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Excerpt from Chapter One

    An advance copy of the Walton biography was sent to me yesterday and I have been up all night reading it. An editor at the publishing company, a friend of mine, knowing I was a friend of theirs, thought I might be interested. Interested? Outraged is more like it.
    The biography isn’t merely inept. It is a conscious attempt to grab the largest number of readers by appealing to what is universal in humanity: a vulgar, insatiable interest in the prurient. There are so many lies in it, not lies of fact, which are for the most part correct, but distortions of meanings, of intentions. Events are falsified by interpretation and the Waltons diminished in the process, the whole of their lives painted squalid and ugly.
    None of us who knew David and Sarah saw them in that way. They had too much intelligence, too much charm, too much style, really. They had a vitality, an energy, that electrified the air around them and made them obsessively interesting to those who knew them, and those who wanted to. They were often infuriating, frequently destructive, but never tawdry.
    No one will dispute the biography; not David and Sarah certainly, not their children, not their friends. It will be ignored by us like the many fabrications that came before: a good thing, perhaps, since the “truth” we would tell, in all its various forms, would be no more flattering to David and Sarah than the distortions of the eminent Mr. Philip Keating, unauthorized biographer to the stars. And in a little while, those of us who don’t keep diaries or journals, those of us who don’t record facts as a hedge against delusion, will no doubt begin to believe the Keating version. Memory is like that, fickle, as attracted to glitter as a magpie.
    The covering note, from my former friend, the editor, said the publishers expect the book to top the nonfiction best-seller list.

    On the jacket of the book is a photograph of David and Sarah taken, Mr. Keating claims, during a weekend they spent in Vienna while each was married to someone else. This information is provided in a coyly salacious tone veneered with brisk journalese, the tone of the entire biography. David and Sarah did in fact go to Vienna together, but the photograph was not taken then. It was taken two years later, in London, the morning of their wedding, by me.
    What difference does such a small discrepancy make? Can it matter? Yes, because photographs tell their own, their very powerful story. And this one tells of two people who don’t give a damn for anyone else in the world but themselves, an appropriate enough feeling for a wedding day, I think, but a bit callous, a bit heartless, during a dirty weekend of betrayal. They were miserable in Vienna, as it happens, which fact will certainly alter no one’s preconceived notions of such weekends, not even mine. But though they weren’t unhappy for appropriately “moral” reasons, doesn’t knowing they were give us a different attitude towards them, towards their characters, than believing them blithely unconcerned?
    In the photograph, the background is out of focus, but I remember it was a lovely spring day, the first day of sunshine in the weeks I had been in England. David and Sarah saw it as an omen, a blessing. I’d come armed with my Olympus, and though we were already late for the registry office, we went into the garden and I posed them against the pale pink rose climbing the brick wall at the far end. It was morning, and the sunshine was brilliant, broken intermittently by clouds like white scarves waving against the blue sky. I moved in close. I wanted their faces. They stood in profile, looking at each other, smiling broadly, radiantly.
    Watching them through the lens of my camera, shooting frame after frame, freezing them in that moment, I knew I was as much in love with them as they were with each other, with the idea of them. The cynic in me lay crouched in a corner, ready to spring, but held by a whip and a chair, by the sunshine and the smiles and the fragile beauty of the roses against the brick wall.
    Their love for each other vibrated in the air like a held note in music. It didn’t, at that moment, seem to much to ask that it should enrich and expand their lives; that it continue knocking obstacles out of its path with the ruthlessness of a Mafia don; that it triumph over time and familiarity, boredom and contempt. It didn’t seem at all too much to ask that it should last forever.