on December 6, 2003
Virtually every person I know has a favorite Christmas tradition, an activity that they perform every year that is theirs and theirs alone, and that sums up the Christmas spirit of peace, good will, and love. For my own tradition, every year at this time, I reread this wonderful book. Why, you may ask? Well, I'll do my best to explain. I received this book as a Christmas present from a dear friend when it was first published in 1982. It quickly became my favorite book, and I find that it both inspires and delights me with every new reread. I was an actor and theatre person for many years, just long enough to discover one truth about Sir Noel Coward: This stylish and elegant man, actor, singer, playwright par excellence, and all around bon vivant, simply knew more about life in general and the theatre in particular than any other person I've ever encountered. Whether dealing with stubborn, recalcitrant actresses who refuse to wear their hair properly (i.e. Mary Martin), or facing the loss of a livelong confidant (his personal secretary, Lorn Loraine), Coward's show of sheer courage, strength, and determination in facing the everyday stresses and strains of life, and with considerable humor and great goodwill, seems to me the essence of the Christmas (and, by extension, the human) spirit. Organized in chapters by the years the diary entries were made (1945 to 1969, with a prologue that covers the World War II years as one section), the book is a very relaxed and enjoyable read (usually, a chapter a night works well), and covers the time period of the years following his initial successes (by the time the entries begin, Coward had already written his best known works: Private Lives, Desigh for Living, Hay Fever, and Blithe Spirit) through the 1950's and the years of abuse at the hands of narrow-minded critics (who considered him too "shallow" and "commercial"), and on through the 1960's and his renaissance period (when many of those same critics found his plays fashionable once again). Through it all, the successes, tragedies and failures, the many, many encounters with the rich and famous (Coward knew virtually every famous person of his day and counted many as lifelong friends), and most of all, the wit and wisdom of one of the most fascinating persons of our time will keep the devoted reader enthralled for all 700 plus pages. I could say much more about The Noel Coward Diaries, but a hundred reviews could not contain it all, so I will close by saying please make this book a present for yourself (and/or someone you love). Trust me, it will be one of the wittiest, most delightful, and truly Merriest Christmases you have ever spent!!!