Gather Ye Rosebuds

Jeffrey Meyers, a biographer whose fascination with the literary life is touchingly suggestive of the enthusiasm small boys used to have for the railroading one, is the only person I can think of who would consider it a "privilege" to be led on, toyed with, lied to, and finally betrayed by V.S. Naipaul. Scott Fitzgerald thought that writers were barely human; undaunted, Meyers wrote a biography of him. (Fitzgerald himself was an exceptionally sweet-natured man.) Conceivably, Meyers might even have enjoyed a stay over at Combe Florey with Evelyn Waugh, who was given to making terrible faces at his guests through the window. Less temeritous souls than Meyers would think twice about bearding literary lions in their lairs, less tenacious ones would shy from the pain of disenchantment by acquainting themselves with the crashing personal bores that all too often hide out behind scintillating literary personae. Finally, there are the braggarts and swaggerers—for example, Ernest Hemingway and James Dickey—who make you catch water moccasins with your bare hands, swim the Florida Straits, or try your hand with a cape and a young bull before lunch. Perhaps because fortune favors the brave, Jeffrey Meyers has been surprisingly fortunate in his literary encounters. Naipaul, of course, is inhuman (he could be called a monster, save for the neurasthenic weakness that prompts his behavior), while Allen Ginsberg (contrary to Meyers'...

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