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Flanner, Janet.

An American in Paris.


Flanner, Janet. An American in Paris. Profile of an Interlude between two Wars. By Janet Flanner "Genêt" of The New Yorker. New York: Simon and Schuster, (1940).
8vo.; topstained grey; light grey cloth boards; stamped in white and gilt; spine sunned and gilt rubbed; corners frayed. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
First edition; some stories originally appeared in Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar and The New Yorker. A presentation copy, inscribed: To our Miss Terry/who manages us all and to whom we're devoted - Janet Flanner/May 1940. Daise Terry was the office manager at The New Yorker, who was notorious for her terrible moods and her mean disposition. It was assumed that she liked no one in the office - except, incongruously, Truman Capote - and nobody liked her, but she was devoted to the magazine. One wonders how much of Flanner's inscription was written in the spirit of irony.
An anthology of Flanner's writing, including profiles she had written for The New Yorker, an article on spies for Harper's, and articles on French crime for Vanity Fair. In twenty-three chapters, and a Preface titled, "Prefatory: All Gaul is Divided." Titles of her profiles include "Her Majesty Queen Mary," about Queen Mary of England; "One Man Group," about Pablo Picasso; "Dearest Edith," about Edith Wharton; and "Come as Somebody Else," about legendary hostess Elsa Maxwell. These are followed by "Four Studies in Modes," which are pieces she wrote about the couturiers Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Mainbocher. The "Crime and Punishment" section consists of eight recapitulations of French crimes and trials.
Flanner explains in her Preface that the writing reflected in her book spans the period between World Wars I and II:
In 1921 the surface of French life suddenly began to look normal, that is to say France began reliving as if peace were natural, indigenous, and permanent to European man. This notion of existence lasted until the summer of 1938 or just long enough to produce a new generation old enough to bear arms, in the autumn of 1939, in proof of the falsehood. (3)
This time period parallels Flanner's own Parisian tenure; she arrived in the city in 1922 and lived there without pause until the fall of 1939 - the beginning of the war in Europe - when she and other expatriates in the city fled for safety.
Once in New York, Flanner aquired a small space to work in at The New Yorker office, courtesy of Daise Terry; the magazine kept her occupied but did not cure the homesickness she felt for her adopted city; "It was difficult to concentrate. The symbols of her life were gone; so were her friends, her community, her routine of work and pleasure" (Genet. A biography of Janet Flanner. By Brenda Wineapple, New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1989, p. 164). Flanner did not return to Paris until 1944.
Flanner (1892-1978) was born in Indianapolis, but spent most of her life - and is famous for her expatriate status - in Paris. The city she grew up in is described in her biography as "civic-minded, proud, and increasingly prosperous" (ibid., p. 2), and Flanner's upbringing echoed all of these qualities; Flanner, however, did not conform to these standards, even at an early age. "Janet was a precocious child, outspoken and strong-willed, who liked to do things her own way" (ibid., p. 12), and "she was popular and lively, full of fun, high spirits, and a sly humor" (ibid., p. 18).
Janet fell in love with Europe when she was seventeen, after traveling there upon graduating from high school. Wineapple attributes the atmosphere and offerings of Europe as awakening in Flanner "the promise of…sexual and aesthetic…pleasures, often indistinguishable from one another" (ibid., p. 21). Flanner has written about the experience as well, describing the "beautiful gardens, the beautiful palaces," of Europe, and that "[she] was consumed by this necessity, a kind of magnificent malady, a fever to take part, if only as an onlooker" (ibid.). But it was this "outsider" status that eventually became Flanner's ticket to recognition and fame.    
In 1925, Harold Ross, editor of the fledging New Yorker magazine, christened Flanner "Genêt" and dubbed her the Paris correspondent to the magazine, a position from which she reigned for a solid half a century.
In addition to being their Paris correspondent, Flanner also was active during World War II as a wartime broadcaster. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1947 for her "Letter from Paris" column, and an honorary degree form Smith College in 1958; she was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her hobbies are noted as "conversation, croquet, card games, chess, harmonica."

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