WYSTAN AND CHESTER by Thekla Clark

WYSTAN AND CHESTER

A Personal Memoir of W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A fond but not uncritical backward glance at one of this century's most important poets and his companion. Clark, who set sail as a young Oklahoman in 1951 for a blithely reckless expatriate existence in Europe, first came to know the English Auden and his once and future sweetheart, American-born Kallman, first on the Italian island of Ischia. They remained fast friends. The satisfaction of Clark's brief but eventful reminiscence is twofold: She captures the unsteady, even giddy rhythms typical of many close friendships; and she offers an unabashedly opinionated double portrait of her two inimitable sidekicks. Some indulgently self-conscious nattering does creep into the writing (``Had they been halcyon days?'' Clark asks at one point). And she may enjoy describing herself too much: ``I was still wearing cotton gloves and was overly ware of the attention I was causing.'' Yet she is generally a vivid writer and a quick study. She follows the sometimes tormented progress of Auden and Kallman's long intimacy. Loyal to both in her ferreting, she seems able to present each man in enough detail to sidestep or thwart the legends and stereotypes that have sprung from them or been imposed on them. Both emerge as magnetic figures, crisscrossed by idiosyncrasy as if by wrinkles. Maybe it is the impromptu charm of the author that most buoys her story, unmarked by literary criticism, and alive with quoted conversation. ``Wystan was fascinated by female anatomy and the whole process of birth,'' she reports. `' `You are so fortunate to have all your reproductive organs inside you' he said, `not these ridiculous things I find attached to me as an afterthought.' He and I had long and detailed gynecological discussions, but we forbore from having them at table after one night Chester screamed, `Mercy!' '' A sweet, smart, witty character sketch.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1996
ISBN: 0-231-10706-4
Page count: 130pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionWHAT W.H. AUDEN CAN DO FOR YOU by Alexander McCall Smith
by Alexander McCall Smith