The first nuanced, personal portrait of Auden and Kallman's relationship of more than thirty years, Wystan and Chester opens a window on a central aspect of Auden's life that has been overlooked by most biographies and critical studies.
In a series of witty, poignant, and occasionally disturbing vignettes, Clark recounts the artists at work and at play: the raucous, Bacchanalian dinner parties on Ischia and the quiet mornings of writing on the porch of their house in Kirchstetten, Austria. She chronicles the early years of their friendship, when Auden and Kallman became her young daughter Lisa's constant companions, and when their nurturing partnership helped to foster unparalleled creative output for both. Remembering also Kallman's steady decline in his later years, Clark paints a sympathetic picture of the talented and troubled artist and of Auden's abiding love for him.
Clark's story is generously sprinkled with glimpses of Auden's eccentricities. She recollects his fascination with female anatomy and with the process of birth; his unusual mix of moral seriousness and intellectual frivolity; his love for church ritual and his conviction that homosexuality was wrong.
[Clark's] portraits of both Auden and Kallman are truer, and, in a seemingly offhand manner, as penetrating as any of those by . . . other memoirist friends. . . . She perfectly catches the nuances and intonations of [their] voices, simply . . . by quoting them believably. . . .Contributes richly to Auden folklore.