semi-detached from the lost generation

“Among democratic nations each generation is a new people.” —Alexis de Tocqueville.

They were the children of the lost generation.The “Lost Generation” moniker was invented by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Ernest Hemingway; it became popular during the age wars that escalated after the First World War and during Prohibition.For the offspring born in the  1920’s the bar was high. To follow the generation that created legends and lived their myths and suffered great lessons in disappointment, was a long shadow indeed.

For the most part they were too young for the war and they grew up in the Depression during which the swingin’ flappers of the jazz generation tended to morph into  arch conservatives. Its almost uncanny how succeeding generations evolve over two distinct paths each quite capable of bringing a certain redemptive force to bear on the challenges they see. Yet, there is almost never a dialogue between the generations though each needs the other to be whole. There seems to be the dynamic of the “narcissism of small differences at work.”

Kind of ironic that Fran Landesman who just passed away, wrote the lyrics for what became jazz standards and was a central figure in the Beat scene; the same ambiance of relaxed moral attitudes that found another recently deceased 20’s child, Tony Curtis reveling in all its hedonistic glory.They seemed to go back to the grandparents of the lost generation: the vaudeville circuits and traveling shows.The new frontier. Well, some did like it hot…..

---In 1950 she married Jay Landesman, a bohemian who, in the course of a lifelong quest for a stardom that ultimately proved elusive, had already taken “tea with Bette Davis, cocktails with Bessie Smith and LSD with Timothy Leary”; he had also founded a short-lived avant-garde magazine called Neurotica, which purported to explore the “inner darkness” troubling modern America, but was mainly an excuse to write about sex. In the early 1950s the Landesmans became known for their “open house” parties in Greenwich Village featuring “the most beautiful and neurotic people in the world”. When Jay made plain early on that he did not want monogamy, Fran was delighted: “It meant I could have lovers too.” Subsequently the couple moved to St Louis, where Landesman and his brother opened the Crystal Palace, giving Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce and Barbra Streisand their first breaks in cabaret. --- Read More: image:

…But she ended up marrying Jay Landesman, who published Neurotica, a magazine that gave the Beats a platform while seeking to explore America’s “inner darkness.” “He’ll make a good first husband,” she decided. They were wed for 61 years; Mr. Landesman died at 91 in February. They had a remarkably open marriage in which each brought partners home to sleep in separate bedrooms. Everyone then had breakfast together. Their teenage sons, Cosmo and Miles, were appalled….

In his 2008 book, “Starstruck: Fame, Failure, My Family and Me,” Cosmo Landesman wrote: “The thing that upset me the most was their dress and appearance. I can remember when I thought of having them committed to the Institute for the Criminally Dressed. It was parents’ day at school. They arrived looking like two hippies who had failed the audition for the musical ‘Hair.’ ” Read More:

The Lost Generation was the first that blissfully swallowed the manipulations of  Edward Bernays and Walter Lippman et al. It was the first modern age; something marked by disavowal, the manufacture of innocence and some of the most articulate insights into the deep psychosis of the American Dream. The paradox of dialogue between the generations is always to be found in the in-between, something elusive that seems to die through he act of giving birth or parenting children, that makes it extremely challenging to correlate and curate the best from each. The incessant demands of identity negating a connectiveness.And,  Like all generations, they constantly hear older people tell them that their chapter of history was likely to close the book on human progress.


---Wittgenstein once said, “I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” In many ways his own life was far from enjoyable — three of his four brothers committed suicide and at times he contemplated doing the same. Even so, as he lost consciousness his dying words were, “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life.”...Shortly after Keynes picked him up at the station in 1929, Cambridge faced the fact that he had no PhD, therefore could not be a real don. It was agreed that he could submit his already famous Tractatus as his doctoral thesis. Two giants, Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, agreed to judge it. When they asked questions about it, Wittgenstein said “Don’t worry, I know you’ll never understand it.” He was accepted nevertheless. Read More:

..The parents of the 20’s generation were extremely primitive in manys way. Protective of privilege and generally racist. When young Lost men took the first IQ tests, in WWI  the results  indicated that about  half  of all draftees possessed  a “mental age” of about twelve. This became a mania, even rumors of euthanasia.  As the 20’s progressed the “threat of the feeble-minded” turned many older voters against immigrants. The psychologist Henry Goddard got a lot of traction by applying   “moron,” “idiot

and “imbecile” as technical terms in categorizing gradations of youthful stupidity.

---The Flappers also went out without a man to look after them, went to all-night parties, drove motor cars, smoked in public and held men’s hands without wearing gloves. Mothers formed the Anti-Flirt League to protest against the acts of their daughters. But after the horror of the First World War, the younger generation mistrusted the older generation and ‘did their own thing’ which flew in the face of the establishment. The person who the Flappers most looked up to was Clara Bow - the vamp in the film "It". Linked to the growth of an alternate generation, was the growth in jazz. This lead to new dances being created which further angered the older generation. The Charleston, One Step and Black Bottom were only for the young and the last one angered the establishment by name alone. The most famous jazzmen were Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller and Benny Goodman....Read More: image:

My sweetie and I are semi-detachcd
We’re comfy and cool and perfectly matched
His lover is Ann. My lover is Art.
We’re semi-detached but never apart

When some of our loves are semi-destroyed
We make it alright by quoting them Freud
We play little games and never get scratched
It’s easy because we’re semi-detached

---The key to Fitzgerald, writer and legend, is “romantic.” James West says: He lived his life as a romantic, equally capable of great dedication to his craft and reckless squandering of his artistic capital.” Fitzgerald had a nostalgic love for the American past and a distrust of its future. He embraced the Old South that his father (a Confederate veteran of the Civil War) conveyed to him. He had a romantic affection for lost causes and believed there was an innocent nobility in the quest for something unattainable, like Jay Gatsby’s dream of possessing Daisy. Fitzgerald was an outsider among the American elite he encountered at Princeton, an Irish Catholic from the Midwest, and in the 1920s he embraced the frenzied life of the rich without really approving of it or feeling accepted. The evidence suggests he was destroyed by his own myth, the same myth that made him a writer of permanent value.--- Read More: image:

Sometimes a playmate leaves us
For unconnected charms
But when a parting grieves us
We’ve got each other’s arms

We each have a side that’s free as the air
And people don’t see the side that we share
Our set-up is sweet. There isn’t a catch
The secret is living semi-detached ( lyrics Fran Landesman )

---Fran and Jay Landesman sound like a tough set of parents. She a poet and jazz singer, he a producer and comedian. Together they fled the US due to a perceived lack of success, viewing Swinging 60s London as a kinder, less competitive atmosphere for their muses to flourish. But still the rejection letters and mixed critical reactions flooded in, all the while injecting their boy Cosmo with a sense of worth lower than that of a dying wasp. Landesman Jr would eventually get hitched to Julie Burchill, whose encouragement of his career was at best idiosyncratic, though she did allow him to write film reviews under her name having grown tired of sitting in dark cinemas with ‘smelly old men’.--- Read More:

Through the 1920s embittered thirty-year-olds fought ideology with desperate hedonism, babbittry with endless binges, moral crusades with bathtub gin and opulent sex. “America was going on the greatest, gaudiest spree in history,” Fitzgerald bubbled—and John Dos Passos cried, “Down with the middle-aged!” In his 1920 Atlantic Monthly article “’These Wild Young People,’ By One of Them,” John Carter observed that “magazines have been crowded with pessimistic descriptions of the younger generation”—but added, “the older generation had certainly pretty well ruined this world before passing it on to us.” Almost everything young adults went in for in the twenties—heavy drinking, loud jazz, flashy
clothes, brassy marketing, kinetic dancing, extravagant gambling, sleek cars, tough talk— sent a defiant message to pompous “tired radicals” (as young writers tauntingly called them) about the futility of searching for deeper meaning. Later on, after the Lost entered midlife with a crash (the Great Depression), they changed character completely. Read More:

…An extensive art collection and other memorabilia that once belonged to late Hollywood actor Tony Curtis are to be sold at auction next month in Beverly Hills, sale organizers said Tuesday.The actor immortalized in “Some Like It Hot,” and who died last year, was also an accomplished flautist and a painter whose work resides in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

---"That made no difference. You had to pretend not to be. Then because the men found me too much of a competition sexually, they even started rumours I was homosexual. They put me in baggy trousers and made me go naked from the waist up like a girl." It is true. One particularly unsuitable piece of casting was to make him play the role of an English medieval knight in The Black Shield Of Falworth. Critics howled when he came out in sheer Bronxese with: "Yondda lies de cassle of my fuddah." ..."I'm not wearing my toupee at the moment. Can't be bothered," he grins. "But I'm glad you appreciate me. I was more than just a guy who had two girls a day." Read more: image:

There’s little doubt that the glitz and glamour of the movie world has left its mark on his visual images. Many of his Van Gogh-ish still life images seem larger than life and encompass great visual concepts within the confines of the canvas making a powerful statement of the artist’s skill. Painted with great spontaneity, they reflect the underlying discipline that is the source of his confidence in his true artistic gift. He has said that he wishes he had a cigar box of memories for every day of his life. And true to that theme, he has been creating mysterious little assemblages inside found containers – a crate, a shipping box, an old silverware drawer, anything that could be used to “freeze time” under glass….

---Throughout his life, Curtis enjoyed painting, and since the early 1980s, painted as a second career. His work commands more than $25,000 a canvas now. In the last years of his life, he concentrated on painting rather than movies. --- Read More:

…”Not an hour of any day goes by that I’m not finding something new to use,” he says. In one box was the striking image of a hand gripping the image of an old clock thereby stopping time. Other boxes contained old snapshots or letters, rosary beads, golf balls and even shot glasses. “I’ve got boxes I’ve started years ago that are not finished yet. One day, I know I’ll come across that last object that will spring out at me and say, ‘Aha!’ to finally make it complete.” Tony’s bright acrylic canvasses have been favorably compared to those of Matisse.Read More:

Tony Curtis. 1947.---Fran was born Frances Deitsch in New York, daughter of a clothes manufacturer, and was educated at Temple University, Philadelphia, and at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Soon after their marriage, the Landesmans moved to Jay's home town, St Louis, Missouri, where he and his brother opened the Crystal Palace, a hip night club in the rundown Gaslight Square district of town that staged performers including Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce. Fran's friendship with Bruce led to him proposing: "Let's you and me go on the road and send him a little money every month." Bruce was not the last person to succumb to Fran's charm and openness – Jay's non-possessive attitude gave them both the freedom to develop relationships within their marriage...Read More: image:


This passage is from a draft of Wittgenstein’s foreword to Philosophical Remarks (1930):

“This book is written for those who are in sympathy with the spirit in which it is written. This is not, I believe, the spirit of the main current of European and American civilization. The spirit of this civilization makes itself manifest in the industry, architecture and music of our time, in its fascism and socialism, and it is alien and uncongenial to the author. This is not a value judgment. It is not, it is true, as though he accepted what nowadays passes for architecture as architecture, or did not approach what is called modern music with the greatest suspicion (though without understanding its language), but still, the disappearance of the arts does not justify judging disparagingly the human beings who make up this civilization….

Robert Fulford:He started The Garden of Eden in 1946 and worked on it sporadically for the last 15 years of his life. He never made the decision to publish it and left it unfinished, at 200,000 words. I The central character, David Bourne, is a First World War veteran, the author of a successful war novel. He resembles Hemingway’s image in several ways but in several others they sharply differ. ... He’s also an anti-Hemingway, more hesitant about his views than other Hemingway heroes, and more diffident. He’s dominated by his wife. Unlike any male Hemingway described elsewhere, he’s passive. Catherine wants to discover sexuality by experimenting with their personalities. She suggests they pretend he’s the woman and she’s the man. She has her hair cut short and gets him to have the same cut done by the same hairdresser. David goes along, both fascinated and reluctant. They dye their hair the same white blonde. They meet a woman named Marita who finds both of them attractive. Catherine has an affair with her and encourages David to do the same. They are all nervous, as their frequent drunkenness suggests, and Catherine begins descending into what looks like madness. David sets to work on an old story from his childhood as a way to pull himself together. Hemingway’s understated approach to the vagaries of desire is engaging but the narrative never springs to life. He was right not to publish it. Still, it’s an unignorable sign that he was thinking some brave and unexpected thoughts over those relatively fallow years. A good writer, choosing Hemingway as the basis of a novel, might do well to begin with the implications of The Garden of Eden. Read More:

. . . . .
I realize then that the disappearance of a culture does not signify the disappearance of human value, but simply of certain means of expressing this value, yet the fact remains that I have no sympathy for the current of European civilization and do not understand its goals, if it has any….Read More:

…Our civilization is characterized by the word ‘progress’. Progress is its form rather than making progress being one of its features. Typically it constructs. It is occupied with building an ever more complicated structure. And even clarity is sought only as a means to this end, not as an end in itself. For me on the contrary clarity, perspicuity are valuable in themselves….

---Last March, the singer Shepley Metcalf performed Ms. Landesman’s songs in Manhattan. The New York Times critic Stephen Holden likened the lyricist to “a cranky, jazz-steeped Beat Generation Dorothy Parker.” He continued, “In those days of hanging out in bars into the wee small hours, dragging home strangers whom you can’t remember the next morning and generally acting in the name of hip, dissipation was a competitive urban sport and Ms. Landesman one of its champion chroniclers.” ---Read More:

…I am not interested in constructing a building, so much as having a perspicuous view of the foundations of possible buildings.( from posting by Stephen Pentz ) Read More:


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