In With the Worldly Set

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DAVID PLANTE is an Anglo-American writer who is perhaps best known for a trilogy of autobiographical novels—The Family, The Wood, and The Country—that were joined together in a 1983 edition under the title The Francoeur Novels. He has had stories published in The New Yorker, which is like having an Order of Merit conferred on any writer. Plante has also written nonfiction works, among them the well-received personal narrative Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three (1983), an account of his relations with Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell, and Germaine Greer. He has just come out with a new memoir, a sequel to his 2013 book, Becoming a Londoner: A Diary, which a piece in The London Review of Books makes sound like highbrow literary gossip with the young Plante, a newcomer to the British capital, hanging on to the remnants of the Bloomsbury circle—figures like poet Stephen Spender—as if to bask in their glow by sheer proximity.

Coming out of devoutly Catholic French-Canadian working-class stock, Plante was one of seven brothers. Raised in Providence, Rhode Island, he left in the 1960s and took up the life of an expatriate littérateur, heading first to London. His adventures there are described in the 2013 book. The new memoir, Worlds Apart, picks up with his extensive travels and living stints elsewhere in Europe (France, Italy, Greece, Russia) and in the U.S. (mostly in New York). The structure of the book is not chronological but thematic, drawing from the vast archive that is his lifelong diary, which documents fifty years of his life in many thousands of pages.

Plante’s new memoir is populated by famous artists and writers whose private lives he knew about first- or secondhand, including that of Spender, whom Plante had actively sought out in London and who soon became his close friend and mentor.

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