I bought a random book about two years ago called “Milking the moon” that I have just finished reading. It tells us the life story of Eugene Walter and is based on extensive interviews with him carried out by Katherine Clark, then a professor of literature.
Eugene grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He had no formal education, yet he quickly became a member of the literary community in the 1940s and 1950s. The book chronicles his life in Mobile, then New York, then Paris, then Rome, and then back to Mobile. Eugene Walter is probably not well known. However, he hanged around with the famous and influential all his life. He won a literature award and made contributions to the Paris Review literary magazine. He also served as an editor for Botteghe Oscure for many years.
I enjoyed the positive message in this back: let’s not worry too much about tomorrow, if you spot a good opportunity then just go for it! By following this advice Eugene got to befriend some of the most interesting people of his time, for instance the Italian film director Fellini. Eugene also had minor roles in some of Fellini’s films. Eugene clearly had a good time, in particular in Rome, where he also wrote the lyrics for the song “What is a youth” in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet. Yet I think this book is only giving us half the story. The book clinically omits any mention of Eugene’s love life. Did he ever have a family of his own? In one part of the book it suggests his friendships tended to last up to 15 years. So while we get to hear a lot about his views about other people (most of it interesting, and sometimes fascinating), we get to hear very little about Eugene himself. I think it is a shame. The foreword gives me the impression he was quite the character. Despite this, I would recommend reading this book. In particular, the first chapters in the book about his upbringing in Mobile was a vibrant and refreshing read on life in the American south during the first half of the 20th century.