Worlds Apart: A Memoir
By David Plante
I only have one other David Plante on my bookshelf – ‘The Catholic’ – which I read and enjoyed as an examination of the life of a young gay French Canadian Catholic dealing with the problems and pleasures that his sexuality engenders. Like many, I was raised with some religious background with which I had to come to terms but became much more interested in how my Roman Catholic friends dealt with reactions to their emerging sexuality both within and without themselves.
Plante has had a long and distinguished career as both an author and teacher. He has also been a detailed diarist particularly as that has always been part of his method in writing (descriptive objectivity). He has spent most of his life living and working in London with his long-term poet partner Nikos Stangos who has worked as an Arts publishing editor for Thames Hudson. He has British citizenship and has immersed himself in the Arts and Literature scene in London. He has published diary excerpts before and this latest offering covers the personalities of the 80’s and the emergence of HIV/AIDS.
He has had associations (some longer term and in more depth) with some well-known names. These include Stephen Spender and his unconventional wife Natasha and Spender’s late life association with the young American student Bryan Obst. David Hockney features especially through the Stangos connection and there are frequent meetings with Philip Roth in England and Israel. Wystan Auden even gets anecdotal mention or two. Some of his most enjoyable entries refer to Germaine Greer whom he seems to have survived (even sleeping with her platonically) while both were working at the U of Oklahoma in Tulsa. I found my presumed incredulity of this particular scenario quite enjoyable.
There is much of interest particularly if you follow these personalities and the artistic scene of London at that time. I, however, mostly enjoyed Plante’s attempts to find a retreat bolthole for himself and Nikos in Greece and Italy (especially Lecce). The nature of their relationship is plumbed more acutely in these locations when they are largely on their own.
I am not too keen on this kind of internal tittle-tattle and am inclined to find Plante as the subordinate basking in the greater fame of others. Never the less, it is worth sampling to see if there is enough for tastes other than mine.