Saturday, January 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (Me by Elton John, excerpt eight)

from Me by Elton John:

I spent some time in Atlanta with Hugh, but our relationship began to peter out. Both our counsellors had warned against us staying together: they kept telling us that it wouldn't work, that the dynamic of the relationship would change irrevocably now that we were sober. We both dismissed that as nonsense: half the writing I'd done in rehab had been about how much I loved Hugh, how much I missed him. So we rented an apartment, moved in together and discovered to our immense surprise that the dynamic of our relationship appeared to have changed irrevocably now that we were sober, and it wasn't working out. It wasn't a horrible split, we weren't screaming and shouting at each other, but it was sad. We had been through a lot together, but it was time for us both to move on.

So for most of the next eighteen months I was in London, where I settled into a quiet routine. I bought the house I'd been renting, where I had holed up on my final binge. I lived alone. I didn't bother with employing staff; I liked doing things myself. I bought myself a Mini and I got a dog from Battersea Dogs Home, a little mutt called Thomas. Every day, I would get up at 6:30 a.m. and take Thomas for a walk. I adored it. It's a real recovering addict's cliche to say that you notice things about your surroundings that you never saw while you were using - oh, the beauty of the flowers, the wonders of nature, all that crap - but it's only a cliche because it's true. I'm sure that's one of the reasons why I started collecting photography when I got sober. I'd been around incredible photographers for most of my career - Terry O'Neill, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, Norman Parkinson - but I just thought of it as a form of publicity, never an art, until I stopped drinking and using drugs. I went ot the south of France for a holiday and visited a friend of mine, Alain Perrin, who lived outside Cahors. He was looking through black and white fashion photographs with a view to buying some. Idly peering over his shoulder, I was suddenly transfixed. They were by Irving Penn, Horst and Herb Ritts. I knew Herb Ritts - he'd taken the photo for the cover of Sleeping with the Past - but it felt like I was seeing his work in a completely new way. I love everything about the photos Alain was looking at - the lighting, the shapes it had created and contorted; it all seemed extraordinary. I ended up buying twelve of them, and that was the start of an obsession that's never stopped: photography is the love of my life in terms of visual art.

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