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One can walk the grand boulevards, the embankments along the Seine, the cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter, the tree-lined paths of the Bois de Bologne or the Luxembourg Gardens and encounter ghosts from Voltaire and Henry James to William Faulkner and John Steinbeck trolling for words and ideas.
Washington Irving slept here, and Benjamin Franklin charmed the mademoiselles.
Pause for "un serieux," a large beer, at the Brasserie Lipp, where Ernest Hemingway wrote at a corner table on the terrace and one night rolled a rather too serious James Joyce home in a wheelbarrow.
The sidewalk terrace has been glassed-in against the weather, but the green awning and large sign in the shape of a beer mug still mark the apex of the Bermuda Triangle of serious literary boozers and schmoozers. Across the way on Boulevard St. Germain-des-Pres, named for the largest church on the Left Bank, yawn the terraces of Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots.
This trio of busy bistros was frequented at various times by Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, Andre Gide, Colette, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Wolfe and, over a game of dominoes, Ford Madox Ford and Allen Tate.
A few blocks away, Boulevard du Montparnasse offers a quartet of liquid literary shrines: La Coupole, another stop on the moveable feast that was Hemingway's Paris; La Rotonde, where Edna St. Vincent Millay burnt a few candles at both ends; Le Dome, now an excellent seafood restaurant and Le Select, where Hart Crane was hauled off to a successor of the Bastille after a punch-up with a waiter.
We discovered that strolling about Paris is like a graduate course in comparative lit while attending a seminar at the American University devoted to James Jones, the famed author of "From Here to Eternity." Jones lived and worked in Paris for a decade and a half, beginning in 1958. We became friends during the Vietnam War when he arrived in Saigon to do magazine articles, which led to his "Viet Journal," his only nonfiction book.
His daughter Kaylie, herself a fine novelist who grew up on Ile de St. Louis in the Seine, led a group of us seminarians on a pub crawl of her father's old haunts that inspired extracurricular study of other authors.
Jones was a regular at the Lipp, which figures in his Paris novel, "The Merry Month of May." But he claimed "the best beer in town is served in stone mugs at Brasserie du Pont," just across the foot bridge from Notre Dame cathedral and a short walk from his apartment. Here one asked the waiter for "un formidable," the birdbath-sized beer. Down the block is Cafe Quasimodo, where the author praised the escargots.
Like Hemingway nearly a half century before him, Jones liked to roam the quays along the Seine, browsing the book stalls, waving at tourists aboard a bateau mouche (the sightseeing boats), musing about the dogs and kids and automobiles that seemed fixtures on every passing barge, dreaming plot lines about the lovers embracing under the chestnut trees.
Jones recommended Quais de La Tournelle for "the best view of the cathedral" and behind it the Surete, police headquarters, where Georges Simenon's fictional Inspector Maigret battled felons and bureaucrats.
Hemingway apparently could write anywhere - on a park bench beneath the statue of his hero Marshal Ney, whom Napoleon called "the bravest of the brave," at the finish line of the bike races at the Velodrome, at outdoor or window tables in several pubs bordering "Boul' Mich," as the expatriates called Boulevard Saint Michel. He learned brevity by writing for the Toronto Star in "cablese," the journalist's shorthand that cuts per-word cable costs.
In the pursuit of suitable writing dens, Hemingway taught dozens of bartenders, like Jimmy Chambers at Le Falstaff, to keep a light hand on the vermouth in concocting "une dry," a gin martini, to his rigid 16-to-1 specifications. Le Falstaff had not lost the formula when we carried on our exhausting research.
William Faulkner liked to sit on the terrace of the Cafe Esmerelda gazing up at the Notre Dame's gargoyles, which he described as "creatures with heads of goats and dogs, and claws and wings on men's bodies, all staring down in a jeering sardonic mirth." He often wrote while watching the old men playing petanque, a bowling game like bocci, in the Luxembourg Gardens.
But the sage of Oxford, Miss., stayed only a short time in Paris and never got around to owning a brothel, which he thought was "the perfect milieu for any artist. ... The place is quiet during the morning hours, which is the best time to work. There's enough social life in the evening to keep one from getting bored. He has nothing really to do, because the madam keeps the books, but he has a certain standing in society. All the bootleggers would call him 'sir,' and he could call the police by their first names."
Our hotel on Rue Gaite in the theater district was almost equidistant from three Metro stops serving the literary haunts of Hemingway's and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Lost Generation: Gaite, Montparnasse and Edgar Quinet. Nearby was Montparnasse cemetery where Guy de Maupassant, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Frederic-Auguste Bertholdi - sculptor of the Statue of Liberty - are buried.
With our low-cost "Paris Visite" tourist Metro pass, it was only a short hop under the river to visit the literary sites on the Right Bank, like the Ritz Hotel, where a sozzled Fitzgerald was often seen being helped into a cab; the Cafe de la Paix, where Henry James dined with Turgenev, and Harry's New York Bar, which can count four Nobel Prize winners among the alumni of its "Society of International Barflies:" Hemingway, Faulkner, John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis, who worked on "Babbitt" there.
Once an elegant mansion, the Ritz was the masterpiece of hotelier Caesar Ritz, whose penchant for luxury added the word ritzy to the English language. The hotel boasted an indoor swimming pool, master chef Auguste Escoffier in the kitchen alongside, legend says, a disgruntled pastry chef who made history in Indochina under his nom-de-guerre, Ho Chi Minh.
Mentioned in Lewis' "Dodsworth," several James Bond epics, and Jones' "The Merry Month of May," Harry's New York Bar was the next Paris landmark to be liberated by Task Force Hemingway. Harry MacElhone, an amiable Scot from Dundee, presided over the premises at 5 rue Daunou, near the Opera House, which American soldiers in two world wars found by simply shouting to cabdrivers the only French phrase they knew: "sank roo da-noo."