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The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief [Kindle Edition]

David Plante
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $12.49
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Book Description

The Pure Lover is David Plante’s elegy to his beloved Nikos Stangos, their forty-year life together, and its tragic end. Written in vivid fragments that, like the pieces of a mosaic, come together into a glimmering whole, it shows us both the wild nature of grief and the intimate conversation that is love.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this simple, heartfelt memoir, author Plante (The Family, American Ghosts) shares a series of disjointed memories about his lover for 40 years, the recently deceased Nikos. Reflecting the way longtime partners become one, even Nikos's earliest first-person recollections enter into Plante's memoir, including dreamy passages about Nikos's childhood in Greece: watching his mother leave, witnessing his father dying in bed, attending college in the U.S. Having met in London in their mid-20s, Plante and Nikos immediately began a relationship that would last a lifetime. Readers unfamiliar with either man's literary legacy won't get much of an education; references to their careers are sparing, and the absence not only keeps readers at arm's-length, but gives the material an unanchored feel. The book ultimately seems written for an audience of two, rather than a general readership; Plante's intimate, guarded tone keeps readers feeling like intruders.
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“How a book can be at once so raw and so artful is a mystery; The Pure Lover joins a handful of necessary volumes that speak directly from grief’s wild, inconsolable center, and readers will find it bracing, unflinching, and honest to the core.”
—Mark Doty, author of Heaven’s Coast
 “A wrenching and boldly intimate lament.”
—Philip Roth

The Pure Lover leaves one exalted . . . A lovely book, joyful, plangent and true.”
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

The Pure Lover is a short but moving elegy. . . . It’s a difficult subject, handled with lyricism, pain, indiscretion and love.”
—Margaret Drabble, New Statesman

“David Plante’s fine meditation on love and loss is the work of one who has been there and who knows that it is the dying who are losing all and that the grief we obtain is the survivor’s treasure.”
—Edward Albee
“Innovative and incantatory . . . Bracingly poignant . . . A cumulative portrait, taken in snapshots, of a long-term gay relationship that’s as valid a marriage as any other.”
—Jason Roush, The Gay and Lesbian Review
“A fierce encapsulation of grief, the fundamentally private wrought wrenchingly public. This sublime remembrance—more a compilation of memory fragments than a linear life story—evokes a whole man (in truth, two whole men).”
—Richard Labonte, Book Marks: Best of 2009

Product Details

  • File Size: 631 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (September 1, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002VWLJ2S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,862 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A History of Love August 29, 2009
In addition to many novels, David Plante has written compelling memoirs about his upbringing, development as a writer and his relationships with female friends. The Pure Lover is a very different kind of autobiographical piece which traces his longstanding relationship with the poet Nikos Stangos who died in 2004. He speaks directly to his lost lover addressing him as "you" throughout the book while recalling details of Stangos' life to formulate an unsentimental portrait of the man he lost. Rather than presenting a straightforward narrative, details are presented in flashes with powerful short sections which simulate memories rushing forward. Something about this effect is so captivating and moving that I was enraptured from the beginning to the end of this short stunning book.

Plante's moving tribute stands as a counterpoint to Andrew Holleran's elegiac novel Grief which mourns for a generation of gay men, some of whom found their physical passion stymied by a fear of AIDS resulting in prolonged melancholy loneliness. The Pure Lover records a deep forty something year companionship between two men which weathered jealousy, depression, periods of separation through work and illness. The love, deep pleasure and joy in each other which Stangos and Plante shared withstood these trials just as any long term relationship, heterosexual or homosexual, must if it is to continue. However, we have precious few written tributes to lifelong homosexual relationships that were lived openly. This alone makes The Pure Lover a unique testament, but this deeply tender book also evokes feelings which are universal. Plante ponders the inevitable tragic consequence of two people who are so deeply romantically entwined - that ultimately they must be separated by death.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Accomplishment July 29, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An innovation within the literary genre of the elegy that ranks as a major accomplishment, honoring its subject Nikos with a tribute he could have praised with his chosen accolade: "innovative." Beautifully as well as frankly and delicately written, Plante's memorable work of memory evokes fundamental human emotions while tempering those hardest to bear with aesthetic, literary rigor. Read along with the author's "Becoming a Londoner," this book distills a life lived doubly. Gratefully, I have not been the same since I read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gay relationship takes the high ground October 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For all those in the civilized world dismayed by the recent setbacks queers have faced - novelist David Plante has written a powerful, baleful rallying cry that sings with divine grace to the loving relationship he had for over 40 years with his partner Nikos Stangos. His memoir, The Pure Lover, is a stunning, ethereal testimony to the love that can exist between gays.

The first chapters concern the family history of Nikos Stangos. Here, the reader is assured in that David had heard these stories from Nikos so many times that it would be very hard to place them in any specific place of telling, for the two men's histories had almost become one, with the memories mixed together. David writes with empathy of Nikos's past in Europe during the Second World War. And the reader comes to realize how miraculous it was that these two men, from different worlds, came out of loneliness and found each other.

And it is the descriptions of their simple, everyday loving interactions for each other that make this book sing. We laugh when we read that the first night they spent together Nikos just wanted to talk, while David was very confused by this. Yet, soon, Nikos made his bed their bed, and invited the emotional Plante to live with him. It struck me how unafraid each was to allow the other to see his vulnerabilities, whether this be David's insecurities as a writer or partner - or Nikos's insecurities about the relationship itself. The other would always be there in full support of the other. Slowly, these two young men built a life together filled with Christmas trees, dinner parties, and appreciation of art.

Indeed, these two were entwined with the last of the Bloomsburg group and often shared dinner and arguments with, among others, W.H. Auden.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "To love, you believed you must love purely..." March 9, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
David Plante's recounting of his meeting Nikos Stangos and their subsequent forty year relationship is a gift to the reader. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking in its examining a relationship and the person loved. The beginning of the memoir is a brief retelling of Nikos' personal history - sometimes directed to Nikos as though he might offer a correction in a detail left out. It gives an account of their meeting and time together and apart - it isn't extensive, but a reflection back or overview - an expression of feeling and honoring the memory of two people whose relationship spanned decades. For some reason, the image of Monet's Water Lilies as a comparison comes to mind as a beautiful impression rather than exact likeness. David Plante's honesty particularly when recounting Nikos last days is the embodiment of the vows, "... from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part". The memoir is not depressing or bogged down in grief but a tribute to love and relationships.
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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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