Mary Duncan

About Mary Duncan

Mary Duncan, a native San Diegan, grew up in National City, where Henry Miller said he found his identity. In searching for her identity, she has traveled to numerous countries and prefers to be where there is action, diversity and controversy. Her research specialty as a professor at San Diego State University was the “troubles” in Belfast, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republican Army. She focused on the conflict’s impact on children and the internal organization of the I.R.A. and its cell groups. In addition she has researched children and play patterns in Mexican squatter villages, Arab Tourism in London and international terrorism. In 1982, she moved to La Jolla, a seaside community in San Diego. She met people who introduced her to the worlds of Henry Miller, Simone de Beauvoir, Colette and other writers. And it is in these worlds that she found relief from the stress and uncertainty that emanated from her Belfast research. Paris and La Jolla entered her life almost simultaneously. In Paris she created a circle of friends and started building a foundation for a life in the City of Light. After her marriage to Yuri Loskutov, a Russian, she lived in Moscow several months of the year and founded Shakespeare and Company Bookstore Moscow. Since 2000, she has mainly lived in Paris. In 2005, she purchased an archive consisting of audio tapes, photographs and correspondence related to the life of Henry Miller. Some of these materials are described in her memoir, “Henry Miller is Under My Bed: People and Place on the Way to Paris.” (2008). She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Henry Miller Memorial Library in BIg Sur, California and is is a patron of the Shakespeare and Company Literary Festival. In 2008, she founded the Paris Writers Group. In between her writing and travels, she continues to live in Paris.

Hilary Kaiser Launches French War Brides: Mademoiselle and the American Soldier


war bridesHilary Kaiser is speaking at several venues in France and the U.S. to share the engaging stories of French War Brides: Mademoiselle and the American Soldier from WWI and WWII. This new edition, which was published by the Paris Writers Press, tells the stories of 6500 Franco-American marriages that took place between French Mademoiselles and American soldiers, be they “doughboys” or GI’s.

These women, who came from different parts of France and diverse backgrounds, would later cross the Atlantic to join their husbands, settle in various corners of America, suffer culture shock, and adapt to marriage in a foreign land of postwar plenty with varying degrees of success. Despite the difficulties, like many other immigrants, they got on with it and survived. Most of them did, in their own way, live the American dream.

The American Library in Paris will be hosting Hilary on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at 7:30 pm. Books will be available.

See Hilary’s personal profile in the Who We Are section of this website. French War Brides: Mademoiselle and the American Soldier is available at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore Paris, D.G. Wills in La Jolla, and Albertine in NYC.
Also on

PWG member sues Met for return of Picasso Masterpiece

Posted on  by 

Last week PWG member Laurel Zuckerman, acting as Ancillary Administratrix of the estate of Alice Leffmann, filed suit against New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to recover “The Actor”. The rare 1904-5 masterpiece by Pablo Picasso was owned by Paul Leffmann, a German Jew, for approximately 26 years until 1938.View “The Actor,” here.

For more information about the case, filed in NY see: Case 1:16-cv-07665

NYT:  Met Picasso Belonged to Family That Fled Nazis, Suit Says  By GRAHAM BOWLEY

Metropolitan Museum of Art Sued for $100 Million Picasso Sold by Collector Fleeing the Nazis

Suit Against Met Alleges that $100 Million Picasso Painting Was Sold Under Duress in Nazi Germany


Parisian of the Month: Mary Duncan


From I Prefer Paris by Richard Neham

I am happy to have my friend and organizer of the Paris Writers Group, which I have belonged to since inception in 2008, Mary Duncan, as Parisian of the Month. Enjoy this eye opening interview.

Neham: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Duncan: I was born and raised in San Diego, the land of sunshine, beaches, Margaritas and Dr. Seuss.

When and why did you move to Paris?
During the early 1980’s, I decided to live in Paris. In 2000, after many years of planning, I embarked on an early retirement program at San Diego State University where I was a professor, bought an apartment and now live between Paris and La Jolla, California.  Paris nourishes and energizes me. It’s intangible, but real.

When did you develop an interest in writing and literature?
Reading and writing have always been my favorite activities. I used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and smuggle them into the neighborhood library.

My Ph.D. dissertation, “The Effects of Social Conflict on Leisure Patterns in Belfast, N. Ireland,” paved the way for world travel and numerous research adventures to Nicaragua,  Tehran,  Berlin, Russia, Mexico and even Paris.  Curiosity drives me and it never seems to be satisfied.

How and why did you start the Paris Writers Group?
Since 1988, I’ve been a member of the San Diego Writing Women. After I moved to Paris, I really missed our monthly meetings. In  2008, I created the Paris Writers Group.  We started in my living room with

You’ve lived many lives in many places. You were once a Playboy bunny. What was that experience like?
I laughed out loud when I read this question.  I was never a Bunny. I had the boobs but not the legs. For over twelve years, I was a fairly regular guest at the Playboy Mansion.  Max Lerner, the late Los Angeles Times syndicated columnist and writer, was a good friend of Hugh Hefner. I was a friend of Max.

Staying at the Mansion was like living in a five-star hotel where you never received a bill.  Twenty-four hour room service, valets, maids, gym, grotto and pool, tennis, a game room with a billiard table, three private bedrooms for assignations, a vast film collection, a masseuse, all surrounded by a multi-million dollar art collection.  Dali, Pollack, Matisseand others adorned the walls.

In my book, Henry Miller is Under My Bed: People and Places on the way to Paris (2011), the chapter, “Breakfast at Hef’s”, has a colorful description of life at the Mansion. Actors James Caan and Tony Curtiswere regulars. My favorites were the writers and directors like Shel Silverstein and Richard Brooks. Some of the most stimulating intellectual conversations I’ve ever had took place around Hef’s breakfast table.

In my first life, I was a minister’s wife. I made up for those traditional years at the Playboy Mansion.

Please tell us about the time you spent in Moscow and the bookshop you owned.
In 1988, I met my husband, Yuri Loskutov, while participating in a Human Rights conference in Moscow.  After we were married in 1989, I began living there when I wasn’t teaching. Contemporary English language books were scarce. George Whitman, the late owner of Shakespeare and Company Paris, encouraged me to open a bookstore in Moscow.  I found a Russian partner who already had a small literary bookstore. We opened on April Fool’s Day in 1996 because everyone said we were fools to do it.

In those days, Delta let me bring three large seventy pound bags, filled with books and never charged me for excess luggage.  When Russian customs tried to charge me fees, I smiled and told them to keep the books and drink them with their tea.  They always waved me through.

From the first day, Shakespeare and Company Moscow became the literary center for Expats and English speaking Russians.  Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky and Masha Gessen, who now writes for the New York Times, were featured guests. We rapidly earned a reputation for our well-stocked lounge, which featured Starbucks Coffee, vodka and red wine.  Some readers would get tipsy while browsing for books. Yes, it helped improve the sales.

In the 90’s, Moscow was like the Wild West and I thrive in these dynamic, fast-moving environments.  We closed in 2003 after Putin’s corrupt bureaucrats and mafia made life difficult for small businesses.

If you could invite one writer living or dead to dinner, whom  would you select and where would you take them.
There are two. Erica Jong and David McCullough.  I’d take her to Jean-Georges in NYC. David McCulloughand I would go to the newly renovated Ritz. It’s not too late. They are both still living. I’m ever hopeful.

Who are some of your favorite French writers and books?
Colette and Simone de Beauvoir were fearless nontraditional role models. Simone chose her intellect over her heart and paid a heavy price in personal happiness.  Colette managed to have both.

After reading The Second Sex, I realized why I often felt out-of-step with society’s expectations. Beauvoir’s concept of alterity, living your life through others, revolutionized my thinking. I decided to forge my own path and not worry about the consequences. Financial independence was an important key to that decision.  My first article in the Huffington Post was “How I Retired Early and Moved to Paris.”

What is the book you are currently writing?
The rue de la Bucherie is the focus of my current book.  It has a rich literary legacy intertwined with the history of the street.

You have a fascination with Henry Miller; you wrote the book Henry Miller is Under my Bed and have a large archive of original Henry Miller materials. What attracted you to Henry Miller’s work and your fascination with him?
Bradley Smith, a Time/Life photographer and writer, wrote two books with Henry Miller. As a result, he had an archive of Henry’s taped interviews, photographs and letters. I used to sit on the floor of Bradley’s home office in the hills of La Jolla, listening to Henry’s deep Brooklyn accent. Miller died in 1980, so I never met him. But I absolutely coveted those materials. After Bradley died in 1997, I purchased the archive from his estate as well as the rights to five of Bradley’s books.

Two years ago, Dorothy’s Gallery hosted an exhibit of the photographs.

Paris Writers Press Receives Grant for Translating Jean-Jacques Pauvert’s Memoir


The Paris Writers Press has received an award from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication through the National Book Center, to fund the translation of La Traversée du livre, a memoir written by the iconic French publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert (1926 – 2014). The new English translation An Odyssey in Books, is scheduled to be available by December 2015. Éditions Viviane Hamy published the original French version in 2004.

In his prize-winning memoir La Traversée du livre  (An Odyssey in Books), Jean-Jacques Pauvert recounts in vivid detail, his meteoric rise to the top of the French book world, which started 1942 in the mailroom of Gallimard publishers.  By the tender age of twenty, he openly published the banned works of the Marquis de Sade leading to a protracted legal struggle with the French authorities. A similar firestorm erupted when he published Histoire D’O (The Story of O) in 1954, a daring work by Pauline Reage, a pseudonym used by Dominique Aury. His other authors included Gide, Sartre, Bataille, Genet, Beauvoir and Breton.

Pauvert’s memoir also describes his being arrested and jailed for three months by the Nazis for his role as a courier with the Resistance.

An Odyssey in Books is a captivating story of a young man figuring out how to be a publisher as he went along and an invaluable social history of art, literature, politics, and Parisian life from World War II to the May 1968 revolution.

The winner of the 2005 Elle Magazine Reader’s Grand Prize, the new English edition, An Odyssey in Books, was translated by Lynn Jeffress.

The National Book Center or Centre National du Livre (CNL) provides grants for translations of high quality French literature.  Since 2001, the National Book Center has supported more than 6,400 projects for translation from French into foreign languages.

In 2014, approximately 600,000 Euros were allocated for translations. The CNL funds from forty to sixty percent of translation costs. The Paris Writers Press will receive sixty percent, the maximum allocation.

The Paris Writers Press, founded by Mary Duncan in 2011, is a small independent press committed to publishing books, which focus on lingering social and political issues.  PWP publishes literary fiction, non-fiction, memoirs and French translations that relate to France.

For more information contact:  Mary Duncan


Crystalens and Double Z Syndrome: When a Writer’s Eyes Go Bad


By Mary Duncan

This article was updated on June 5, 2018 at the request of a reader who recently had problems with Crystalens. She said she wished she had found my article before her surgery and asked how my eyes are five years later. Frankly, I’m glad I had them removed by my French surgeon in Paris. He did not recommend laser treatments or anything else. Just get them out.

I use +300 reading glasses. My eyes are a little blurred when I’m tired. Sometimes I have floaters. So far, I have refused any other treatments. Thankfully my eye sight was restored  and I’m still writing.  For full details, please read my article.


“Double Z Syndrome” sounds like the title of a thriller. But it’s not. It’s what happened to my eyes after what was supposed to be routine cataract surgery.

My eye doctor at a prominent clinic in La Jolla, California, recommended Crystalens by Bausch & Lomb, as being the latest lens for replacing cataracts with an added bonus. I probably wouldn’t have to wear glasses. Vanity won out. I’d been wearing glasses for over thirty years and the thought of getting rid of them was worth the additional price of $3600.

Prior to surgery I did some research. Crystalens were designed by Bausch & Lomb in 2004. They are designed to move with your eye. In order to do so, they are shaped like a pair of glasses with only one lens. That single lens has two arms attached with small hinges, just like regular glasses. It looks like a “U”. This tiny Crystalens is inserted into your eye and only takes around twenty-five minutes. Local anesthesia is used. The surgery was fast and painless. A piece of cake as we say.

However, I made a mistake. I only read Bausch & Lomb’s information which my doctor gave me. I should have researched the internet for “Crystalens problems or complaints.” Dozens of negative reviews filled the page. If I had done this prior to my surgery, I would never have agreed to use Crystalens.

The first surgery was on March 19, 2013. The second was on April 2, 2013. Even after the first procedure, my improved eyesight was miraculous. I was thrilled. With my doctor’s permission, I flew to Paris on April 16 to continue research on a new book.

All was well until the morning of April 26. When I woke up, my eyes were very blurry. I could still read but was very far-sighted. In order to see the 40 inch television screen clearly, I had to sit two feet in front of it. Subway and street signs were difficult to read unless I was very close to them. Poor depth perception made me very unstable on stairs. I couldn’t differentiate between six inches and two feet. I was unsteady on my feet and couldn’t see red and green traffic lights. I absolutely could not drive a car.

I couldn’t go out at night alone. I hired a young woman to help with computer related work, shopping and accompanying me to evening events. All work on my book stopped. I started using taxis and then due to less exercise, gained weight. As a partial solution, I ordered temporary glasses, which cost $650 due to the severe astigmatism.

The depression caused by my eye problems increased as my dependence on other people became a daily necessity.

After I emailed my doctor, he increased the doses of Durezol, a cortisone eye drop. Of course, he would see me but I was in France. In desperation, I saw a French optometrist. He said drops would not help. I needed glasses but it was too soon to prescribe them. He said my vision was too impaired for me to fly to California alone. I might hurt myself by falling over luggage or stairs. I sent the results to my La Jolla doctor who also recommended corrective lenses.

Bausch & Lomb France was notified of my problems. They quickly referred me to an excellent French eye surgeon at Cochin Hospital in Paris. He diagnosed the “Z Syndrome” in both eyes. Basically, the Crystalens had buckled and were at an angle. One of the arms on each lens had flipped over backwards, forming a “Z.” No one would say what caused it, but apparently this was not a new problem with Crystalens.



My options were a laser treatment called a Y.A.G.; inserting a capsular ring, trying to correct the hinge and reposition the Crystalens; removing the Crystalens and inserting a monofocal lens. All had possible serious side affects.


I wanted them out. I felt like I had two time bombs in my eyes.

On July 18, my French surgeon removed 90 % of the Crystalens in my right eye. He left in the haptics or end legs of the lens because they had adhered to my eye and were outside the capsular bag. He inserted an Alcon monofocal lens. My vision improved immediately but my eyes were still very tired due to the left eye. I still could not fly.

Since my surgeon was going on vacation in August, we waited until September 10 to operate on the left eye. Everything went well. I now use +300 glasses for reading. My distance vision is normal.

Fortunately, I have excellent U.S. health insurance, which covered most of my medical expenses. The total cost for a tourist using the French eye clinic and surgeon was $4000 per eye. Viva la France. The cost in La Jolla for the original eye surgery was about $11,500 per eye.

When I included the cost of the Crystalens that were removed, my out-of-pocket expenses were about $6000 for the temporary glasses, assistant and taxis.

My La Jolla doctor said I was a good candidate. My French surgeon, who performs about 600 cataract operations each year, had a different opinion.

Last year, he only used Crystalens on forty patients who had very small eyes. He said this leaves very little room for the Crystalens to move or form the Z Syndrome. He now uses photos of my eyes at medical conferences to inform other doctors about these risks.

Before you agree to any major medical product or procedure, be sure to search the subject on the internet, such as, “Crystalens problems or complaints.”  Do this for DEVICES as well as procedures whether it be for your eyes, heart, knees, hips, etc.  Do not rely on the manufacturer or even your doctor to warn you about problems. One reviewer recommended a class action suit.

Double Z Syndrome is not a thriller. It is very serious and I’m fortunate to have a positive outcome, apart from the cost, pain and suffering and the delay in completing my book.

The end.


Meet Our Bloggers from the Paris Writers Group


Have you ever wondered where to find the best chocolate in Paris?

Buy beautiful lingerie? Read about the latest literary events? Educate yourself about current French politics or even some scandal? Discover a secret garden? Preview a Louvre exhibit or visit an artist’s atelier? Are you curious about what it’s like to be a parent living in France?  Or why the French had to redesign the Statue of Liberty three times before it was acceptable to the American public? Have you dreamed about owning an apartment in the City of Light?

Then meet our bloggers whose articles and interviews are read by more than 25,000 subscribers. We live and work in Paris. We walk her streets, ride the metro and buses, drink in her cafes, sleep and eat in her apartments, admire her gardens, complain about her bureaucracy, the weather, strikes and high prices.  But for now, we wouldn’t live in any other place.

We write our impressions, opinions and recommendations so that our readers can share and learn from our experiences.

Visit our websites and subscribe to your favorite blogs here or by clicking on “Blogs” in our menu at the top of the page.

Biographer Noel Riley Fitch Visits the Paris Writers Group


by Mary Duncan

If you are sensitive to the naked truth, then beware. Naked is the proper word to describe Noel Riley Fitch’s comments about Sylvia Beach, Anais Nin and Julia Child. This month, Noel who was our special guest at PWG, shared some surprises she discovered while researching her biographical subjects. She spent ten years researching and writing each of her three biographies, Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation, The Erotic Life of Anais Nin and Appetite for Life.

Samuel Beckett was her most intimidating interview. She sat across from him and thought to herself, “Oh, my God, That’s Samuel Beckett. He had beautiful blue eyes and was very shy.” When she asked him about James Joyce, he smiled and opened up. Beckett even remembered Joyce’s phone number. Noel taped all of her interviews and recommends we do the same. Another interview about Sylvia Beach was not as successful.

While interviewing Janet Flanner, Noel realized that Janet’s memories were blurred. She only salvaged one quote from Janet. Sylvia Beach “did not stop to see if her hat was on straight….She knew by feeling.”

Noel also interviewed Jacques Benoit-Méchin who was a translator and collaborationist during the war. He barely escaped the death sentence. When she arrived at his home, she was greeted by a maid who escorted her into his beautiful study where he was wearing a morning coat. Instead of trying to hide his collaborationist activities, he had a large display of the 1936 Olympics on his walls. He had insisted on Noel bringing a translator. As they left, he pointedly spoke to them in fluent English.

The erotic aspects of Julia Child surprised her. Julia enjoyed sex more than Anais Nin. Paul, Julia’s husband, wrote about their enjoyment of sex. Her appetite for food and sex were linked. Julia came from an affluent family in Pasadena, California. Both Julia and her husband worked for the OSS which was the predecessor to the CIA. They were clearly in love and had a very successful marriage. Noel said, “the only thing dirty about Julia was her pots and pans.” In an interesting twist, it was Paul who introduced Julia to Henry Miller’s books.

Nin wrote about sex and then did it. Nin used writing as a form of seduction. Noel interviewed one of Nin’s lovers who was recommended by Mary Dearborn, who wrote The Happiest Man Alive: A Biography of Henry Miller. Nin’s lover had a collection of erotica that included a series of “one handed readers” that young writers wrote for one dollar a page. Prior to the interview, Dearborn warned Noel to bring along Bert, her husband. That was good advice Noel said. When she arrived, Nin’s former lover who was overweight, had his bare belly hanging over his unzipped pants that were held together with a safety pin. When she asked him what it was like to sleep with Anais Nin, he replied, “Nin would put her mouth on any warm appendage.”

Noel also learned that while in Paris, Nin aborted Henry Miller’s baby. As an adult, she had a sexual relationship with her father who abandoned the family when she was a child. Noel concluded that as a young woman, Anais was very naive about her own sexuality. “Once she started having sex, she never stopped…For Nin, seduction was a power trip.”

Noel has completed a biography about Marie-Louise O’Murphy, who was the young mistress of Louis XV. He insisted on meeting her after he saw Francois Boucher’s famous painting of “her bottom” (1752), that was painted when she was fourteen years old. Marie-Louise only escaped the guillotine because she was Irish.

Noel said being a biographer yielded some personal surprises. She met and became friends with biographers Mary Dearborn and Erica Jong.