Sunday, June 28, 2009

notes on floyd dell...written on a dell laptop

Floyd Dell (June 28, 1887 - 1969) was the author of many things, including critiques, essays, novels, short stories, poems and plays, with his greatest fame spanning the years 1912-1925.

Dell grew up in the Midwest, eventually heading to Chicago where he would become part of the city's boho scene and, despite his youth, a formidable literary critic. He
later moved to pre-WWI Greenwich Village and became part of that boho scene as well, enjoying various free-love affairs and joining the staff of the radical journal The Masses.

Although some of Floyd's works have not completely held up to the test of time, his fiction offers interesting glimpses into the issues and personalities of his day, and his non-fiction is actually pretty intriguing in terms of commentary on relationships between men and women, along with general equality, social trends, politics, education, psychoanalysis, and various other subjects -- because Floyd had many ideals and as many contradictions.

In the movie Reds, Dell is portrayed by Max Wright, who also played the father on the 1980s TV show ALF -- and no offense to Mr. Wright, but this just seemed like the not quite-Wright casting for Floyd Dell. Dell was slight and maybe a little affected at that time, well-spoken and often-speaking and with more of a pale, slender, disdainful look. Beyond this photo, Dell's portrait was painted in 1914 by Ashcan School and Eight artist John Sloan, who worked with Dell at The Masses along with Reds' hero John Reed.

Dell had a short but significant affair with the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and this description of a visit to Millay's childhood home in Maine is Dell at his best and comes from his autobiography Homecoming:

"On the porch were baskets of apples, branches of pine, and there were bunches of herbs strung up to dry -- herbs of which I do not know the names, but which were a part of the earthly lore that Edna Millay learned from her mother as a child. The place was fragrant with the mingled odors of apples, pine woods and herbs. It smelled sweet and strange, like Edna Millay's poetry."