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Good as Gone: My Life with Irving Layton

by Anna Pottier

Even the healthiest romantic relationships are often fraught with difficulties, hurt feelings, and heartbreak; what initially are considered unbreakable bonds between individuals are severed by selfishness, emotional baggage, and conflicting personalities. Partnerships that commence with underlying expectations and agendas have even less chance of surviving. Observers of these marital implosions are often privy only to a one-sided dramatic recounting of what went wrong. Sometimes such accounts – particularly in the case of the rich or famous – are published, thereby presenting a wider audience with details of the strife.

Good as Gone Irving Layton Anna PottierAnna Pottier’s Good as Gone is a rambling, self-congratulatory apologia about the author’s co-habitation with the famous poet Irving Layton. Layton, who possessed a big personality and lust for life, was 48 years old when Pottier was born in 1959. She grew up in rural Nova Scotia wanting to live the literary life. Not particularly motivated to do so by her own volition, she insinuates her way into Layton’s orbit. A septuagenarian with four wives and multiple affairs already to his credit, Layton is disposed to accommodate a pretty young woman willing to fetch and carry, and also share his bed. (He gallantly commences their relationship with the words, “Looks like you’re the new housekeeper.”) During their involvement, Pottier received a roof over her head, travelled widely, met Canada’s literary and social elite, and basked in Layton’s reflected glory, while the “great man” didn’t have to worry about the laundry or grocery shopping.

Besides the glaring opportunism evident on both sides, what stands out in this book is anger. Pottier has no tolerance for those, her family included, who don’t acknowledge or appreciate the overwhelming devotion she and Layton supposedly shared. She’s also angry at Layton, whom she sees as hindering her freedom and writing career, and at herself for abandoning the poet as his Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s worsened.

Pottier appears to have written Good as Gone to even the score with her perceived detractors. Throughout, she applies the nomenclature of war and conflict – “fight,” “battle,” “win,” “triumph,” “lose” – to describe her experiences. But she fails to recognize that, ultimately, we are each responsible for our own actions and that our partners, no matter their fame, intelligence, or power, cannot save us from ourselves.