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Gréco: What time is it there?
photo: Georges Dudognon
Gréco: What time is it there?

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Manual of Saint-Germain-De-Prés
By Boris Vian
Edited by Tosh Berman and Eva Prinz
Rizzoli, 190 pp., $40

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Bleecker, MacDougal—say wha? Return rather to the thrilling days of the 6éme Arrondissement circa 1948, samedi soir with Jean-Paul and Simone at Les Deux Magots. In this priceless mock Baedeker, the 20th century's coolest Frenchman, novelist/jazzman/boho bon vivant Boris Vian, explains the Commandments of Cellar Club Existentialism and how to distinguish between the various dancing, strident, inert, misunderstood, panhandling, brawling, and megalomaniac "troglodytes" inhabiting the jazz-club catacombs. The Manual is passionately introduced by Tosh Berman (who has single-handedly restored Vian's American rep), charmingly translated by Paul Knobloch, and rich with Georges Dudognon's photographs of visiting celebs—Garbo, Faulkner, Monsieur Orson Welles—come to swill Sperm of Flamant Rose and faire un boeuf with Miss Vice, Hot d'Dee, Timsy Pimsy, and the other Rats de Cave at Le Tabou. It looks like one helluva party and I treasure the image of existential chanteuse Juliette Gréco waking up damp and tousled in her dumpy Hotel Louisiana room. It must be four in the afternoon and, even before lighting a Pall Mall, she extends a bare arm to drop the needle on the little phonograph that waits to wail some Coleman Hawkins amid the detritus of half-empty bottles and stale coffees beside her bed.

 
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