Janet Flanner Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Janet Flanner was born and educated in Indianapolis, Indiana. After a year abroad, she entered the University of Chicago in 1914, yearning for culture and experience. Returning to Indianapolis after little more than a year, she took a position as an art and drama columnist for the Indianapolis Star.{$S[A]Genet;Flanner, Janet}

By early 1918, tired of life in conventional Indianapolis, she married William Lane Rehm and moved with him to New York’s Greenwich Village. Her early years gave her a lifelong distaste for conservative morality and provided a springboard for her ultimate career in journalism.

In New York in the years after World War I, Flanner mingled with a bohemian crowd. She met Harold Ross and the Algonquin Circle and was well-liked for her witty conversation. These years in Greenwich Village are the subject of her 1926 novel, The Cubical City.

During this time, she realized that she was physically attracted to women. She fell in love with actress and writer Solita Solano. New York City came to seem increasingly restrictive for Flanner. The opportunity to escape came when Solita was offered a job traveling for National Geographic.

In 1921 Flanner left New York with Solita, in search of a new life that would offer her a freedom from sexual restrictions that was not available in America. The two women traveled and wrote their way through Europe, settling in Paris in late 1922. Solita was selling her travel articles, Flanner had a small family income, and their money went far in postwar Europe. Flanner took her place in the world of expatriate Paris, frequenting the Deux Magots café, working on The Cubical City, and practicing the art of living among the literary celebrities of the Left Bank.

In 1925 Harold Ross asked her to write a “Letter from Paris” for his new magazine, The New Yorker. He wanted a series of letters similar to the ones she had been writing to his...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986. Discusses Flanner’s role in observing and recording the expatriate community and the events between the world wars, focusing on the letters from 1925 to 1939.

Gill, Brendan. “Letter from Paris.” In Here at “The New Yorker.” Rev. ed. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1987. Gill uses his sixty-year tenure at The New Yorker as fodder for droll, insightful stories about his colleagues. Ferber’s French cultural analysis is discussed in this particular chapter.

Grant, Jane. Ross, “The New Yorker” and Me. New York: Reynal, 1968. Includes an introduction by Flanner and her relation to the history of The New Yorker.

Hansen, Arlen J. Expatriate Paris: A Cultural and Literary Guide to the Paris of the 1920’s. New York: Arcade, 1990. Flanner is mentioned and quoted in this guide to the literary Paris of the 1920’s.

Murray, William. Janet, My Mother, and Me. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000. A memoir written by the son of Flanner’s longtime companion Natalia Danesi Murray. Details the lives of two gay, professional women in an era when homosexual relationships were not “out” or accepted.

Wineapple, Brenda. Genêt: A Biography of Janet Flanner. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1989. Reveals the details of Flanner’s personal life in addition to discussing her work.