urban literary-knot

Jeunesse dorée September 1, 2009

Gilded Youth

 

Kate Cambor’s first book opens in 1914, the year France lurched from the opulence of the Gilded Age into the clamor of the modern world. Gone were the days when debutantes danced until dawn at mountainside resorts and literary giants like Victor Hugo and Alphonse Daudet presided over exclusive Paris salons. Ushered in was an era of war and disorientation. “The new generation of writers and politicians . . . were engaged in a battle of epic and Oedipal proportions,” Cambor writes. “At stake was nothing less than the heart and soul of Mother France.”

This new age is seen through the eyes of three young Parisians: Léon Daudet was the son of novelist Alphonse Daudet, Jeanne Hugo the granddaughter of Victor Hugo, and Jean-Baptiste Charcot the son of neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Each was born at the height of Third Republic society, “poised, more than most, to take advantage of the promises of the dawning century.” Instead, the three friends fell victim to a string of personal and political crises. As Cambor notes, the problem was primarily one of momentum — the “faith in science and progress” that defined the Gilded Age was eroded by the arrival of mechanized combat, psychoanalytic theory and a dizzying rush of experimental art. Born to one era, Charcot, Daudet and Hugo struggled, and failed, to adjust to the mores of the next.

Matthew Shaer

 

‘Looking for Mr Goodvegetable’… November 2, 2007

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It’s slightly ironic that I’m living in the city, close to Lake Michigan, and yearning restlessly to head back “to the country”; writing about urban irks and how irritating Wisconsin is for the most part. 

What country exactly I’m bemoaning about, more and more is continuously becoming less and less- that’s for certain.  When I take the occasional drive back to my childhood haunts I see McMansion’s rising up all over the those ‘ol farmlands.  

When we first moved “out there” as kids from the city, there were still wild turkeys in our backyard, pheasants galore, and the memories of cross-country skiing for endless stretches of snow-packed miles- it was great to have that kind of childhood abundance and freedom.

In this economy I’m constantly amazed at the cha-ching spilling over, and the sources for many of these endeavors is certainly questionable… all in the name of continued “growth and progress”- yadda-yadda..   

For all the “green” talk, you certainly don’t see much pause to reflect on the McMansion-builders and buyers side, the microcosm/macrocosm is quite blantant even if you are “too busy” for that type of  mental withdraw.

Only a few chapters into Barbra Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life  and admittedly, I’m completely taken up by the family’s adventure thus far..

Feel free to comment and discuss if you’ve already had the pleasure.