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Taking Exception

NEW YORK -- Paris in the late Forties and early Fifties might have lost its Lost Generation, but it was still a good place to be a young American -- and it was a particularly good time to be James Lord.Lord, now 71, equipped then with little...

NEW YORK -- Paris in the late Forties and early Fifties might have lost its Lost Generation, but it was still a good place to be a young American -- and it was a particularly good time to be James Lord.

Lord, now 71, equipped then with little more than charm, intelligence and a great deal of naive optimism, managed to meet -- and work his way into the lives of -- many an older luminary. Among them were Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar and Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

In his latest book, "Six Exceptional Women" (Farrar Straus Giroux), Lord recalls his encounters with Stein, Toklas, the saloniste and eccentric Marie-Laure de Noailles and the French actress Arletty, along with two less-celebrated women, the Greek patriot Errieta Perdikidi and his own mother, Louise Bennett Lord.

Lord, who has a tart tongue and seemingly total recall (backed up by his own extensive journals, which appear to rival those of his contemporary, Ned Rorem), writes in a polished, wicked and witty prose that spares few, least of all himself.

He has written five books, the best-known of them the critically praised "Giacometti: A Biography" (1985) and "Picasso and Dora: A Personal Memoir" (1983). Lord still spends most of his time in Paris -- when he isn't at his country house in the Languedoc -- and, he says, about two weeks a year in New York. On his most recent trip here he sat down for a talk in a friend's Greenwich Village apartment.

The most radical change in Paris today, Lord notes, is that "the most interesting, creative people are all gone, and nobody has come to take their place.

"The strange thing about it is there doesn't seem to be a real explanation for it," he says. "There are still people painting, writing music and books, but there's no new Picasso, no Stravinsky. I often ask my friends if they can think of a single really great creative person born after the First World War. There are highly creative people in the sciences. But in the arts, I can't think of a single one."
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