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Diaries: Volume 1, 1939-1960 (Isherwood, Christopher Diaries) Hardcover – December 19, 1996

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Product Details

  • Series: Isherwood, Christopher Diaries
  • Hardcover: 1104 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (December 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061180009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061180002
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.7 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Christopher Isherwood is noted for his novels and autobiographical writings, especially The Berlin Stories (the basis for the film, Cabaret) and Christopher and His Kind. But Isherwood put at least as much of his genius in his Diaries as he did in his writings intended for immediate publication. The first volume follows Isherwood as he emigrates from England to the United States where he became a Hollywood scriptwriter. This volume continues with his lifelong affair with Don Bachardy to his establishment as a major writer in the early 1960s. Isherwood's Diaries are beautifully written, gossipy, and indispensable for anyone who cares about writing, the creative process, and gay history.

From Publishers Weekly

Gossip, Isherwood noted in his diary after reading the Goncourt journals, can achieve "the epigrammatic significance of poetry. To keep such a diary is to render a real service to the future." He was then in the second year of his own diary, begun in January 1939 with his exit from England for a new life in America, his home until his death in 1986. He would draw on the diary for his novel A Single Man (1964), but the work for which he would be best remembered was done in the 1930s?the plays with Auden and the Berlin Stories, turned by John van Druten into I Am a Camera and musicalized further as Cabaret. The diaries show him only as an observer of these money-spinning stage metamorphoses. To many readers, the most important part of this literally weighty book will be the index. Although not in the canonized elite of the Auden-Priestley generation, Isherwood, through his connections on both sides of the Atlantic and his Hollywood scriptwriting years, encountered a vast number of people whose doings and misdoings make his diaries a mine of rumor, anecdotage and mere facts. Of lesser interest to some readers will be Isherwood's Vedanta discipleship with Southern California swamis, his desultory drug-taking experiments, his sexual adventures in the local gay community or his recuperation from hangovers. The diaries show him, however, to be on occasion a memorable observer of his contemporaries (one is "like Dorian Gray emerging from his tomb") and an unmemorable critic (Waiting for Godot is "Franco-Irish ugliness and stupidity"). Bucknell, who edited and introduced Auden's Juvenilia: Poems 1922-1928 and founded the W.H. Auden Society, furnishes a glossary of capsule biographies and textual notes.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By vernon hewitt on June 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I found this book compelling for a number of reasons. Like at least two reviewers here, as an Isherwood fan, I found his accounts of the early years fascinating. More interesting perhaps, one of the reasons I found them fascinating was because they were often banal, tedious, (but were they ever malicious?) full of frality and the soft vanities of an aging man. Surrounded by vain and often shallow people, his struggle to find spirituality in his work and in his friends was admirable, even if at times it did shock. In the end it is the humility of some of these entries that struck me, the fear that the best was behind, that ahead lay only decline and darkness. Finally, the genre of the diary is a peculiar entity. I am not sure it can be read like a book. It requires to be read in small bits, and always with an eye to the odd disjuncture of privacy and the public domain. Isherwood would not have been ashamed by this work, he might well have seen it as a parody of St Augustine: please make me celebite, but not yet.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
This title should be read by all fans of Isherwoods' novels and stories for insight into the man's character and life-style during his middle years after he emigrated to the United States. I was particularly interested in his committment to Vedanta and how that developed during these years, as well as the gradual development of his relationship with the very young Don Bachardy about whom we have so little information otherwise. Bachardy was and is a very private person. Isherwood emerges as a complex man and, like most diaries, this book shows him with all his personality warts as well as the ups and downs of his daily life. He suffered acutely at various times from very human maladies; boredom, writers' block, lonliness and hypochondriacal concerns. I think this has to be remembered when reading someone's diaries or letters. It's like seeing a person undressed; you get to view the good, the bad and the ugly. There is surprisingly little of Isherwood's sexual views or life included here however; certainly not much that is explicit, and his occasional bitchy remarks about Hollywood personalities is refreshingly candid. I would compare these diaries to those of Evelyn Waugh although Isherwood was far less the curmudgeon that Waugh was and lacked Waugh's crusty mean spiritedness.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ben Monaghan on January 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Not sure why some people reacted so strongly to this book. Yes, at times it reads like a secretary's account of some very dull meeting - but that is also its charm. There's an utter lack of pretense or self drama. Rather, it is a very meticulous accounting of the people Isherwood meets and his struggles to achieve a spiritual balance. This is like watching time pass while sitting on a curb where nothing much happens - only the view is of another's world and time. I enjoyed the gentleness of this man although his experiences and spiritual struggles are far from my own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Buggs on May 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
As an ardent fan of Isherwood's novels, I am, perhaps, the ideal consumer for these lengthy diaries. I left the book on my bedside table, only to be read at night, and for three months enjoyed the author's observant, witty, spiritual, intelligent and sometimes banal entries with thankful adoration. Covering as they do a span of time that allows for great personal change, as well as an ever-shifting political climate, the Diaries open a window into a beloved author's day-to-day, while painting a fascinating backdrop that moves from Hollywood glamour to Pennsylvannia Quakerism to Eastern Spirituality and back. Isherwood's writing is always crisp, and wise without condescension. Through his devotion to searching out self-awareness, I found myself re-examining my own creative production levels. Put simply, the book is truly inspirational. I can't wait for the next installment.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first volume of Christopher Isherwood's diaries, covering the period 1939-1960. In it he describes his move from England to America, his working life, his spiritual struggles, his friendships and his personal dramas. It's not a day-by-day record; sometimes there are gaps of months or years which have only been filled in sketchily after the event. Also, it's obvious that a number of significant events didn't make it into these diaries at all, which is a touch frustrating. However, Isherwood tried to add to his diary at least twice a week and the editor has provided a great deal of additional information, so the thread of the narrative is rarely lost altogether.

You could read this book for, or at least mine it for information on, a number of topics: Isherwood's own literary output, working in the movies, pacifism and the Quakers during World War II, the Vedanta movement, the growth of Los Angeles. All sorts of famous literary and Hollywood figures are recorded by Isherwood. But I enjoyed it most for the writing - some of the descriptive passages, for example, are just beautiful - and Isherwood himself. I found his struggles to better himself by pursuing the spiritual life, live up to his talent and hold obviously-broken relationships together quite moving. Similarly, I felt really pleased for him when he got the job, bought the house, enjoyed a visit with friends, found happy domesticity with Don Bachardy. I can appreciate that not everyone wants to read about such ordinary matters. For some reason, though, it all appealed to me. A feature I especially liked were the little snippets Isherwood recorded simply because they stuck in his mind or appealed to his sense of humour: conversations overheard on a bus, amusing advertisements and the like.
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