LOVE IS WHERE IT FALLS: Simon Callow
Nick Hern Books
First published in paperback, 2007
ISBN: 1 – 85459 – 976 – 3 / 9 781854 599766
Review: Rod Dungate 20 January 2007
A marvellous read, revealing all round
This is a quite extraordinarily beautiful book. It’s about Simon Callow’s passionate friendship with perhaps the most famous playwrights’ agent of all time, Peggy Ramsay; but it’s about more than this. It’s about Callow’s loves and pursuit of love and how Peggy Ramsay’s love for him and his for her form a complex set of relationships. Painful these may be, at times, but they are ultimately life-affirming; but the book is about more than these. Like a good poem, there is more to this book than the narrative that it puts before us – the book is about us. Callow has created a mirror in which, through the joys and sorrows of a set of real people we can learn more about our own.
Peggy Ramsay was in her early 70s and had a formidable reputation when she met Callow, then in his early 30s and just beginning to make a name for himself as an actor. She fell in love with him, and in his way, Callow (gay) with her. But this was no moony-Juney relationship. Both these people lived life to the full; nothing could be attempted half-heartedly, whether it be eating a meal in a restaurant, listening to music, visiting Wagner’s summer villa, Triebschen – ‘We ran round the outside of the villa, peering through the windows’- or being in love. Callow reflects this heady passion in his writing, although the writing has a deceptive easefulness. I found myself swept along in it, in all its whirlwind joy.
For the years this passionate relationship lasted you sense the two were as close as any two human beings can get. Yet Ramsay, naturally excluded from the kind of love, of closeness, that Callow could give his partner of the time, was sometimes jealous. Jealousy would cause hurt, hurt would be reciprocated. Callow wrote to her at one point: ‘I do know that I cause you unimaginable pain . . . ‘ But somehow they always found their way through their difficulties.
As their friendship grew, Callow reveals how Ramsay taught him to live; and so she teaches us now, even though she’s no longer with us. ‘Your constant need for stimulation,’ she wrote to him, ‘ friends, shopping, filling every single moment to stop yourself being alone, is exactly as if you need heroin. Life isn’t continuously charged with excitement and incident – you have got to learn to be alone and do nothing.’
Towards the end of her life Ramsay was suffering from Alzheimer’s; Callow’s way with detail tells us all we need to know – and more than we can really bear. ‘I had come across her sitting alone in the vegetarian restaurant Cranks. When I went up and spoke to her, she recognised me but seemed utterly lost. . . She kept sighing, and saying how dreadful everything was. Eventually I left her, going away before she had finished her meal; I was so upset that I wept on the way home.’
But lest we start to wallow in the sadness of these last months, Callow brings us back to where we should be – or rather where we need to place ourselves. ‘Peggy,’ he writes, ‘believed that life must be embraced in all its tragic harshness; that was the source of her capacity for joy.’
That’s what we need to know.
To buy a copy, either visit Nick Hern Books website, www.nickhernbooks.co.uk, or use the link to bhe book in Amazon: