Characters hanging out at Gotham
The Times City Room has a blog and I've been going back through it. The January 2, 2009, entry was a piece about the donation of the books and papers of the famed bookstore, the Gotham Book Mart, to the special collections department of Van Pelt Library here at the University of Pennsylvania. Actually, a donor paid the bookstore a sum for its contents, whereupon the donor anonymously donated them to Penn. Penn had announced this major acquisition back in mid-December of 2008, but a few weeks later the City Room blog took a broader look at this once-important literary watering hole and the context of its demise. And they ran a great photo of some denizens, including writers who have long interested me, such as Horace Gregory and his wife Marya Zaturenska. Above is that photo. Here I want to point out two characters I find especially fascinating. One is José Garcia Villa, a Flipino-American poet who did some writing but also some editing in the modernist milieu. Some time ago I had something to say about his experiment with poems in which all words were separated by commas; see "why,can't,traditional,meter,be,an,effect,too?" Garcia Villa is the slight dark-haired fellow standing under the man on the ladder (who happens to be W. H. Auden). Another favorite personage is the fellow sitting cross-legged on the floor: Charles Henri Ford, a novelist, poet, editor, photographer, collage artist and driving force behind the surrealist magazine View. He was born in Mississippi and I'm guessing he picked up the faux-ish handle "Henri" in Paris. He had escaped to France pretty early, and ran his first periodical there, titled Blues and subtitled "A Bisexual Bimonthly." Returned to New York in 1934 and lived there with his long-time partner, the quasi-exiled neo-romantic painter Pavel Tchelitchew. My favorite Ford story: he typed Djuna Barnes' novel Nightwood for her, while visiting Morocco in 1932 at the suggestion of Paul Bowles.