In 1976, The Female Eunuch author Germaine Greer commenced an affair with novelist Martin Amis, at the time a dashing young scamp with literary heft and a Mick Jagger haircut. She found him so enchanting that one day in March of that year, midway through a lecture tour, the feminist author filled a notebook with a 30,000-page love letter addressed to Amis, recently rediscovered by University of Melbourne scholar Margaret Simons.
The letter, as described by the Guardian, is full of lusty devotion and bold metaphor:
Simons says the notebook is part love letter, part travelogue and part literary criticism. Greer was broke and exhausted by the tour. Yet the diary has all her verve and outrageous wit. At one point she races around the Grand Canyon in a Gran Torino car and is struck “by the canyon not as a huge cunt, but as the biggest arsehole in the world ..… I was induced to laugh at the obvious when I came across a sign saying ‘rim worship’.”
Greer sold a trove of her papers and personal belongings to the University of Melbourne in 2013, through which Simons discovered the notebook. Though Simons will publish a critical essay on the piece in Australian literary journal Meanjin next month, Greer objects to its publication, saying that it might violate certain peoples’ privacy; the University of Melbourne wishes to publish it but says it will work with her to redact private information before doing so.
Neither Greer or Amis has publicly spoken of their affair, and Amis was known to be a philanderer in those days, despite being in a relationship with the writer Julie Kavanagh. According to Simons,
...towards the end of the notebook Greer indicates that she has become disillusioned with Amis, and is aware that he is involved with other people. In one passage she writes: “Now I know that I shall never force this letter upon you. The thought of it makes my heart pound, as if we were to shit together.”
It seems bawdy and beautiful and clear-eyed and wide open with the possibility of passion.
From the excerpts, the letter has clear literary value, but the privacy concerns are real. In Kavanagh’s memoir, she wrote of Amis’s sexual magnetism in those years, and his subsequent unfaithfulness:
By the summer of 1975 Martin had become as famous as his father, and it seemed to me that everyone was after him, however unlikely, from Germaine Greer to Mark Boxer. “The surest guarantee of sexual success is sexual success,” Terry says in Success, when his fortunes with girls are turning, and Martin was now discovering this for himself.
The feelings of profound unattractiveness from which he claims to have suffered a couple of years before we met – feelings of short-arsed, physical inadequacy which he novelises time and again – had given way to Byronic magnetism. There was lost time to make up and no time for restraint. I have just the faintest memory of a party when he disappeared somewhere with a bohemian beauty named Lamorna Seale, only to return to me with his mouth smothered in lipstick, but he writes about my distress and his air of “defiant innocence” in his memoir Experience . In retrospect, it’s understandable: both had been struck by such a powerful coup de foudre that neither was responsible, though an element of remorse came later.
By 1976, Amis had his first daughter, Delilah Seale, a result of his affair with Lamorna. By 1977, both Greer and Kavanagh had cut romantic ties with the novelist.
Contact the author at email@example.com.
Image via Getty. Germaine Greer in 1975.