Synopses & Reviews
"A slip of a wild boy: with quick silver eyes," as Virginia Woolf saw him in the 1930s, Christopher Isherwood journeyed and changed with his century, until, by the 1980s, he was celebrated as the finest prose writer in English and the grand old man of gay liberation. In this final volume of his diaries, the capstone of a million-word masterwork, Isherwood greets advancing age with poignant humor and an unquenchable appetite for the new; even aches, illnesses, and diminishing powers are clues to a predicament still unfathomed. The mainstays of his mature contentment—his Hindu guru, Swami Prabhavananda, and his long-term companion, Don Bachardy—draw from him an unexpected high tide of joy and love.
Around his private religious and domestic routines orbit gifted friends both anonymous and infamous. Bachardy's burgeoning career pulled Isherwood into the 1970s art scenes in Los Angeles, New York, and London, where we meet Rauschenberg, Ruscha, and Warhol (serving fetid meat for lunch), as well as Hockney (adored) and Kitaj. Collaborating with Bachardy on scripts for the prizewinning Frankenstein and the Broadway fiasco A Meeting by the River, Isherwood extended his ties in Hollywood and in the theater world. John Huston, Merchant and Ivory, John Travolta, David Bowie, John Voight, Armistead Maupin, Elton John, and Joan Didion each take a turn through Isherwood's densely populated human comedy, sketched with both ruthlessness and benevolence against the background of the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, and the Nixon, Carter, and Reagan White Houses.
In Kathleen and Frank, his first book of this period, Isherwood unearthed the family demons that haunted his fugitive youth. When contemporaries began to die, he responded in Christopher and His Kind and My Guru and His Disciple with startling fresh truths about shared experiences. These are the most concrete and the most mysterious of his diaries, candidly revealing the fear of death that crowded in past Isherwood's fame, and showing how his lifelong immersion in the day-to-day lifted him, paradoxically, toward transcendence.
"This third and final volume of Isherwood's compulsively readable diaries concludes with a 136-page 'glossary' of names a testament to his connections to the literati and Hollywood glitterati. As the 1970's commence, lover Don Bachardy has just had his screenplay for Cabaret (based on the musical drawn from Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin) rejected, and the two have begun what will be an unsuccessful stage adaptation of Isherwood's novel, A Meeting by the River. The last diary entry dates to July 4, 1983, exactly two and a half years before Isherwood's death from cancer. In between, he regales readers with accounts of his collaboration with Bachardy on the screenplay for Frankenstein: The True Story, the 1976 publication of Christopher and His Kind (which moved him to the forefront of the gay rights movement), and nonstop dinners, parties, and foreign travels. A master of the bon mot, he enlivens passages with witty critiques of books, acquaintances (Rudolf Nureyev 'really is a macabre absurd nineteenth-century vampire'), and lifestyles ('One of the disadvantages about being so frank about one's queerness is that everybody expects you to leer at attractive boys, so you try not to, out of perversity'). A preface by Edmund White and meticulous notes and annotations by editor Bucknell distinguish this fitting finale to a fascinating life. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, the Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Compulsively readable…a testament to his connections to the literati and Hollywood glitterati…a fitting finale to a fascinating life” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Alongside sharp and often very funny assessments of those Isherwood knew, the diaries also record a wealth of domestic detail…giving a richly textured sense of what it was like to live in California during this period of social change.” The Spectator
“Christopher Isherwood continues to perform open-heart surgery on himself, without anaesthestic, and with one beady eye on the audience...a rare treat.” The Guardian
“Isherwood proves a captivating, honest diarist, his entries rich with reflection and gossip.” Booklist
“Unique literary archives...Ultimately LIBERATION is a real-time gallery of men in love at a time when the world was nowhere near catching up with them.” Huffington Post
“But the gold mine of Isherwood work has been the posthumous publication of three huge diaries amounting to almost 3,000 pages. Comprehensively and lovingly edited and annotated by Katherine Bucknell, these volumes give us the most detailed portrait of the writer...” San Francisco Chronicle
Candid and revealing, the final volume of Christopher Isherwood's diaries brings together his thoughts on life, love, and death. Beginning in the period of his life when he wrote Kathleen and Frank, his first intensely personal book, Liberation: Diaries 1970-1983 intimately and wittily records Isherwood's immersion in the 1970s art scene in Los Angeles, New York, and London—a world peopled by the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and David Hockney, as well as his Broadway writing career, which brought him in touch with John Huston, Merchant and Ivory, John Travolta, John Voight, Elton John, David Bowie, Joan Didion, and Armistead Maupin. With a preface by Edmund White, Liberation is a rich and engaging final memoir by one of the most celebrated writers of his generation.
About the Author
Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was one of the most celebrated writers of his generation. He left Cambridge without graduating, briefly studied medicine, and then turned to writing his first novels, All the Conspirators and The Memorial. Between 1929 and 1939 he lived mainly abroad, spending four years in Berlin and writing the novels Mr. Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, from which the musical Cabaret was based. He moved to America in 1939, becoming a US citizen in 1946, and wrote another five novels, including Down There on a Visit and A Single Man; a travel book about South America; and a biography of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna. In the late 1960s and '70s he turned to autobiographical works: Kathleen and Frank; Christopher and His Kind; My Guru and His Disciple; and October, one month of his diary with drawings by Don Bachardy.