First Look: Mr. Conway, thank you for stopping by today to discuss your new book, All Our Days of Splendor and welcome to New York.
Alvin Conway: Thank you. It’s my pleasure, Jeanie.
First Look: I have to admit I was quite stunned after reading your book. It’s an amazing read. It’s one of those intellectual gems of the rarest varieties…and the poetic aspects of the book are eloquent and simply delightful.
Alvin Conway: Thank you
First Look: As I understand it, this is your first fiction novel?
Alvin Conway: That’s correct – this is my first fiction novel, but my 12th book. It’s a pleasant diversion from some of the non-fiction subjects of my other books – physics, geology, and ecological science. However, it will be familiar terrain for anyone who has read any of the books of poetry I’ve written: Ariel, Sinfonia 9, Esprit, The Amethyst, and Callidora.
First Look: The 1920s was such a colorful time in the history of the world – the art, the fashion, the music, the beginning of the modern communication age, air flights, and transoceanic travel. A lot of books were written during this time period, but not necessarily about this time. What inspired you to settle on this particular time-period as a setting for this wonderful romance that unfolds between these two fascinating characters?
Alvin Conway: As you mentioned, 1920s was the beginning of the Modern Age – but it was also the beginning of international cosmopolitan culture – and that’s always a fascinating backdrop for an intriguing story of love, mystery, and wonder to unfold. The influence of Romanticism was still strong and being widely felt in Europe at the time, cubism and surrealism (as artistic movements) where prevalent in France, and there was this wonderful burgeoning of diverse ideas that flowed back and forth across the Atlantic after World War I through various mediums like art, fashion, music, literature. The 1920s was also a decade of unbridled excesses and the birth of the new aristocratic class in society that would reshape the world right before the Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression changed everything. So you have this gold vein of affluence from corporate capitalism nestled over these two historical sticks of dynamite that people were dancing over, but were basically oblivious too. In my opinion, there couldn’t be a more dynamic time in history for two electric personalities to grace each other’s presence.
First Look: F. Scott Fitzgerald garnered our attention so vividly with his story of aristocratic society in Long Island, New York during the Jazz Age in The Great Gatsby. However, your story unfolds half a world away in Paris, France in the year 1926 in a completely different context. You captured the decadence of the times so magnificently through the eyes of the French and some will even compare your ornate sense of visual writing style to that of Fitzgerald’s. Have you read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby?
Alvin Conway: No, I haven’t read the book nor seen the film adaptations of the book but I’ve read This Side of Paradise and I think Fitzgerald was a great writer.
First Look: I have many favorite passages in the book. One of them being: “Time passed. She read passionately. Words knit distance, and stitched together ponderous pauses between episodic exchanges of dialogue. And as she spoke, we were ferried across the distance subtlety, imperceptibly, by the nuances of and charm of literary enchantments until we arrived at Le Chateau Charbonneau outside Paris.”
What would be one thing that would surprise people about All Our Days of Splendor?
Alvin Conway: That the book has this intriguing sense of mystery about time.
First Look: You explore themes from many Twentieth century French writers in your novel – notably authors like Marcel Proust, André Breton, and Paul Éluard. Is there a significance reason these writers were interwoven into the fabric of the story?
Alvin Conway: They all came out of the school of surrealism. Elements of French surrealism and German expressionism later found their way into cinematic film noir themes in the U.S. during the 1940s. I think surrealism in literature was a fascinating movement. It was a prominent force in Paris in the 1920s. I believe anything that alters our perception of reality or juxtaposes contrasting ideas as a subtext for deeper contemplation merits some degree of discussion. Surrealism has intriguing creative aspects, especially if you can incorporate the idealism or symbolism into the central tenets of a story. In that respect, All Our Days of Splendor is homage to the movement – as it is a nonlinear narrative that plays against convention by meandering in and out of time – sometimes while conjuring up intriguing revelations and surprises. Essentially, something is lost and something is gained in the process through a pathway of experiences involving the various people the central character comes in contact with. Proust’s book À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) touches on certain aspects of this odyssey process, as does Joyce’s Ulysses. And of course André Breton, and Paul Éluard were non-centrist founders of the surrealism movement.
First Look: The Roaring Twenties was a remarkable time period for women. You emphasize and highlight this a lot in your book.
Alvin Conway: Women in the 1920s were so intriguing because they had just broken out of the shackles of Victorianism with all its constraining idealism and they were establishing their own identity and independence during the birth of the Jazz Age. They were fighting for equality, while at the same time flaunting their own brand of sexuality and femininity. They were bold and brash, and all of this was colorfully wrapped in some of the most intriguing styles and designer ensembles of the entire fashion era.
First Look: I love the characters in this story. How much fun did you have creating them?
Alvin Conway: The characters unfold as the story unfolds. It was like a magical experience with all the right people and parts coming together in this wonderful synchrony, and with poetic virtuosity. The characters brought in just the right things to say at the appropriate time, when they just happen to be nestled in the appropriate place, and all those elements greatly enriched the narrative aspects of the story. You’ll feel that rhythm in the tapestry of characters when you read the story – and you’ll get lost in the charm, and in their colorful sense of style.
First Look: Mr. Conway, thanks for talking with us today.
Alvin Conway: Thank you for the invitation.
First Look: And there you have it: All Our Days of Splendor by poet, artist, and author, Alvin Conway – I personally think is the first must read book of the summer and I was glad I was able to get my hands on an advance copy. All the staff here wants one, by the way. I love this book, and thank you for writing it.