Lost Years: A Memoir 1945 - 1951

Christopher Isherwood, Author, Katherine Bucknell, Editor
Christopher Isherwood, Author, Katherine Bucknell, Editor HarperCollins Publishers $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-118001-9
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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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.)
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