ISHERWOOD: A Life Revealed

Peter Parker, Author . Random $39.95 (832p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6249-2

Christopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood's consistently rebellious, fictional self-reinventions are put into perspective alongside his exhaustive, introspective diaries in this authoritative and lively life. Of the generation of English writers who defined the 1930s, Isherwood (1904–1986) alone came from landed gentry; he recast himself as a serious novelist, a left-wing playwright, a political journalist and a pacifist. Meticulously following the rootless Isherwood from Weimar Berlin to war-torn China, Parker delves incisively into his relationship with Stephen Spender and with Auden. Parker portrays the frequent collaboration with the latter (highly acclaimed, at the time) as more emotionally crucial to Auden than to Isherwood. Their split upon emigrating to America just before the outbreak of WWII gave Isherwood, who settled in Hollywood, far from Auden's New York, further opportunity for self-exploration and expression. While Isherwood's social circle encompassed other notable exiles, from Charlie Chaplin to Thomas Mann, Isherwood's literary output stalled until the Broadway success of an adaptation of his Berlin Stories as Cabaret. Isherwood's later memoirs, to which Parker attributes a role in the gay liberation movement, receive the same insightful critical attention from Parker (biographer of J. R. Ackerley) as Isherwood's early work. With the final installment of Isherwood's voluminous diaries yet to be published, Parker's biography, written with full access to his subject's papers, will likely remain definitive. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW . Agent, Emma Sweeney at Harold Ober Assoc. (On sale Dec. 7)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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