Book notes: Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

Anatole Broyard, a litrary critic for the NYTimes lived in Greenwich village right after the war in the 1940s. This book is a snapshopts of his observations.

The forties, seemed to have lost the world itself. It was as if these men had been blinded by reading. Their heads were so filled with books, fictional characters, and symbols that there was no room for the raw data of actuality. They couldn’t see the small, only the large.

People were making fun of hipsters even in 1940.

… piece I’d written called “Portrait of the Hipster.”

On the importance of reading nature poets from a dying man:

And remember to read the nature poets—a pastoral a day keeps the doctor away. Don’t be so proud of your anxiety.

Why jazz was not considered a full art form:

Also, it seemed to me that jazz relied too much on improvisation to be a full-fledged art form. Nobody could be that good on the spur of the moment. And there was too much cuteness in jazz. It stammered and strained. It took its sentimentality for wisdom.It seemed to me that jazz was just folk art. It might be terrific folk art, but it was still only local and temporary.

Everyone was a pretend writer in the village:

Half of the young men in the Village were writing such notes. They wrote them in cafeś, in the park, even on the street. You’d see them stop and pull out their pads or notebooks to jot down something that had just struck them—the color of the sky, the bend of a street, an incongruity. These notes were postcards to literature that we never mailed.

Reading had turned him into a saint or angel of scholarship, but in some ways I suspected that he was a martyr too, a Saint Sebastian shot through with arrows of abstraction.

If you did not get art, you became a critic:

It was such a relief to me to know that art could be explained. If I couldn’t love art for itself, I could love it, like Schapiro, for the explanations. It was better than never to have loved at all.