“…reads like an unholy but effective collaboration between Hemingway and Howard Stern.”
David Streitfield, Washington Post
“W. W. Windstaff is almost too good to be real.”
George Ridge, Arizona Daily Star
“The wonderfully evocative Lower than Angels is a pearl unaccountably washed up the inexplicable tide of literary history…[It] is profane, often vulgar, and far from politically correct—Windstaff had all the prejudices of the day, and a few that were especially his. It is also deeply compelling, and one of the most valuable books extant about the generation that came of age during World War I and changed art and literature forever.”
Scott Eyman, Palm Beach Post
“We know all about Gertrude and Alice, Ernest and Scott, Ezra and so on, some living high and some low as the ‘20s roared away from the hecatomb of the World War. There were thousands of Americans in Paris in those years, not all of them famous, of course, and not all of them sloshed at the Ritz. So meet W. W. Windstaff, often sloshed but not at all famous, and so modest that 60 years after his death he wishes to remain anonymous.”
Katherine Knorr, International Herald Tribune
When he wrote this memoir over sixty years ago, the author planned a privately printed edition as gifts for his friends. He chose a pseudonym, W. W. Windstaff, to avoid embarrassing his socially prominent family.
He did not view himself as a writer, and wrote his story with an intensity and honesty innocent of literary pretension.
Windstaff led a colorful life. Entranced by airplanes, he joined the British air force as a pilot during World War I. Following his convalescence from a combat wound, Windstaff went to Paris and witnessed the grand American invasion during the 1920s. His descriptions of Harry’s Bar, of the cafes of Hemingway and Joyce, are the clearest and truest of that era. He drank with the artists, but preferred the company of gamblers, ex-soldiers, and race-track people.
Mid-decade, Windstaff returned to America and settled for a time among the flappers and speakeasies of Greenwich Village. He then went back to Europe and found Paris had changed. Well fed, but unhappy as the kept man of a pampered, older woman, Windstaff escaped to Rome to find a childhood friend.
By the end of the ’20s, Windstaff was back in the States, trying to overcome alcoholism, hoping to find stability. With the assistance of Stephen Longstreet, then a budding writer and painter, he began writing this memoir.
In a unique style, Lower than Angels captures the essence of war with wonderfully descriptive passages of air combat, and of life on the ground. Later, Windstaff vividly memorializes the expatriate experience.
More than simply a memoir of fascinating times, Lower than Angels is a raw and powerful portrayal of a man who could not overcome the trauma of war, and survived with a veneer of cynicism aided by the bottle.
Lower than Angels will certainly be appreciated for its value as a historical record. It will also captivate readers with its charm, and delight a wide audience.