On the way to work each morning I usually get about 10 or 15 minutes to read as I take the subway. Last week I began the days with Israel Centeno's novel Exilio en Bowery (Editorial Troya, 1997), which I hope to write about here whenever I can find the time.
For the next month or so my subway book will be Christopher Isherwood's memoir Lions and Shadows: An Education in the Twenties (1938). Since I seem to be in the midst of an Edward Upward phase, reading as much of his work as I can find, Isherwood's book is fascinating. I'm surprised at how large of a presence Upward is in Isherwood's text. I had known of their friendship but I hadn't realized how crucial a figure Upward was in Isherwood's decision to become a writer. Upward's early devotion to poetry, while still a student, is also of interest to me, since his eventual choice of prose as his medium points to that relationship of fiction and poetry.
"Our train stopped at Rouen, where Chalmers [Upward], it had been arranged, would join us. It was strange to see him standing there, puffing at his pipe, placid and vague as usual, and seeming perfectly at home amidst these alien porters and advertisements. He had grown a small moustache and looked exactly my idea of a young Montmartre poet, more French than the French. Now he caught sight of us, and greeted me with a slight wave of the hand, so very typical of him, tentative, diffident, semi-ironical, like a parody of itself." (27)