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This article is taken from PN Review 146, Volume 28 Number 6, July - August 2002.

Merrill Merrill and Co. James Sutherland-Smith

Like one of Borges's beguiling fictions, this article emerges out of a set of unlikely coincidences and extraneous detail which in retrospect seem essential. In 1988 I was the guest of the writers, Judith Kazantzis and Irving Weinman, at their home in Key West: they belonged to the writers' colony which flourished there in the 1980s. A few writers still spend some part of the year there - for example, Alison Lurie, Harry Mathews and Richard Wilbur - although steepling house prices for wealthy retirees and stout executives, who fly their Harley Davidsons down from Miami so they can spend time riding up and down outside the Green Parrot bar, probably mean that no new blood will arrive to refresh the ageing colony. During my stay I met and had dinner with James Merrill and his lifetime companion, David Jackson, and the last love of James' life, the actor Peter Hooten, to whom the 1988 collection, The Inner Room, is dedicated.

In 1997, I was on my way from work in Presov perhaps for lunch, perhaps for a drink in the centre of town after work. I was just turning the corner of Taras Sevcenko Street, named after a Ukrainian poet, into the more prosaically named Poziarnicka (Fire Station) Street, when I ran into an English friend accompanied by a little old man dressed in an orange tweed suit. James Merrill, in his memoir of his early adulthood (A Different Person, 1993), refers to 'suits of burnt-orange ...


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