A memoir of young love and life among literary lions.
Novelist Plante (The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief, 2009, etc.) excerpts from his voluminous diary, here covering his first years in London, chronicling his artistic coming-of-age in the mid-1960s. The author moved in heady circles, counting such artistic luminaries as Francis Bacon, David Hockney and W.H. Auden as friends, and the young writer took in this milieu with a novelist’s attention to detail—and a literary tyro’s self-obsession. This period also marked the beginning of Plante’s long-term romantic relationship with Nikos Stangos, a politically engaged, erudite expatriate Greek—and the subject of The Pure Lover. The evolution of Plante’s relationship with Stangos and his experiences navigating the fraught social circle of London’s art scene are the focus of the narrative. The young Plante groped hungrily for an identity, accumulating political awareness, a sense of Englishness (Plante is a native of Rhode Island), artistic accomplishment, respect and community. As is perhaps inevitable in a diary, the reading experience is periodically bogged down by repetition; there are an awful lot of dinner parties and lunches to get through. But even at this stage, Plante was a crafter of limpid prose, possessed of keen insight and sympathy. He also displays a rare gift for finely wrought characterization. The poet Stephen Spender, an intimate of Plante’s, vividly emerges from these pages as a profoundly endearing sad-uncle figure, an accomplished man of letters beset by insecurity and furtively hiding his homosexuality from his forceful wife, Natasha.
A richly detailed document of the London art scene of the ’60s and an affecting memoir of the artist as a young man.