Robert McAlmon  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Robert Menzies McAlmon (March 9, 1896 - February 2, 1956) was an American author, poet and publisher.

Life and works

McAlmon was born in Clifton, Kansas.

McAlmon was admitted to the University of Minnesota, but only spent one semester there before enlisting in the United States Air Corps in 1918. At the conclusion of World War I, he returned to university, this time at the University of Southern California. He attended classes intermittently until 1920, when he moved to Chicago and then New York City. Once in New York, he collaborated with William Carlos Williams to establish a magazine called Contact. The next year, he moved to Paris after marrying the English writer Annie Winifred Ellerman, better known as Bryher.

McAlmon became a prolific writer after the move, with many of his stories and poems based on his experiences as a youth in South Dakota. After publishing a book of short stories called A Hasty Bunch in 1922, he founded his own publishing company named Contact Editions. In addition to publishing his own works under this publisher, he also published works of his wife, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and other notables of the day. One of his most important and best-received works is Village: As It Happened Through a Fifteen Year Period (1924) which presents a bleak portrait of an American town. The book shows his love for Eugene Vidal (Eugene Collins in the book), Gore Vidal's father, with whom he grew up in Madison, South Dakota, which is documented in Gore Vidal's mid-90s memoir, Palimpsest.

Other works include the short story collection A Companion Volume (1923), the autobiographical novel Post-Adolescence (1923), Distinguished Air (Grim Fairy Tales) (1925), the poetry collections The Portrait of a Generation (1926) and Not Alone Lost (1937), the 1,200 line epic poem North America, Continent of Conjecture (1929), and his memoir Being Geniuses Together: An Autobiography (1938).

McAlmon returned to the United States in 1940, dying at Desert Hot Springs, California almost unknown in his native country sixteen years later. In the 1990s, Edward Lorusso brought out three volumes of McAlmon's fiction (many were first American publications) in Village (1990), Post-Adolescence (1991), and Miss Knight and Others (1992)--all through University of New Mexico Press.

Adrift Among Geniuses: Robert McAlmon, Writer and Publisher of the Twenties (1975) by Sanford J. Smoller is the only biography of the author.


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