Becoming a Londoner: A Diary

David Plante. Bloomsbury, $30 (544p) ISBN 978-0-7624-5059-6
American novelist Plante has outlived most of the dear characters he depicts here in this diary kept over the many decades he lived in London with the editor and poet Nikos Stangos. Both exiles in London, Plante from a “failed life” in New York, and Stangos from political turmoil in Greece, the two met in June 1966, both in their mid-to-late 20s, and soon grew inseparable: Stangos, working then at the Greek embassy, left a love relationship with the much older poet Stephen Spender, whose Bloomsbury relationships from an earlier generation prove invaluable connections for the two young men. Living first at Stangos’s flat on Wyndham Place, then in Battersea, when Stangos was the poetry editor at Penguin and Plante began publishing fiction, then in Central London, when Stangos needed to be closer to his job as editor of Thames & Hudson, the two moved among rather well-heeled friends like Spender and his wife, Natasha; Francis Bacon; and Sonia Orwell, from drinks to dinner parties and discreet trips to country houses in Italy and France. Self-consciously aping a pared-down style of description Spender himself suggested, Plante has deliberately excised dates and scrambled chronological order so that entries take on the languid feel of the floating world. His uneasiness living among Londoners and deepening love for Nikos meld into a seamlessly charming narrative both evocative and sensual. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
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