In ‘The Letters of Thom Gunn,’ an Unusual Mix of Pleasures

The thrill of a long-held home are acknowledged. Gunn stares on the lemon tree in his yard, totally grown and bearing fruit, and recollects pal first grew the seed 25 years earlier, in a pot on the kitchen desk of an outdated residence.

Different enthusiasms are entertained. Gunn beloved motion pictures, all types. “Drugstore Cowboy” is so wonderful, and so true to the expertise of drug customers, he wrote, that “you’re joyful to be a member of the human race that produced it.”

His crush on Keanu Reeves is a small, sunny theme in these letters. Gunn referred to as him “a whole darling.” Later, after Reeves had appeared in a string of mediocre movies, Gunn wrote: “I’m starting to suppose that Keanu doesn’t actually care about his profession in any respect, he’s in search of somebody like me however can’t discover him. Hey Keanu, I’m right here! HERE! For those who ring my doorbell I’ll present you all spherical the home!”

He was dedicated to music, excessive and low. “Eleanor Rigby” virtually made him weep. He noticed Hendrix dwell and attended Altamont. I needed to snort after I learn, in a 1975 letter: “Did I let you know about BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN? 2 information, and the perfect new singer since — who shall I say? Elton John possibly.”

Gunn didn’t have an particularly broad correspondence, at the least as demonstrated on this dense assortment of greater than 700 pages, which the editors inform us is about one-tenth the whole. Most are to the identical handful of buddies. There are rocket-like cameos. The very best belongs to the younger Oliver Sacks, whose full title was Oliver Wolf Sacks. He was a fan of Gunn’s.

Right here’s how he’s launched, in a 1961 letter: “There’s a queer, colossally large London Jew referred to as Wolf, a medical pupil, and a pal of Jonathan Miller, who says my poetry modified his life — it induced him to get a motorbike and put on leather-based, and he tears round like a whirlwind.”

Sacks and Gunn have been briefly lovers, then lifelong buddies. Gunn watched with a mixture of pleasure and awe as Sacks’s profession as a neurologist, naturalist and author developed.

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