LOVERS & FRIENDS
Excerpt from Chapter One
copy of the Walton biography was sent to me yesterday and I have
been up all night reading it. An editor at the publishing company,
a friend of mine, knowing I was a friend of theirs, thought I might
be interested. Interested? Outraged is more like it.
The biography isn’t merely inept.
It is a conscious attempt to grab the largest number of readers
by appealing to what is universal in humanity: a vulgar, insatiable
interest in the prurient. There are so many lies in it, not lies
of fact, which are for the most part correct, but distortions of
meanings, of intentions. Events are falsified by interpretation
and the Waltons diminished in the process, the whole of their lives
painted squalid and ugly.
None of us who knew David and Sarah saw
them in that way. They had too much intelligence, too much charm,
too much style, really. They had a vitality, an energy, that electrified
the air around them and made them obsessively interesting to those
who knew them, and those who wanted to. They were often infuriating,
frequently destructive, but never tawdry.
No one will dispute the biography; not David
and Sarah certainly, not their children, not their friends. It will
be ignored by us like the many fabrications that came before: a
good thing, perhaps, since the “truth” we would tell,
in all its various forms, would be no more flattering to David and
Sarah than the distortions of the eminent Mr. Philip Keating, unauthorized
biographer to the stars. And in a little while, those of us who
don’t keep diaries or journals, those of us who don’t
record facts as a hedge against delusion, will no doubt begin to
believe the Keating version. Memory is like that, fickle, as attracted
to glitter as a magpie.
The covering note, from my former friend,
the editor, said the publishers expect the book to top the nonfiction
On the jacket
of the book is a photograph of David and Sarah taken, Mr. Keating
claims, during a weekend they spent in Vienna while each was married
to someone else. This information is provided in a coyly salacious
tone veneered with brisk journalese, the tone of the entire biography.
David and Sarah did in fact go to Vienna together, but the photograph
was not taken then. It was taken two years later, in London, the
morning of their wedding, by me.
What difference does such a small discrepancy
make? Can it matter? Yes, because photographs tell their own, their
very powerful story. And this one tells of two people who don’t
give a damn for anyone else in the world but themselves, an appropriate
enough feeling for a wedding day, I think, but a bit callous, a
bit heartless, during a dirty weekend of betrayal. They were miserable
in Vienna, as it happens, which fact will certainly alter no one’s
preconceived notions of such weekends, not even mine. But though
they weren’t unhappy for appropriately “moral”
reasons, doesn’t knowing they were give us a different attitude
towards them, towards their characters, than believing them blithely
In the photograph, the background is out
of focus, but I remember it was a lovely spring day, the first day
of sunshine in the weeks I had been in England. David and Sarah
saw it as an omen, a blessing. I’d come armed with my Olympus,
and though we were already late for the registry office, we went
into the garden and I posed them against the pale pink rose climbing
the brick wall at the far end. It was morning, and the sunshine
was brilliant, broken intermittently by clouds like white scarves
waving against the blue sky. I moved in close. I wanted their faces.
They stood in profile, looking at each other, smiling broadly, radiantly.
Watching them through the lens of my camera,
shooting frame after frame, freezing them in that moment, I knew
I was as much in love with them as they were with each other, with
the idea of them. The cynic in me lay crouched in a corner, ready
to spring, but held by a whip and a chair, by the sunshine and the
smiles and the fragile beauty of the roses against the brick wall.
Their love for each other vibrated in the
air like a held note in music. It didn’t, at that moment,
seem to much to ask that it should enrich and expand their lives;
that it continue knocking obstacles out of its path with the ruthlessness
of a Mafia don; that it triumph over time and familiarity, boredom
and contempt. It didn’t seem at all too much to ask that it
should last forever.