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Becoming a Londoner: A Diary Hardcover – September 24, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (September 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620401886
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620401880
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Novelist and memoirist Plante (The Pure Lover, 2009) was a 26-year-old American new to London when he fell in mutual love-at-first-sight with Greek expat Nikos Stangos. When Stangos told his older English lover about aspiring writer Plante, poet Stephen Spender graciously befriended Plante and introduced him to the likes of painter Francis Bacon and writer Christopher Isherwood. When Stangos, Plante’s partner until Stangos’ death in 2004, became the arts editor for Penguin Books, the couple found themselves at the center of London’s literary and art worlds. In this lapidary yet flowing volume, which runs from 1966 to 1986 and is charged with keen attentiveness and dazed astonishment, Plante meticulously records a perpetual carousel of luncheons, dinners, parties, and vacations punctuated by encounters with Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Ben Nicholson, David Hockney, Edna O’Brien, Bruce Chatwin, and many others. Writing with supple exactitude, Plante sidesteps the diarist’s usual habit of obsessive self-analysis to create a living history of this artistically dynamic time and place. And to think, this is just one small part of Plante’s immense, half-century-spanning diary. More, please. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Entries take on the languid feel of the floating world…A seamlessly charming narrative both evocative and sensual.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Love and life among literary lions . . . .[Plante is] a crafter of limpid prose, possessed of keen insight and sympathy. He also displays a rare gift for finely wrought characterization. . . . A richly detailed document of the London art scene of the ’60s and an affecting memoir of the artist as a young man.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“In this lapidary yet flowing volume, which runs from 1966 to 1986 and is charged with keen attentiveness and dazed astonishment, Plante meticulously records a perpetual carousel of luncheons, dinners, parties, and vacations punctuated by encounters with Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Ben Nicholson, David Hockney, Edna O’Brien, Bruce Chatwin, and many others. Writing with supple exactitude, Plante sidesteps the diarist’s usual habit of obsessive selfanalysis to create a living history of this artistically dynamic time and place. And to think, this is just one small part of Plante’s immense, half-century-spanning diary. More, please.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist
 
“Always elegant, Plante’s prose winds around and meanders…An engrossing look into the veteran writer’s younger existence… He makes the perfect narrator to decades in flux, blithely commenting about drinking cider in one entry, and mentioning friends of friends were arrested for their homosexual behavior in the next…Becoming a Londoner isn’t about transitions, it is about an evolution—from one thing to another, where there is no such thing as going back to older times, but rather starting currents and moving forward.” —Daily News

“In the hands of a true writer, a diary can be a miraculous thing… lyrical intelligence is ever on display… The London loved by any artist will inevitably be a fairytale for other, more jaundiced eyes. That is, after all, the magic of London—and the magic of Becoming a Londoner as well.”—New York Journal of Books

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 8 customer reviews
This is a charming, engaging, memorable book, half culture history, half domestic love story.
Chris Bram
This aspect will likely be especially interesting to readers of Isherwood's diaries and novels.
Charles S. Houser
He also meets writers like Christopher Isherwood, E.M. Forster, Edna O'Brien, and W.H. Auden.
price cartwright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By price cartwright on October 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Review of David Plante's Becoming a Londoner, A Diary
By Robert Waldron
With the publication of Becoming a Londoner, A Diary (Bloomsbury, 532 pages), critically acclaimed novelist David Plante joins the pantheon of gifted modern diarists, one that includes Virginia Woolfe, Julian Green, Andre Gide, and James Lees-Milne, with a diary chronicling candidly and eloquently his first fifteen years of living in London, from the mid 60s to the early 80s.
Emulating his hero Henry James, Plante decides to abandon America where as a gay man he is not allowed to be himself in public; he also renounces his Catholic religion, one that dogmatically condemns homosexuality. He had inherited his faith from his Franco-Catholic family that had left Canada to settle in Rhode Island. Thus raised as a devout Catholic, he, of course, chose to attend Boston College where he was educated by Jesuits.
London, particularly in the 1960s and the 1970s was a cultural center whose influence spread throughout the world. The city allowed the young Plante to spread his wings. A fortunate man, he met the love of his life almost upon arrival, a beautiful young man two years older than Plante (then twenty-six) named Nikos Stangos. They both instantly fell in love with each other. The only problem was that Nikos was the lover of poet Stephen Spender, who was wisely understanding and generous when informed that Nikos had a new lover. Spender became very fond of Plante, and many years after their first meeting he said that he had come to view both Plante and Stangos as his sons, a comment that very much pleased Plante.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Petronius on July 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First of all, this is really a chronicle of facts - names, menus , places. It is amazing that in 512 pages of diary entries, we learn so little of David Plante's inner life. I wish I knew this before reading it. Not until page 364 do we read his confession "I don't interpret in my diary, nor, do I hope, do I express opinions." The entries are not dated (not very helpful) nor are they presented to us chronologically. What we have is the story of how Plante tersely states, at the beginning and end of the collection, that he left New York, having failed in love and as a writer. Heavy sentences for him to pronounce on himself, considering that he was just a young man in his 20's when he left. More details on why he fled New York would have been interesting. What we do learn in these 512 pages of diary extracts is that on one of his very first days in London, he met the love of his life, Nikos, then working at the Greek embassy, but later to become an editor with Penguin. It was good timing for Nikos, who was at that moment of meeting Plante the toy boy lover of high society, artistic guru and established writer Stephen Spender, who was trying to maintain a heterosexual facade with a marriage to a woman who realized her husband's gay inclination. Spender maintained friendship with Nikos following their split, and Plante and Nikos moved in together during Plante's first days in London. Love at first sight. Or obsession at first sight. We figure out that Plante is a very co-dependent personality who is constantly insecure in his love, in his writing, and in life. He seems to attribute this to being "Franco American" in New England in a large poor Catholic family.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Drinks parties and hobnobbing with the R & F, or the domestic life of one gay couple

Thanks to an astute Amazonian algorithm, this book was identified as one I might like (probably because I had recently purchased several volumes of Christopher Isherwoods's diaries). Although I hadn't heard of David Plante, let alone read any of his novels, I am interested in literary memoirs and diaries, pre-Stonewall gay life, and anything about London. Also, my reading of Isherwood has made me curious about Stephen Spender as a personality, if not as a poet, and he promised to figure large in Plante's diary.

While all diaries are "edited" and many are annotated, Plante has blurred the boundaries of the genre in interesting ways. First, he has been highly selective (he estimates the word count of his source diaries, now in the Berg Collection of the NYPL, to be in the millions; this published selection is a merciful 165,000). Second, apart from stating that the first entry was from June 1966, the subsequent entries are NOT dated and, Plante confesses, not always presented in chronological order (thus giving the diary form something of the dramatic pacing and momentum more typical of memoirs and fiction). Third, the entries have been "elaborated upon by memory," making annotations unnecessary because Plante is pretty good at determining what readers need to know and when best to provide it. (One warning here: the book has a number of Franks and Stephens, and Plante often fails to give their last names.)

I found Becomming a Londoner intriguing on three levels. First, as an account of an American expatriate making a life for himself in London. It's probably no accident that Plante's first novel was called The Ghost of Henry James.
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More About the Author

David Plante is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Francoeur trilogy--The Family, The Woods, and The Country--as well as a work of nonfiction, Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three. His work has appeared in many periodicals, The New Yorker and The Paris Review among them, and has been nominated for a National Book Award. He teaches writing at Columbia University and lives in New York and London.

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