He rehearsed his stories “like Churchill, muttering in the bath,” says Elizabeth. “He was always playing a kind of role: You could see him cooking up how he was going to do it. He was so excited when he got to someone’s house: He’d drive up, slam on the brakes, jump out and rush into the house — and I’d have to turn the engine off and shut the car door.” Elizabeth Chatwin did not believe he intended anyone necessarily to believe his stories. “But if they did, he went further.”
Bruce told stories as much to entertain as to hide inside them and to keep others away. As long as he was talking, he could not be questioned. He talked as he wrote, to keep something at bay, with an intensity to convince whoever was listening, or reading, that his dragons were not peculiar to him. He told his stories right to the last — going up to bed, stopping on each step of the stair for five minutes, going out to the car, leaning out of the window as he drove off — till the moment he died.
BRUCE CHATWIN: A Biography | By NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE | Nan A. Talese/Doubleday | 618 pages | $35 hardcover