The writer's name is Mary Ellen Jordan Haight, and her book is "Walks in Gertrude Stein's Paris," a spiffy new trade paperback from Peregrine Smith Books in Layton.
It's a guidebook of sorts, a collection and selection of walking tours around the City of Light that take you past the residences of the greatest writers and artists of the 20th century.The book's been a couple of years getting published. But then it's been a decade getting written. Mary Ellen Haight is a Francophile. She loves Paris in the springtime, winter, summer; for her it's a city for all times and seasons.
"The nice thing," she says, "is Paris never changes. They don't go around tearing it down. I'll never have to update this book. It will be current 100 years from now."
The book is divided into five "theme walks:" The Literary Quarter, Aristocratic Quarter, The Spirit of Odeonia, The Artisans and Founderies and The Heart of Bohemia.
Many great French writers and painters are included, of course, but Haight's underlying interest is obviously the group of English-speaking writers who went to Paris in the 20s: Ernest Hemingway, Gerturde Stein, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Isadora Duncan. Stein labeled her cabal "The Lost Generation."
"Actually," says Haight, "Gertrude Stein's mechanic coined the term `Lost Generation' to describe a young Frenchman home from the war. Stein simply applied it to her circle of personal friends."
Haight, who lives in the Haight district of San Francisco, feels that Paris in the 20s was probably much like San Francisco in the 60s: a haven for dropouts, artists, idealists and anarchists. A Bohemia.
"I know it wasn't all wonderful," she says. "I've heard the stories about Hart Crane and others and know it could be harrowing. Still, I suppose I try to perpetuate the myth of an artistic Utopia to a degree."
When asked if there were any landmarks she left out of the book because she didn't want to exploit them, Haight flashes a wry smile.
"Only the hotel where I stay when I go to France," she says, "and the home of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. I simply mention that their home is `nearby.' "
An academic at heart, Haight had to rewrite the book several times to capture the voice she wanted.
"I didn't want a travel book, and I didn't want an academic book. I wanted it to be useful to many groups of people," she says. "I ended up writing it as if I were writing personal letters to a good friend. I think I was able to make it both informative and fun to read."