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19.10.07

À mon chevet: The 42nd Parallel

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À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
Eveline had already rented two floors of an old Victorian house off Chicago Avenue, and they were busy all winter decorating the office and showrooms downstairs and the apartment upstairs where they going to live, and doing Sally Emerson's diningroom. They got a colored maid named Amelia who was a very good cook although she drank a little, and they had cigarettes and cocktails at the end of the afternoon and little dinners with wine, and found a downattheheels French dressmaker to make them evening gowns to wear when they went out with Sally Emerson and her set, and rode in taxis and got to know a lot of really interesting people. By Spring when they finally got a check for five hundred dollars out of Philip Paine Emerson they were a thousand dollars in the hole, but they were living the way they liked. The diningroom was considered a little extreme, but some people liked it, and a few more orders came. They made many friends and started going round with artists again and with special writers on The Daily News and The American who took them out to dinner in foreign restaurants that were very smoky and where they talked a great deal about modern French painting and the Middle West and going to New York. They went to the Armory Show and had a photograph of Brancusi's Golden Bird over the desk in the office and copies of the Little Review and Poetry among the files of letters from clients and unpaid bills from wholesalers.

-- John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel (1929), "Eleanor Stoddard," pp. 184-85
The Eleanor Stoddard thread begins in Chicago, where Eleanor and her friend Eveline are at first close to two young men, Maurice Millet (a French instructor and would-be painter) and Eric Egstrom (an interior decorator). Although the young women never seem to understand that the men are lovers, Dos Passos gives the reader enough clues: Maurice paints only pictures of boys ("longfaced boys with big luminous eyes and long lashes, and longfaced girls that looked like boys"), and the men even set up house together ("Maurice and Eric seemed to be thoroughly happy. They slept in the same bed and were always together. Eleanor used to wonder about them sometimes but it was so nice to know boys who weren't horrid about women").

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