Diaries, Volume One: 1939-1960

Diaries, Volume One: 1939-1960

by Christopher Isherwood
     
 

In 1939 Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden emigrated together to the United States. These diaries, covering the period up to 1960, describe Isherwood's search for a new life in California, where he eventually settled. The diaries tell how Isherwood became a disciple of the Hindu monk Swami Prabhavananda; about his pacifism during World War II; about his work as a… See more details below

Overview

In 1939 Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden emigrated together to the United States. These diaries, covering the period up to 1960, describe Isherwood's search for a new life in California, where he eventually settled. The diaries tell how Isherwood became a disciple of the Hindu monk Swami Prabhavananda; about his pacifism during World War II; about his work as a screenwriter in Hollywood and his friendships with such gifted artists and intellectuals as Garbo, Chaplin, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Stravinsky, Aldous Huxley, Gielgud, Olivier, Richard Burton, Charles Laughton, and David O. Selznick - many of whom were emigres like himself. Throughout this period, Isherwood continued to write novels and sustain his literary friendships - with E. M. Forster, Somerset Maugham, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, and others. He turned to his diary several times a week to record jokes and gossip, observations about his adopted country, philosophy and mystical insights. His devotion to his diary was a way of accounting for himself; he used it as both a discipline and a release. In spare, luminous prose, he also revealed his most intimate and passionate relationships, particularly with Bill Caskey and later with the very young Don Bachardy.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Mixing mournful self-interrogation about sex, art, and politics; less than lucid delvings into spiritual matters; and wry chatter about acquaintances both obscure and celebrated, Isherwood's voluminous diaries provide rather too wide a window onto the eminent novelist and memoirist's foibles.

Isherwood emigrated to America from England in 1939, and during the years covered here he lived in Los Angeles, worked as a screenwriter, studied and wrote about Vedanta Hinduism, wrote novels (Prater Violet, The World in the Evening, and most of Down There on a Visit), and had a few major love affairs. Close to half of this volume covers the first five years of Isherwood's expatriatism. Edited and annotated heavily by the author himself in 1946, these wartime diaries are sprinkled with the kind of artfully ironic character sketches familiar to readers of Isherwood's novels. The author socialized with the likes of Aldous Huxley, Charlie Chaplin, and Greta Garbo, but much of his time was spent with his guru and fellow disciples of Vedanta, which his musings do not enliven for the reader. Isherwood was criticized for not returning to Britain during the war; he is forthright here about his pacifism. Fussing about the obligations imposed by his swami and his lovers, the author indulges in mopy rants that tire even himself: "I'm so bored with myself. . . . The whole of this diary is becoming a bore. Let's snap out of it. Come on, St. Augustine—amuse us. A little less about your sins." After substantial ellipses, the diaries become less consistently fretful in the mid-'50s, when Isherwood met the artist Don Bachardy, who would remain his companion until Isherwood's death in 1986. Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Igor Stravinsky, Somerset Maugham, and a raft of movie stars were Isherwood's pals in the '50s; finally, after hundreds of pages in which the creative process seldom merits a mention, Isherwood occasionally comes alive as a working artist in the latter entries.

Maundering, prolix, altogether daunting.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061180002
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/11/1996
Pages:
1104
Product dimensions:
6.67(w) x 9.65(h) x 2.35(d)

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