Becoming a Londoner: A Diary
by David Plante
Bloomsbury. 528 pages, $30.
WHEN the American writer David Plante (The Francoeur Trilogy, The Cath-olic, Difficult Women) got to London in 1966, he was fleeing personal and professional failure in New York (though what sort we never learn). But all that changed when he met a Greek poet and editor named Nikos Stangos. “He was in a love relationship with an older Englishman who was in fact away,” writes Plante, “and Nikos decided that on the Englishman’s return he would tell him their love relationship must come to an end.”
The older Englishman was the poet Stephen Spender—friend of Isherwood and Auden, author of the memoir World Within Worlds—who not only accepted David as Nikos’ lover but enjoyed the life they had with one another, especially when Spender’s wife Natasha was not with him. Indeed, the main plot of this novel-like diary is the relationship between the Spenders and the young couple. Over the course of Plante’s life in London, we watch Natasha change from an unseen, disapproving presence into a friend.