An Email Exchange with Rupert Christiansen

Cri and I knew that we were destined for each other when we discovered that we were very probably the only two people on earth to have total recall of the idiotic lyrics of the mediocre Broadway musical of the 1965 season of Baker Street, based on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. How, or indeed why this emerged I cannot recall, but the coincidence amused us greatly and became one of our running jokes. There were many such: over the 20 years of our friendship, I don’t think we ever went a minute without laughing at something.

In some respects, we were very different and ill-matched—I am fanatically well organized, obsessively punctual, and a firm believer that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, just to get it off my plate. Cri, on the other hand, was constitutionally incapable of being on time—though she had an almost infuriating gift for arriving at a theater a nanosecond before curtain up—and a meticulous perfectionist. This combination of qualities held her back, I think: writing to deadline and to length did not come easily to her, and editors found her delays and

excuses exasperating. What she did manage to produce was invariably brilliant—astute, ironic, fresh, unexpected—and I only wish she could have bequeathed us more of it.

As the marvelously astringent songs on her two classic albums demonstrate, she deplored cliché; her book reviews are both witty and precise. Blessed with a keen nose for bullshit and very specific tastes, she was the most perceptive and selective of readers, devoted to a wide range of authors from Dickens and Trollope to Ngaio Marsh and Hilary Mantel, but impatient and skeptical of shallow trends and the latest sensation. She longed for a bigger project: I urged her to write a memoir or a novel, and we had ideas of collaborating on an opera libretto, drawn from Edith Wharton’s oddity of a short story. After Holbein, but for want of a composer, we never got going. Working with her would doubtless have been a roller-coaster ride; she had her own fierce ideas, and I think she wanted me in on the game more as a goad than as a creative partner.

Despite that rapier sharpness of tongue, she was someone with an immense capacity for affection and a touching douceur for cats and babies (she doted on her granddaughters). Dig not very deep and you soon encountered the lineaments of the vulnerable, clever, lonely little girl of her childhood. But she could be very stubborn too, and much as I loved her, I could not count her an easy friend. I dreaded her phone calls, which might drag on incoherently for hours, and she was hypersensitive to imagined slights and insults. It could also be very difficult to follow the swerves and chicanes in her train of thought, interspersed as they were with cackles of mirth and arcane references to the films of Norma Shearer or the excesses of Adolf Hitler (with both of which she was unaccountably mesmerised). No wonder many people found her so daunting.

Her physical condition was always a worry. How much was real, how much psychosomatic, about her alarming and complex attacks? I could never get to the bottom of what was going on, nor could a succession of distinguished physicians. At times it seems amazing that she could function at all, but she continued to rally to the point at which I thought she was immortal—there was nothing else that sickness could throw at her. How wrong I was, and how much I miss her.

Our email exchanges

Cri was not a regular or reliable correspondent, but when she was on form—as she is in these exchanges—she was surely in the class of the great epistolarians, witty and succinct, with all the alacrity and celerity of her mercurial mind vividly rendered. 

When I tell her at one point below, “I cannot bear the thought that you will not one day WHEN ALL THIS IS OVER write a truly great and profoundly amusing book,” I was not merely being encouraging: I meant it, and I still painfully do. 

A screed of scholarly editorial annotation would be required to elucidate all the allusions that crop up, but I will spare the reader that: let me just explain that “Spotts” refers to an excellent book by Frederic Spotts called Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics; and A View from the Bridge is a briefly successful opera by William Bolcom, based on the play by Arthur Miller (not a favorite of Cri’s) that enjoyed brief success at the Met. What a pity that the New York Review of Books never came up with a commission.

March 2002

…grim Easter, not least because Queen Mother’s death has provoked one of Britain’s periodic fits of schizophrenia about the royals, driving me potty with irritation. Yes, she was a tough and rather nice old bird, who did a damned good job; no, we do not want a republic. But do we have to have TEN DAYS OF NATIONAL MOURNING. My own mother 

continues a huge worry, although she battles valiantly on.

And then the horror of the Israelis and Palestinians. To console myself, I am reading Selina Hastings’ marvelous new biography of that not very good novelist and prize bitch Rosamond Lehmann. Have you ever read anything of hers? At a time like this, the Bloomsburyish milieu in which she flourished is tremendously comforting

How are you, my dear? Has Polly taken congé? RXXXXXX


My Easter was pretty grim too; meaningless and squalid. I wish I could say that my mother battles valiantly on: rather, she exists in her own embittered half-light, which I don’t believe was penetrated this year, by the arrival of Pâques—so, leaving her to it, off we went—for the sake of SOMETHING to do—to Sag Harbour to Ivanna (née Citokowitz) ‘Lowell’, as she now styles herself (appropriating the most illustrious surname from the surfeit of her mother, Caroline Blackwood’s, paramours)…”It must be tough, being two-and-a-half and tired, with a mother who says ‘Now we’re off to the Bowery Bar’” murmured Lucinda—Little Dorrit with salt—stoically hoisting our hostess’s adorable baby on to her hip and bath-wards; as la mère—en train de divorçant, caught uncharacteristically nanny-less and marooned over the holiday-weekend amidst packing-cases and the social Siberians with NO PLANS OVER EASTER—grew ever more restive, then plastered…

Poor You! Subsumed in an orgy of Royalist wake-wallowing. Here—we had only two days worth of rotational references, as a quaint counterpoint to the accretion of cosmic horrors (Middle-Eastern and otherwhere)—with successive Headline News humanoids attempting to relax their botox and collagen rigid rictuses into softened smiles of suitable sentiment for the Grand Old Icon of Empire’s passing.

I confess to no acquaintance with either Selina Hastings or Rosamund Lehmann, though your intriguing aside (comme toujours) tempts me to rectify the omission, and both names seem familiar.

Roberto forges ahead with two weeks to go on this round of chemo & radiation. My bark was, of course, far more piercing than my bite: I feed him well, comfort him, lend him my bed whenever Lulu will let me share hers and I’m not too ill myself to do so, and he seems touchingly grateful. Heaven knows what I’ll do when things get stickier, but as Mother used to say: I’ll dive off that bridge when I come to it.

Polly let me off one evening last week, wasted with Wolf-Ferrari’s ‘Sly’: a derivative travesty of a pseudo-Hoffmann. Have you the misfortune of knowing it? As the production was as risible as the material, the set-pieces in both regards unsalvageable even by the still lustrous voice and evocative acting of Domingo—I was somewhat mystified by its presence, even on so frequently aesthetically mal-a-droit a stage as the Met’s: but as Domingo now heads the Washington Opera from whom this dud was bought, and Mrs. Domingo makes her directorial debut with the staging—the matter now explains itself.

Yesterday & today quite decent: thus this long letter. And I’ve a new internist that I like and trust. True, he offers no additional causes for hope or any fresh insights, but he seems neither a sadist nor a poseur, his judgment appears sound, & his hospital affiliate is Mont Sinai—still the best for rheumatology in NY and where Polly was first diagnosed, so that all makes sense.

Feeling better, have resumed reading Isadora though it’s probably far too late; ditto for Mogador. I comfort myself with the thought that while I must seem a non-starter by now to Emma Parry—I trust I can rekindle her interest at such time as I’ve sufficiently remastered myself to prepare something worth considering. For now—it does rather feel as if R.s cancer coming on top of Polly and the senescence of Mother, was the final nail in the creative coffin, & a pretty cadaverous creature my creativity was whilst it lived! Ah well…there’s some spark of life yet, somewhere…

Still hoping to get there in May. Your news? 

The column? Boyfriend? Sister? Mother? Book?

I miss you achingly, and I love you avec tout mon coeur.


The best news is the new internist—how long can you keep him? The worst your creative despair. I read prose of the quality you write so rarely—this letter in itself is a little epistolary masterpiece! eat your heart out, Virginia Woolf!—that I cannot bear the thought that you will not one day, WHEN ALL THIS IS OVER, write a truly great and profoundly amusing book. Just hold on to that thought—it may even be encouraging, in dark hours.

Oh I wish I could have been with you and Ivanna in Sag H. Is she sweet? cute? or a total poseur? i suspect the latter. I loved Lucinda’s remark. The girl has promise.

Yes, you must read Rosamond L (not as good in that larmoyante genre as Eliz Bowen, however, whom you ought to read first, if you haven’t). Off now to my mother’s—again. Today the problem is that she can’t shut the window in her bedroom. Can’t you ask a neighbour, I inquire. No, I’d rather you did it. Oh, it’s pay-back time, I guess

masses of love R

November 2002

Nov. 8

lovely to talk to you too— I’m v enthusiastic about the Chekhov. my review technique non-existent, though I always try to write them in one fell sitting. ~Times offer still up in the air


Nov. 8

Your pacing is exquisite, your summations masterly, and your sense of absurdity and the sheer delight you take in human oddity of a superlative nature, to which poor, plodding Spotts with his surreptitious penchants and academic mordancy, could never hope to aspire…

One fell hunh? How long does that take, pray?

Thrilled you’re keen on ‘The Woodcock’(?) Chekov & the Women out of print, as is the Carver in this country—N.Y. Soc. Library today.

Is it for darling little toi to pull the TIMES out of the air? When and how and to what issue?

Do come to N.Y. I MISS YOU.


Nov. 9

You say the sweetest things—but I wish that you would get puttin’ your vastly superior prose (supple, witty, erudite and intellectually acute) on to paper instead! A CMZ review of Spotts’ book would be more than a mere report of its contents—it would be an analysis, a critique and a riposte. so there. What a bore about the Chekhov and the Women and Elephant. Try for second hand?

More on the Times later


Nov. 9

thank you…but what’s called for in a 1500 word book-

review is not perfectionist paralysis punctuated by 

sporadic stutterings of recondite discursiveness—however supple: Can you give me a few simple pointers? Not rhetorical. I’m really asking…as you can deploy whatever is creatively required for the lustrous 

perfection of your ‘serious’ work, & also draw on a prompt, disciplined, task-appropriate, no-nonsense professionalism for critical journalism—helpful guidelines would be received with humility and deepest gratitude…

finished Spotts—his Afterword is eloquent, and a superb summation of his theme—I feel distracted, obtuse and benighted—or, at the least—ludicrously Byzantine in my previous perceptions of the whole—of course, my feelings of critical impotence also coloured by feeling so depressed and depleted—indeed, crushed—btw. my mother’s psychosis, Polly’s low rumblings, and Roberto’s imminent mortality—I won’t see anyone, or even go OUTSIDE—been barricaded in Lulu’s room with books & cats—for no discernible reason anymore as Roberto vacated my bedroom & flat late morning—save that I regress more effectively in there, holed up with my sense of impinging menace…

Going to take a break frm. Hittles now, and read Troyat & the Seagull…Did you notice the initial Genesis submission deadline, is for this coming April? All the more reason to show me (if such knowledge can be shared), how to save my creative anguish for where it COUNTS—and minimise the wear & tear on my precarious faculties, over the likes of the LA TIMES. I feel such a sophomoric amateur!

And THEN there’s the STATE OF THE NATION…with Little Master Ballyhoo and his bully-boys, in control of House and Senate…dear, oh dear…Did you decide about the Times yet?


Nov. 11

my dear, I honestly can tell you nothing about writing a review. I sit on my chair. switch on the computer, make a brief paragraph by paragraph plan and then start typing. A Spectator review takes four to five hours, including an hour of fiddling about correcting and rewriting. But you must realise what you do is several leagues above this hack-like efficiency. Your reviews are deeply considered and subtle essays—elaborate, yes, but not ludicrously Byzantine.

Your hermit existence sounds bleak, but understandable in the dreadful circumstances which confront you—I’d be cocooning myself too, watching endless reruns of to be or not to be and trying to pretend that the world was not as it sadly is. I don’t know how you handle the Roberto thing—no way to do so with grace. To be brutal, I suppose it can’t last much longer.

went to Royal Court to a memorial service last night for an actress friend (she was briefly in Topsyturvy) who died within 12 hours from some unsuspected attack of something. The nicest girl. highly intelligent and all those things which actresses are meant not to be. Hideously sad—however, two and a half hours of thespian drivellings and snivellings and sharing memories and I was ready for FLIP CITY. ‘Confronted by katrin’s death, I can’t speak’ said one of them. ‘I can only stutter.’

Have turned down the Times. Telegraph made me a most flattering counter offer and noises—plus big pay rise. so that’s the end of that. Would have been big kudos in moving, but I like where I am and feel loyalty to the desk—even quite like my grumpy conservative middle-aged readership.

Her Majesty the Queen in DEEP SHIT over the butler. The butler in even deeper shit, with gay revelations pouring out of the tabloids. disgusting really, but undeniably gripping. Now rumours that ‘a member of the royal family’ is to be exposed—seen by someone giving a b.j. to another palace servant in corridor of St James’ palace or some such! 

Tonight Judi D and Maggie S in David Hare’s apparently no-good new play get some light


Nov. 12

Sweetest Rupert,

How lovely about the TIMES serving to whip the TELEGRAPH into shape.

So the N.Y. trip is on? Oh Rapture!

Thank you for simple professional guidelines, as well as touching if misplaced faith. I suppose I must still struggle to right myself, with about as much hope as a bug on its back…Over the river, here at Uncle Sam’s—the raucous jingle-jangle of our pocket Fuhrer’s Imperialist pyrotechnics have left little airtime for the gory details of the Butler debacle save—no doubt—for the inevitable rogue salacious segment of LARRY KING LIVE (or whatever) which may well have eluded me; nor have I rushed out for a copy of PEOPLE (though it may come to that). Notwithstanding—as the ubiquitous media image of the flabby and fatuous mug of the tabloid-teasing, Royal Toadie manque, himself, puts me in mind of nothing so much as a particularly nasty specimen of the acetate-plush, ‘Made in Korea,’ variety of teddy-bear—I AM NOT SURPRISED…tell me more.

My feeble, guilt-ridden, attempts to set limits on Roberto’s increasingly clamourous calls on my solicitude—eg. I will give up my bed to him, & tend to him HERE, where I can convalesce myself or work (haha), but will not scurry over THERE, to his minute flat in order to captively wait upon him—culminated tonight, in a crashing volley of accusations of neglect, couched in his signature refined phraseology: « Go fuck yourself! You’re Fucking useless. How to empathise with such an alien? Loathing pity, and hostile self-reproach is all this elicited…he is now stonewalling my calls…what now, Oh Lord, what now?

If I was capable of any consistency in safeguarding my own best interests, I would leave him enough rope to hang himself, & seize this opportunity to be righteously estranged from the whole, sorry saga of his demise…FAT CHANCE.

On an equally dire note: I had resolved to relinquish attempting to solace my starved solitude with the crumbs culled from sating Josh’s carnal appetites in the abstemious intervals he allocates to indulging them; an exercise I now find too calculated and too squalid to afford me ANY PLEASURE of my own. No doubt, sensing my withdrawal with the unerring instincts of the truly predacious—he laid siege to my precarious defenses, with a winsomely ‘spontaneous’ phone-call frm. his five-yr.old son whose Sunday outing to the new Harry Potter film, would—it seems—lose much of its relish, were I not to take part in this Apple-pie Family Outing…

…I hope this nauseates you as thoroughly as your puke-makingly pithy evocation of ‘attitudinising at funeral of a lesser-known actress’ did me…

Je t’embrasse, Mon semblable, Mon frère


Nov. 13

just off to Southampton, for my many sins. Dear one, you sound in the depths of depression—not surprisingly. I just feel that there’s probably not much more you can do for Roberto, and if he’s hysterical, it is better for both him and you, if you remain firm as to the parameters of what he can expect. but it must be ghastly and guilt ridden and endgamey.

What the Butler Saw continues to engage us all. Charles has just announced an independent inquiry into all the allegations—gay rape, graft etc. only it’s not independent, being chaired by one of his own servants, and nobody will get anywhere near her Maj the Q, who is unamused. All very sordid and trivial, but it takes our minds off a firefighters strike and terrorist threats

Oh my God a Jehovah’s witness has just come up the drive


Nov. 13

Have you seen Hellfire, joined The ranks of the Godly, & strayed from the path to Perdition, or is the driveway clear now?

Nov. 13

Jesus, ah’m saved, Mizz Zilkha. Ah’m marchin’ for the Lawd, Glory be. Actually, i just said crisply « Sorry, I’m Church of England’ (the equivalent of garlic to a vampire) and slammed the door. Poor things


Nov. 13

Maybe they’ll get you next time, on a Bad Hair Day.

Nov. 15

dearest R.,

festering at this laptop since’s wee-watches, attempting to edit lulu’s tentative, inchoate, lucubrations on Dickens vs. Gissing, to rise to N.Y. Review’s inaugural nibble, to keep a droop ear cocked for latst re. Roberto, to stonewall Polly in frisky antigenic fettle—soon to stagger Mother-wards—the odour of mortality with Cat compound, clinging to my lendings…and thinking of you & Chekov withal.



Nov. 16

now I’m ploughing through the bloody attachments ‘cause they lost the packet of pieces.

Dear Mr. Silvers3,

(By the way, we have met several times through Caroline and were formally introduced at Ivanna’s wedding)

Your assistant informs that you’ve spoken again with Emma, and have my letter, but that a packaged selection of pieces from the TLS, the Spectator, etc. that she had messengered to your office some months back, has gone missing, I am, therefore, attaching replacements. Should it seem necessary, I can, of course, furnish you with printed issues.

Anticipating that you may well have already allocated Stoppard’s ‘Utopia’ elsewhere—I offer you a more off-beat idea, prompted by a routine sweep through a Hatchard’s catalogue. Whilst trawling the pre-publications, my eye was caught and my senses vaguely affronted by the archeries encompassed in the blurbs of the following, bits of which I’ve excerpted below:

The Lost King of France

by Deborah Cadbury

….son and heir of Louis XVI….horror of …was he 

murdered…did he escape…compelling piece of historical detective work…attempts to unravel the truth…moving and dramatic…

Fourth Estate; October


by Patricia Cornwell…best-selling crime writer…world’s most enduring murder mystery…startling conclusion….killer was…artist, Walter Sickert….

Little Brown; November

It strikes me that these could be critically conjoined, in an eccentric (to say the least of it), but provocative pairing. Something along the lines of: Meditations on Schlock Value & the Dubious Seductions of a Publisher’s Shop-styled genre: ‘Historical Detective Work’

I envision disquisitive sleuth-hounds, scouring the shrubbery; peering into the most melodramatically murky of history’s purlieus, and waving their torches; captive subject—luridly spotlit, suggestively positioned, and avidly and myopically scrutinised with intent.

Note: the sort of trumpery evoked by « Historical Detective Work »—if it exists—should not be confused with the wry erudition that such polished purveyors of esoteric detective fiction as the delicious Dame Ngaio allowed herself, and her crisply impeccable ‘Roderick Alleyn’. He who was forever ironically poised in pursuit of the improbable: some murderous thespian or morris dancer in possession of some resoundingly gracilous or graciose remnant of ephemera—Hamnet Shakespeare’s gauntlet or Macbeth’s claymore…You get the idea…how does it grab you?

I am, of course, working on the assumption that the two books posited will substantiate my dire prognostications—which they may well not. But I find the juxtaposition just as intriguing if they don’t,—or if one does & one doesn’t…My guess is: quoi qu’on fasse étalage within that framework, one is more or less aesthetically, foutu.

I look forward to hearing from you, and remain,

Respectively Yours,

Cristina (Monet)



Nov. 16

just back from two unspeakably ghastly days in flooded Southampton—hotel within spitting distance of motorway—no sleep, pouring rain. have returned to find that pest control has been and man thinks I am infested with Mice! EEK! Any progress with your review of Spotts? Or is Roberto situation all consuming?

have volunteered to write a column about Joni Mitchell’s latest retrospective album. I bet you hate her. She and I go back, however, twenty-five years or more

Nov. 17

i adore joni mitchell

very sick just half blind etc. the usual—so no Spottts till tomorrow—what did you think of jck. the ripper and louis the lost?

Nov. 19

loved JK the R and L the L 

in haste— now I’ve signed up with them again, Teleg are working me into the ground. hope you’re better, at least


Nov. 20

Darling R.,

Finally surfaced for first time this evening, having finally—aft. one harrowing week—seen Polly safely off the premises; though I’m sure she’ll come knocking again in the course of the festive season (« Over the River and Through the Woods / To Grim-Reaper’s House We Go… »),

Went to Fidelio & consecrated occasion of my first trip to Met this season (overwhelmed by my 

illness & R.s, never got round to renewing my 2 subscrios for ‘02-‘03 ) by buying three out of the four copies of your Guide in the Gift shop, as I thought I should leave one on shelf, until they restock: my official Christmas present to any potential recipient with even the faintest predilection for the art-form in question. The first beneficiary of my Christiansen obsession & my largesse, was the rather precieuse opera queen—Harvard., now lady-of-leisure ‘wife’ to closeted board-member/financial advisor to Aaaahndrew et père—with whom I was in company. Re. last week’s productions, the latter remarked that Renee F.’s performance in Il Pirata had been criticised by Peter Davis as vocally too maniéré: your bloke’s doing. if true?, and is it?

He also mentioned in passing, as if it were an acknowledged fact, that Wieland Wagner was molested by Uncle ‘Wolf’ Adolf as a ‘little lad’ (to borrow Spotts’ mode of expression). When I queried this on the basis that 1. in my view, repression seemed a likelier ‘spine’ to the Fuhrer’s nature than indulgence, and that 2. Spotts never hinted as much in ‘Hitler & the Aesthetics of Power’, my friend countered that he was quite sure Spotts had so indicated in the Bayreuth book; Is that also your recollection? Must get that review tucked away or at least kick-started this week; it’s only 1.500 words & not due till Dec.1—but impossible to overestimate my capacity for pathological self-paralysis.

Any particular reason why you’re not reviewing A View From the Bridge on your N.Y. jaunt? Not that I blame you—but how did you manage to cover Dialogues & avoid a ‘world premiere’ when bowing your head in the editorial yoke did not permit you to eschew Henry Goodman or Philip Glass? Is it just your good fortune that the opening date of Carmelites is so proximate to Boheme which is what they’re footing the bill for? Àpropos—will you e-mail me your composite review of Norma, Galilleo, et al.., or fax it:

I’m SOOOOO excited that you’re coming.

As fervent in my ‘R.C.’ faith as ever…


Nov. 20

thank you, dearest for your small contribution to my royalty coffers—I feel I should reimburse you. No, I think the stuff about Uncle Wolf is rubbish, but of course I seem to have lent Spotts’s book to someone and I can’t check it out. how was the Fidelio? Not very good I bet. yes, my bloke did coach Renee for Pirata—he does not consider her beyond criticism, but insists that technically she is peerless—I bow to his expertise in the matter.

Any response from Silvers? Probably will come into NY on the Monday for view from the bridge—still negotiating what I will be required to do by the paper which had become monstrously demanding since the pay rise. Sunday week I have to man the phones for the charity Christmas Appeal, which is truly the last straw.

Hope to God I get one free morning in NY for shopping and purchase of Jonathan Franzenesque spectacles. Have been booked into a hotel, anyway, and I think I will therefore forego your kind offer of hospitality and use it, if that’s OK, given my peculiar waking and sleeping patterns, amount of messages and irregular movements (bowel and otherwise) etc. But am longing to see you—and the apartment and the cats

London stinking with rain, traffic and general malaise. Were you at Harvard with someone called Alice Goodman? And does the name Roger Kimball mean anything to you—have just been reviewing his rather good essays for the Spec fervently yours—until we meet—and beyond


how is lulu getting on now?

Nov. 20

Alice Goodman rings no bells, but being an erratic undergrad. animal, only sporadically in situ, that doesn’t mean much. Why?

Roger Kimball: a brilliant if preternaturally dessicated, youngish (à peu près comme nous) fogey, flying his retrograde, anti-populist views from a cottage-industry standard i.e. he publishes the New Criterion out of his Connecticut home. If I sound a tad waspish, it’s only because—enraptured to discover a kindred critical voice, eloquent in its detestation of ‘Suoooousan’—I sent him my Sontag piece and one or two others, under cover letter expressing admiration and willingness to write for his pages, and received not even the courtesy of a routine rejection: this—bearing in mind that my folder could only have been ‘mislaid’ btw. his wife’s desk & his own…

As you seem to be consistently basking once more in the Amory approval—will you give him a prod on my behalf? I sent him the Louis the Lost & Jack the Ripper idea, as a second hook to my line if Silvers didn’t bite. I grow ever fonder of it—especially as Emma, with rare magnanimity—after informing me that Louis the Lost is rep.ed by her lot—admitted that I gauged it correctly, unseen, & is sending the proofs over.

Adhering to that prickly theme: no response frm. Silvers, huffy snub frm. satellite, to effect that my attachments & letter arrived & awaiting his attention & I’ll hear when I hear…Considering that two months ago Emma sent the printed work to him assuring me he was now primed to receive a proposal at such time as I had one in view—and that only on receipt of said proposal did it emerge that not only had he never cast an eye over the stuff, but that it had been chucked away somewhere along the line, unexamined and unmissed—well…you fill in the blanks. Destiny is either telling me to pack up my tents & fuck off, or to finish off Spotts & the other bits ‘n bobs, and get cracking on our Nina.

Can I come to View frm. B. as well? More bonding for R. & C. over stifled sniggers? Now—just think of the histrionic opportunities posed by ‘manning the phones for the Annual Christmas Appeal’! Try answering in crisp, business-like tones: « Stille Hilfe. What can I put you down for Madam? » And what may that signify? I hear you wonder…

So let’s end where we began, as I enlighten you with this excerpt frm. My Father’s Keeper: Children of Nazi Leaders—an Intimate History:…The daughter of the late Reichsführer-SS continues to be involved today in a managerial capacity in an association by the name of Stille Hilfe—an organisation of considerable tradition. Beginning shortly after the end of the Second World War, it helped many leading National Socialists either to leave the country or to gain a fresh footing in postwar Germany. Today…Stille Hilfe still boasts a good twenty members, most of them robust old Nazis. Up till 1994 it was a charitable organisation; today it is financed by donations from around a thousand sympathisers. 

Old and ailing Nazis are among those helped through its discreet channels. They are nursed and cared for ‘because the rest of our society has forgotten and pushed these people aside’, as one member puts it. Their clientele includes, for example, Hermine Ryan, ‘the mare of Majdanek’… 

So Long for Now, dearest,

Nov. 21

Have always taken a dim view of Silvers and his coterie, but have now gone off Kimball utterly. He must be a COMPLETE GIT. Why are people so incapable of at least replying? How would THEY feel in such circs? Will prod Mark when I see him, but don’t want to make it look like special pleading which always has wrong effect Much as I would love to take you to View from the B (if I go), I really need one evening in there on my own, doing the rounds and chatting up officialdom, Volpe etc. UGH. At least Carmelites will get our juices going. Am slightly dreading the timetabling of this NY visit, but our two dates

sacred love RXXXXXX

Nov. 21

This is disheartening to say the least & disingenuous in the extreme. As no reference is even made to my second proposal— seems manifest he never even looked at my letter, let alone the work. I may not be much but I BLOODY well deserve BETTER… 

11/21/02 rsilvers@nybook <no subject>

Dear Ms. Monet,

I’m sorry we already had plans for something on the Stoppard plays and I can’t ask for more but I appreciated hearing from you and seeing your work.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Silvers

Nov. 22

Oh God what an idiot that man is—anyway, I think his rag is ghastly and pompous, and doesn’t deserve prose of thought of your quality. FUCK THEM!

And re V from B, of course, I don’t think of you as a limpet just that I hate not giving people my full attention—and I know that I shall be endlessly distracted by colleagues, Met nobs and functionaries etc. on such an occasion. Which will probably be grisly anyway. it’s bad enough as a play, and turning it into an opera can only make it worse. Am trying to persuade paper to let me stay in Chicago


Nov. 22

Understand—have press seats on Dec.5 for Bridge anyway (another Arts page in brief for TLS), will require quite a few 1500 worders delivered within specified time and specified length with minimum drama, before—as who can blame them?—they muster the masochistic temerity to give me another leader. I must say the anal-retentiveness and minor peccadillos of the ‘knitted-tie’ brigade, begin to look damn good, even giving and gracious, to me—after the Keep Off, Stay Out, and don’t even pee on the path by the Gates dismissal from the lordly Mr. Silvers.

Chicago? For Thais and Sweeny?

Much to tell you, no time now.


Nov. 23

Bridge—quel horreur. but I want to read you on same. Yes, I fear the knitted tie brigade is the lesser of two evils, even when it’s worn by infantile lascivious Jenks it sounds as though you suddenly have a helluva lot of commissions


Chicago, for Thais and Sweeney yes—and possibly more, hence uncertainty about NY arrival

Nov. 23

Not commissions—bits’n bobs that in my desolation, I’ve desperately scavenged. Roberto is dying.

Epitaph on a Bounder for whom I eviscerated the Bowels of my Compassion:

A brilliant photographer with the moral fibre & cerebration of a slug, with a calibre of chums of whom Amanda Aspinall is an indicative component; a parvenu, Latvian-Jewish, Milanese, figlio di mama, sole offspring of two Survivors—With his uniquely elegant architectural photography committed to glossy, pricey perpetuity in the heady eighties heyday of the COFFEE_TABLE BOOK, he bounded whilst treating of the gardens & Stately-ies of the nobs globe-wide frm. schloss to manor to chateau to hacienda. The limited artistry of a Charles Ryder minus the anglo-saxon reserve and the inner manner—The interior monologue of a Zampano but without the muscles.

As hope dwindled—I foolishly allowed myself to believe in the sincerity of his mournful, acknowledgment of my incapacity to turn my spare-bedroom-less flat into a hospice—given my own, precarious state-of-health, dependence on MZ.’s bounty, etc. etc……of my disinclination to do so—given our history—no word was uttered.

Confronted by the spectacle of his seemingly resigned withdrawal into a manly self sufficiency in suffering, my withers were wrung and my resolution wavered. Once it became clear, however, that these tactics would elicit no further arabesques of self-sacrifice on my part—guilt-ridden as I was that my chronic debility had proved naught but a bogusly indeterminate preamble to the Shuffle Off in comparison to his—he became openly hostile. I even begged him, the day before yesterday, to move into my bedroom & I would take Lulu’s until—but only until—she came home for Christmas or he decided to go into hospital & a bed became available…HE WASN”T HAVING ANY OF IT…As of two days ago—assured of their expended usefulness, he has sweepingly dispensed with the hollow pretext of my services, whilst awaiting his demise. He is now lying aggrievedly in situ in hosp., flanked by an attendant court of Eurotrash old slappers tut-tutting appalledly at my callous indifference—exuding, with these his dying breaths, the pent-up malevolence of months, that the hand that fed him faltered before offering itself to be bitten off at the wrist…

Ah me…it is all so horribly, implacably, sad: No more than the stark fact of death beatifies the spirit, does the awful act of dying exalt the sentience.

Thank you for listening.

much love,