Issue 37, Spring 1966
The following are excerpts from the diary kept by a young American com-poser while he was living in France and North Africa during the early Fifties. Insofar as there is a plot, it is self-portraiture, self-reckoning, but the elements are exceptional. The author is in his late twenties, gifted and good-looking, celebrated for both. Besides being an artist, he is an imaginative social climber, a very American Protestant, an earnest narcissist. He is also an intellectual, a hero-worshiper, and a lover—or more exactly, the sort of sensual man Montherlant must have had in mind when he said “le corps fait trop l’âme pour qu’on doive s’excuser quand on parle delui...”
At the same time, he is a born watcher, with a keen sense of theater, and a rare gifi of recollection. It is one thing to encounter Poulenc, Alice B. Toklas, Cocteau, Paul Eluard; it is another to be able to remember and record what they actually said, how they really looked. Ned Rorem gives us the kind of choses vues which make a diary not only a fishbowl but an aquarium; a self-revelation, but also a documentary—in this case, of how it was to live during those early Fifties which are still so near that they are hard to see, yet about which we already need as much first-hand evidence as we can get.