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The Letters of Noel Coward
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on November 26, 2017
A great companion to Noel Coward's many autobiographies. This book is well organized by subject. You can get a great feel for the lost art of letter writing.
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on January 20, 2008
This long and ambitious biography satisfies on several levels. First, it puts forward Coward's vast output in an organized and skillful way. Secondly, it gives us an accurate portrait of the genius himself, in his own words and those of an astonishing array of talents. Thirdly, the photos are extraordinary, and flesh out the story in a very personal way. I found it interesting that he was able to write so quickly, often in a matter of days dashing off a new play, or musical theme. Things formed quickly in a mind that raced almost ahead of himself at times. His musical ear picked up the cadence of conversations that illuminated his writing. I found it also interesting how he suffered at the hands of the English. Dreadfully homophobic, the English had a difficult time during this period with many of their greatest artists, rather a love/hate situation. If one goes looking for sexual tidbits about his personal life, there is little to be found in his letters. He was almost always a model of diplomacy, and even when he found it necessary to take a Mary Martin or a Vivien Leigh to task for unprofessional behavior, he did it in an instructive manner, laying at their feet decades of theatrical experience, and telling them in exact terms how he felt. One has to admire his directness, and his ability to take his losses in stride and go on to the next challenge. It is sad that he had to wait until he was 70 for a kinghthood that should have been put forward decades earlier. The Queen Mother loved artists from all walks of life, and she put it right finally. Perhaps the author could have spared us a few letters too many, but on the whole this is a book to keep and savor again and again.
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on December 13, 2007
If There Wasn't Death

Noel Coward was a genius. In 1925, he had four plays running in the West End. He was twenty-six years old. The first play that brought him success and recognition was The Vortex, about a middle aged woman who is sleeping around with younger men, and one day her young son comes home. The Lord Chancellor of London briefly thought about banning the play for reference to drug use (Coward had to appear in person and plead his case to the contrary)and for deep Freudian implications and someone said to ban the play was to ban Hamlet forever.
I am just mentioning this to show what kind a mature thinker Coward was at an early age. He wrote extensively, and he wrote verses which were funny, tart and at times poignant:
Cocktails and laughter
But what comes after?
Nobody knows.

He had a tendency to sign his epistles with terms like Poppa, Snoop, Master.
In case you did not know, he was gay.
But his inner circle consisted of three women, including Joyce Carey, daughter of Lillian Brathwaite who played the unhappy woman, mother to Coward in the Vortex. (Don't confuse her with him: Joyce Cary, the celebrated Irish novelist), Gladys Calthrop and the invaluable Lornie. So whatever he was, he was not flashing it around.
He helped Laurence Olivier's early career (Larry might not have agreed to that) and John Gielgud was his understudy in the Vortex.
This is an epistolary feast, spanning decades and stretching to 800 pages in the current tome.
It is delicious, it is delectable and one reads and wonders what manner of man could think of such lines as:

With shoulder-straps of shagreen and maybe
A brassiere of lapis lazuli.

Forget that one truth must be faced-
Although you may measure repentance at leisure-
You HAVEN'T been married in haste.
This was interestingly to Ian Fleming (remember him?) for they worked in British Intelligence during the war.

I am not going to mention the oft repeated Mad Dogs . . . but his was a free spirit, although at times incarcerated in relationships (Jack Wilson for example.)

Still it is a triumph for Barry Day, the editor.I have read letters of many great letter writers (the last one was of John Gielgud) and in this book the arrangement-closing a chapter by breaking chronology and adding comments that gives this book almost a novel like quality. One can get lost in it like in a Noel Coward play and not realize these are just a bunch of letters.

I strongly recommend the book to literature lovers, playgoers, appreciator of verses and of the glorious English Theatre. (I put the spelling knowingly)
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on January 9, 2013
Content, wise, it's not much more than that. Maybe "letters" don't lend themselves to e-books. Photos certainly don't.
Beyond that, whoever or whatever "transcribed" this book to kindle is incompetent. It is shockingly badly done: misspellings, fractured French, letters out of order in words. It's as if there was no editor.
Some kindle books have a few transcribing mistakes. This one is egregious.
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on February 17, 2016
I confess I am a complete Noel Coward junkie and find his life of triumph, failure and "rising above" endlessly entertaining and inspirational. Read and re read this to again hear his perceptive, graceful and at times bitchy voice!
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on December 31, 2007
If ever there was a book that offered more delirious pleasure , i don't know of it!!! What a treasure trove , i am spacing it out so that i don't race through it - What a life and what letters!!!. It is a shame that computers and e mail have killed the written letter - there will be no more books like this coming down the pike.... of course i cannot think of anyone who even remotely resembles Noel Coward either . so maybe the golden age is past..... if anyone wishes to correct me , feel free - i would be eager to change my mind if there were evidence.....
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on December 18, 2007
A fine purchase for people interested in the life of Noel Coward and/or the history of the stage and screen over the first three-quarters of the last century. (If you have no interest in either of these two topics, consider buying another book.)

The editor, Mr. Day, is excellent in helping the reader understand the context of this diverse material while not interfering unnecessarily with the main object of interest, the vividly written letters to and from the great English wit, playwright, actor, and man of the world.
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on February 2, 2015
It was just what I wanted. An interesting, funny and poignant read.
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on November 3, 2013
Great way to learn about Coward's life. His letters were as well written as you would expect. If you are a fan, you must buy it.
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on December 30, 2007
It is no surprise that Noel Coward appears clever, even precocious in this volume. What has surprised me is that he emerges as such a decent and "respectable" guy. No kant, no hypocracy. Common sense, kindness, and a sense of humor.
I found him a very pleasant companion, much more than I had expected.
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