he didn’t like me” and left. So much for the beauty of innuendoes.

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