Kay Boyle

Kay Boyle was a political activist, writer, two-time O. Henry Award winner, and receiver of a Guggenheim Fellowship. By age twenty, in 1922, she was already working for a periodical in New York City. Besides her short stories, Boyle is known for her novels, three of which are Plagued by the Nightingale, which Sylvia Beach says was “built around her first marriage,” Death of a Man, and Year Before Last. During her lifetime, she published in many well-known periodicals, like transition, The New Yorker, Poetry, Broom, and more.

When she was twenty-five, Noel Riley Fitch writes that Boyle “had her heart set on glimpsing Joyce and other writers at Shakespeare and Company” when she was in Paris. Though she mostly admired the shop and its patrons from afar, she made her way in “to ask Sylvia to give her [Robert] McAlmon’s address so that she might contact him and ask him for a job.” With McAlmon, Boyle co-wrote Being Geniuses Together. Despite McAlmon having already been deceased, in 1997, Boyle interjected the book with her commentary.

Pictured is a photo of Boyle taken by Man Ray, one of the many well-known people she socialized with in Paris, along with William Carlos Williams, Marcel Duchamp, and, eventually, Joyce. Her letters reveal her opinions of other Modernists. In a 1927 letter to Lola Ridge, Boyle expresses confusion and disdain concerning Evelyn Scott, a lost Modernist, who blames McAlmon for the possible dissolution of their friendship. However, after reading Escapade, Boyle praises Scott in believing she can “do for America what no woman has never done.” On the other hand, she hilariously slights Gertrude Stein in a letter to Hart Crane:

I wish to say that I am deeply and hopelessly shamed by the fact that this sort of female hysteria is the only literary front which exists as an anthesis to the work and to the approach of Gertrude Stein. Joyce has his competitors, but Gertrude Stein, because of the foul reasoning, the brave-little-girl-setting-out-on-a-great-big-literary-adventure vocabulary of these few women who are not too lazy to get down to the job of writing (Alyse Gregory, Laura Riding, etc.,); Gertrude Stein goes majestically and rightfully alone.

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