Monday, March 24, 2008

Algonquin Round Table

When we think of the Roaring Twenties, we think a lot about flappers, silent films, and prohibition. We tend to forget that the 1920s was an amazing time in American Literature.

Some of the noted authors of the decade were:
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby)
  • Sinclair Lewis (Main Street)
  • Willa Cather (My √Āntonia)
  • T.S. Eliot (Ezra Pound)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • Carl Sandburg
  • Eugene O'Neil
  • e. e. cummings

One of the most notorious groups of writers congregated at the Algonquin Hotel, in New York City. The group came to be known as the Algonquin Round Table, and was peopled by such noted authors as Dorothy Parker, Robert Sherwood, and George S. Kaufman. The group originated from young editors of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker magazines (the Algonquin was just down the street from their offices). The Round Table developed into a daily group of folk trading barbed whit and invective:

The Round Table's stock in trade was the barb, the blistering insult, delivered coolly to friend and foe alike, and the hero of the moment was the one who provided the last laugh, no matter at whose expense.1

The Clark County Library is showing a great movie about the Algonquin Round Table at the beginning of April: Mrs. Parker & the Vicious Circle. "Cigarette smoke and laughter. The hollow clink of martini glasses and biting one-liners. This was the famed lunch scene at the Algonquin Hotel's Round Table of the 1920's, home to a circle of mutually supportive artists that defined the heyday of sophistication and a literate era of wit and intellect."

This film would be a great way to get the flavor of the literary scene as it developed in the 20s!

1 The Editors of Time-Life Books, The Jazz Age - The 20s. Revised. Richmond, VA: Time-Life Books, 1998, page 169.

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