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Kafka was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir
by Anatole Broyard
Publisher: Vintage Books 1997
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Nineteen forty-six was a good time - perhaps the best time - in the twentieth century. The war was over and there was a terrific sense of coming back, of repossessing life. Rents were cheap, restaurants were cheap, and it seemed to me that happiness itself might be cheaply had." Broyard made his first bid for happiness by moving in with a young painter, the difficult and challenging Sheri Donatti - a protegee of Anais Nin - who never wore underpants and who "embodied the new trends in art, sex, and psychosis." Broyard tells their story; by turns comic and poignant, while describing along the way his meetings with Caitlan and Dylan Thomas, Delmore Schwartz, Dwight MacDonald, Maya Deren, William Gaddis, and other writers and artists just beginning their careers. He opens a bookstore on Cornelia Street ("If it hadn't been for books we would have been entirely at the mercy of sex. Books steadied us, they gave us gravity."). He goes to the New School and listens to Eric Fromm, Karen Horney and Meyer Shapiro ("I went to him as students, twenty years later, would go to India."). He tries going to a psychoanalysist ("I never gave him a chance. l had a literature rather than a personality."). In dazzling prose, Broyard captures with crystalline clarity the feeling of a particular time and place "when everything mattered, everything was serious." With economy, style, wit, flair, and astounding powers of observation, Broyard has left us a most remarkable memoir.

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