A writer sits down to write poetry or a novel. The thoughts and emotions swirling through this process are actually miscellaneous experiences, thinking, memories (real and imagined), relationship interactions, dreams, and more from the immediate and far past, the present, and even the future.
In this fiction, Ben Markovits learns a teaching colleague and old friend, Peter Sullivan, has died, leaving behind two novels about the renowned poet Byron: Imposture and A Quiet Adjustment. Ben is immediately struck by the similarity in their stories; both had subtle but well-known reputations for sexual proclivities toward boys. At the time Byron lived in England, being convicted of such a crime could lead to a death sentence. Ben’s own writing career has been so successful that he takes some time off to research both the novelist and the poet. Why he is so intrigued with what causes these tendencies and how they manage to leak into writing?
Peter’s works depict how Byron mixed love with women with “attractions” toward boys, struggling to appear normal. However, Byron’s early poetry had allusions and symbols that revealed his true desires. Eventually, Byron leaves behind a child and broken hearts of both sexes as he flees England for Europe, where he publishes the two cantos that mark him as a famous poet, “Childe Harold” and “The Prisoner of Chillon.” There he also meets other famous, intelligent, and tragic authors.
Success and failure, childhood and adulthood, desire and suppression of sexual urges, friendship and betrayal, and more abound herein. For those wanting an in-depth look at the intimate, inner life of a bohemian writer, Childish Loves is an intriguing, carefully plotted, revealing historical portrait.