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Lost Years: A Memoir 1945 - 1951 Hardcover – September 5, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
English expat novelist and autobiographer Isherwood (1904-1986) may be best known for The Berlin Stories, the basis for the musical Cabaret; he spent most of his later life in southern California, where his productions included the groundbreaking gay-themed 1976 memoir Christopher and His Kind. Bucknell edited Isherwood's Diaries Volume One 1939--1960, which appeared in America in 1997; those diaries gave day-by-day accounts of Isherwood's WWII years and the '50s, but left the time in between sparsely covered. Begun in the 1970s and perhaps unfinished, this long, intimate, sometimes repetitive book was Isherwood's attempt to reconstruct those seven years; it takes the form of third-person diary entries ("On February 25, Christopher drove to Los Angeles"; "On September 6, Christopher went down to Trabuco"; and so on). During those years, "Christopher" investigated psychic powers and Indian mysticism; visited England, Italy, South America and New York; made contacts in the world of Hollywood film; worked on novels and autobiographies; and maintained a serious, if troubled, romance with William Caskey, with whom he lived for much of that time. The book is notable throughout for its portrayals of sex, sexuality and pre-Stonewall gay identity. It stands out, too, for its wealth of highbrow celebrities: prose writers E.M. Forster, Aldous Huxley and Ana?s Nin; poet W.H. Auden; and spy Guy Burgess are among the diaries' famous figures. Individual episodes (especially one surrounding Isherwood's surgery) can be touching, or funny, or both; the diary structure, though, prevents the book from acquiring momentum or shape. While it lacks the artfulness of the memoirs Isherwood chose to publish, it will nevertheless find grateful readers among those who care about his work. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The esteemed British writer Christopher Isherwood (1904-86), who established American citizenship and spent the second half of his life as a resident of California, kept copious diaries, a first volume of which, covering 1939 to 1960, was published in 1996 as Diaries: Volume One. In 1971, Isherwood began work on a "reconstructed diary" to document his activities during the half-dozen years following World War II, a time when, more or less, he didn't keep his usual careful diary records. This reconstructed diary, "never completed by Isherwood but also never destroyed," as we learn in the editor's introduction, is now being published for the first time. It must be stated, first and foremost, that this volume is quite sexually graphic. At the time he was composing it, Isherwood was avowing his homosexuality; and, in fact, as Bucknell relates, gay liberation "was the only movement for social change to which Isherwood ever felt personally and entirely committed." These "sexual memories," as he calls them, amount to consequential reading for gaining a complete picture of an important writer. Brad Hooper
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Top customer reviews
"I Am a Camera" (Broadway with Julie Harris) and film "Cabaret"--and were inspired by the years he lived in Berlin in the early 30's.
Isherwood worked on a number of film scripts as well as a host of novels--and kept up a hectic social schedule in southern California.
He lived primarily in the Santa Monica area from the late 30's until his death in 1986. He became a grand old man of the gay civil rights movement in the 60's and 70's and lived openly with his partner from 1953 until his death in 1986, the artist Don Bachardy. This book is an integral chunk of the series edited from his diaries from the 30's onward. Isherwood is extremely candid I found it a real learning experience and learned so much about so many gay folk that were well known long before my time. The book provides a first rate glossary that details each and every character mentioned in this memoir--and he drops a lot of names--let me tell you! But I mean that in a playful and somewhat envious manner--wishing it were I doing the name dropping. Check this one out if you are a fan of Isherwood's writing or his life.
This book really opened my eyes to this wonderful writer, who happened to be gay. I thought the 90's were gay but after reading this book, things weren't much different back in the 40's. Gay life as we call it today, was really just as gay back then. Katherine Bucknell has done a wonderful job in editing this book, and gives us a wonderful introduction. Getting to know Christopher Isherwood as a writer and a human being has been a wonderful experience for me. Highly recommended.