March 2011


Christopher could never have done alone what Wystan was doing. He was too timid to have taken such a step independently. Would he have gone to Spain with Wystan, if it hadn’t been for Heinz? I think he would, despite his timidity, because he could have found no other good enough excuse for staying behind. As things were, he didn’t feel guilty about this, only regretful for what he was missing.

Christopher wasn’t seriously afraid that Wystan would be killed in battle. The government would probably insist on his making propaganda for them, rather than fighting. Still, Byron and Brooke had died by disease, not weapons, and a war-zone is full of potential accidents.

This was a solemn parting, despite all their jokes. It made them aware how absolutely each relied on the other’s continuing to exist.

Their friendship was rooted in schoolboy memories and the mood of its sexuality was adolescent. They had been going to bed together, unromantically but with much pleasure, for the past ten years, whenever an opportunity offered itself, as it did now. They couldn’t think of themselves as lovers, yet sex had given their friendship an extra dimension. They were conscious of this and it embarrassed them slightly — that is to say, the sophisticated adult friends were embarrassed by the schoolboy sex partners. This may be why they made fun, in private and in print, of each other’s physical appearance; Wystan’s ‘stumpy immature fingers’ and ‘small pale eyes screwed painfully together’; Christoper’s ‘squat’ body and ‘enormous’ nose and head. The adults were trying to dismiss the schoolboys’ sex-making as unimportant. It was of profound importance. It made the relationship unique for both of them.

On January 13, Christopher saw Wystan off on the train. Wystan had a bad cold but was otherwise cheerful. His only anxiety was about his luggage, which had been sent ahead, by mistake, to the Franco-Spanish frontier. He was afraid that it was lost forever. Luckily, he was wrong.

– Christopher IsherwoodChristopher and his Kind

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It was a picture of Faye Greener, a still from a two-reel farce in which she had worked as an extra. She had given him the autograph willingly enough, had even autographed it in a large, wild hand, “Affectionately yours, Faye Greener,” but she refused his friendship, or, rather insisted on keeping it impersonal. She had told him why. He had nothing to offer her, neither money nor looks, and she could only love a handsome man and would only let a wealthy man love her. Tod was a “good-hearted man,” and she liked “good-hearted men,” but only as friends. She wasn’t hard-boiled. It was just that she put love on a special plane, where a man without money or looks couldn’t move.

The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West