Diane Arbus and Howard Nemerov were two famously talented siblings and artists - she the New York photographer and he the poet laureate and professor at Washington University.
In Arthur Lubow's book "Diane Arbus," which goes on sale Tuesday, he discusses the close relationship the pair had as children and their apparent rivalry as adults. Some of the details, however, probably won't expand either's reputations.This is the first dig at consanguinamory.
On Pages 18-19 Lubow writes: "As Howard later acknowledged, he and his sister experimented sexually when they were young." They liked to "play house," he writes.This is very common.
More surprisingly, though, Arbus told her psychiatrist during her last two years that her sexual relationship with her brother had never ended; she went "to bed with him" in New York in 1971, a few weeks before her death.For some it is a lifelong romance.
"Characteristically, she referred to their ongoing sexual liaison in an offhand way, as if there was nothing so remarkable about it."Clearly it was a matter of sharing affection with someone she loved. That's only "remarkable" because of absurd taboos.
Later, Lubow references the pair's sister, Renee, and her husband, Roy, as confirmation: "Renee believe that they were adolescent lovers, and her husband, Roy, told her he was convinced that they continued their amorous relationship throughout their lives. Indeed, Roy attributed Howard's worsening alcoholism to torment and guilt over the relationship."Guilt? How about the pressure of bigotry?
Nemerov died in 1991, leaving his wife, Margaret, and three sons. He was one of the country's most respected poets, having served as poet laureate from 1988-90. He won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1978 and received a National Medal for the Arts from President Ronald Reagan.
His book goes far beyond the Nemerov's privileged upbringing on Park Avenue, of course, delving into Arbus' controversial photos of circus performers and transvestites and her affairs with both men and women.
Consanguinamorous people are everywhere; some are accomplished and awarded artists, some are scientists, some are sanitation workers, some are skilled athletes. Firefighters, police officers, teachers, accountants, investment bankers, chefs, bus drivers... some are troubled, some are relatively happy and healthy except for having to deal with hiding their love. Whenever I read of a suicide or substance abuse in someone involved in consanguinamory, I have to wonder if those problems would have been avoided if there wasn't discrimination against these lovers.