Thursday, 28 January 2010

A literary drunk

In a Life magazine gallery of famous literary drunks and addicts I found this picture.

Raymond Chandler is sprawled into the back of a sofa looking lost and vaguely owlish. More intriguing are the people smiling at each other across him. Apparently the man is Anthony Blond, a publisher, but the identity of the woman isn't recorded. According to his obituary Blond was married at this time to a Charlotte Strachey, a part-time model, and the woman is married, so I hope it's her. I wonder what the smile means -- how drunken this novelist is? They divorced in 1960 after a series of miscarriages and a still-birth. There's something touching about the slight reservation in her smile, and the way her name isn't recorded. It reminds me of a clever novella by Jane Stevenson, included in her Several Deceptions, in which the middle-aged son of famous literary parents inserts, as an Umberto Eco-inspired joke, his drab secretary into the history of their circle by identifying her with anonymous women in famous snap-shots, and becomes powerless to correct the record when she starts to run with the role.

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