IN THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein’s recounting of her expatriate life in Paris before World War II through the eyes of her lover, the narrator notes that they were “in the heart of an art movement.” This movement included young writers and painters such as Hemingway, Matisse, Picasso, and a host of others who crowded into Stein’s salon at 27, rue des Fleurus, to discuss the ideas and æsthetics of what is now called Modernism. Outside Stein’s salon, there were other corners of this movement where creativity and sexual politics were even more keenly felt. In Louise Downie’s Don’t Kiss Me, we encounter one of these corners.
Hidden from history until the early 1990’s, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore resist easy categorization. This book, which is part biography and part art history, is the first book in English to explore the range of their creative and political lives.
James Polchin teaches writing at New York University. He is completing a book on the life of George PLatt Lynes.