“I’ve had a great life, and it all happened because I didn’t plan any of it.”
-- Eugene Walter
Eugene Walter was the best-known man you’ve never heard of. In his 76 years, he ate of “the ripened heart of life,” to quote a letter from Isak Dinesen, one of his many illustrious friends. He savored the porch life of his native Mobile, Alabama, in the 1920s and ’30s. He stumbled into the Greenwich Village art scene in late-1940s New York. He was a ubiquitous presence in Paris’s expatriate café society in the 1950s, where he was part of the Paris Review at its inception. Perhaps most remarkably of all for a poor Southern boy, he spent the 1960s in Rome, where he participated in the golden age of Italian cinema–including a role in Fellini’s 8 1?2–and entertained some of the most famous people in the world.
As recorded by Katherine Clark toward the end of Walter’s life, his story–enlivened with personal glimpses of luminaries from William Faulkner and Martha Graham to Judy Garland and Leontyne Price–is an eyewitness history of the heart of the last century and a pitch-perfect addition to the Southern literary tradition. Most of all, this sumptuous oral biography conveys the spirit and charm of a truly unique American who defied the odds and authority, embarked on life, and went wherever his fancy and whimsy led him.
“Whenever I found myself in the presence of Eugene Walter, I thought that everyone’s life could be turned into a work of art. His was. Eugene Walter was a prince of whimsy and magic, and he turned his daily world upside down and made it elfin, cat-haunted, and hilarious. He could snap his fingers, and art would fall out all over the place. Milking the Moon has perfect pitch and flawlessly captures Eugene’s pixilated wonderland of a life. I am so grateful to Katherine Clark for the job she has done, for bringing this incredible man’s story to the page with such wit, panache, and style. I love this book–I couldn’t put it down!”–Pat Conroy
“Truman Capote lied to harm others; Eugene Walter, sometimes known as the other Capote, the good one, lied only to delight others.”–Gore Vidal
“Eugene Walter held the nearest thing to a salon; he was an unofficial reception committee and all roads led to him.”–Muriel Spark
“Eugene Walter is one of those personages who turn up in life and leave, well, an indelible impression in which all personal characteristics–manner, speech, dress, and so on– are memorably distinctive.”–George Plimpton, from the Foreword
About Eugene Walter
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Published August 21, 2001
Biographies & Memoirs, History.