Friday, October 18, 2013


David Plante's book/diary is a challenge for the mind and for the senses.  This labyrinthtine walk through a half century of writers, artists and events is a delight.  The "homosexual" love story is touching and reveals all that which the "gay wave" has taken away from former times: sardonic wit and au underground, which infiltrated the "official" world with grey power rather than with Guy Fawkes' gunpowder.  Gay today stands for a lot of good but it has also become more an Abercrombie & Fitch commodity rather than the former whispered coded word and allusive double-life play.

Plante's book often comes across as a fetish of Henry James, as an ashtray forgotten by Virginia Woolf or a May 68 revisited. It also shows the silent infiltration of calcification which comes with age.  Likewise it uncovers Picasso or the "Viaggio in Italia" as only a psycho-analyst could do.
The permanent warfare of Plante against almost all things American (the expat syndrome) is less aggressive than hilarious.  After all, the "Ugly American" still rules.  Last week's political scenario in Washington would have been catnip for Gore Vidal.

The book is insinuating.  Melancholy is always present under the sheets or under the social high- class veneer.  All those mini strokes end up debilitating the body.  The process is insidious, divesting words of memory, one by one. Love, too, is overtaken by routines and repetition, which are the tributes one ends up paying  if there is a will for commitment to last. Transgressions are reduced to some therapeutic passe-temps, without staying power.

All those people, famous and obscure, are involved in a Pirandello scenario. In Proust they would choke on what they say because they must work on how to express it (after all, they are French). Here the talk stays insular, betraying a reticence to let unwelcome intruders invade the conversation. The book is an island "as dreams are made of."  Hence, there are walls of silence and babble, endless dinners or high teas with the sole purpose of recognizing that one belongs to a species which needs to be protected from the world's stage.

The book is a long cantata to most things English, with here and there a sparse allusion to the outside world, generally reduced to a space confined "more in sorrow than in anger."  Current events appear accidentally (the Greek coup, the riots in Paris, travel) and have little impact since they are not allowed to derail the core of the diary which consequently can sometimes feel claustrophobic.  History (primarily Greece, Byzantium and Turkey) is often reduced into a von Gloeden daguerreotype.

The reader leaves this enchanted but perverse stroll with a thousand name cards and as many bruises. He might loose illusions and innocence on the way but will gain in harvesting both empathy and a closeness which can look old fashioned in today's continuous traffic jam.
Potency only worked when it remained unfocused, indeed. Today's Twitter killed yesterday's eagle.

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