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Lions and Shadows: An Education in the Twenties.

Lions and Shadows: An Education in the Twenties

Christopher Isherwood Noun 1. Christopher Isherwood - United States writer (born in England) whose best known novels portray Berlin in the 1930's and who collaborated with W. H. Auden in writing plays in verse (1904-1986)
Christopher William Bradshaw Isherwood, Isherwood

University of Minnesota Press The University of Minnesota Press is a university press that is part of the University of Minnesota. External link
  • University of Minnesota Press

From reprinted novels and diaries to a previously unpublished memoir, everything's coming up Isherwood

Perhaps the most telling anecdote about Christopher Isherwood's long and crowded life occurred in the high bohemian society of Hollywood in the 1940s. It must have been a golden gay era--all those parties around George Cukor's pool, all those soldiers and sailors ready for anything--and Isherwood was very much at the epicenter. So much so that Greta Garbo took a fancy to him and began to drop by uninvited un·in·vit·ed  
Not welcome or wanted: uninvited guests.


not having been asked: uninvited guests

. Soon, he reports, she became a nuisance. The image of Garbo, banging on the door like a jilted jilt  
tr.v. jilt·ed, jilt·ing, jilts
To deceive or drop (a lover) suddenly or callously.

One who discards a lover.
 girlfriend who won't get the hint, sums up Isherwood in a nutshell. He was so smart, such good company, so "cool" that even the elusive Garbo wanted to hang.

Isherwood chronicled his life extensively in both fiction and memoirs, to the point where the two started to blur. One section has been missing, though: the period right after World War II, when he stopped keeping his diary. Before his death in 1986 he began to reconstruct these years, using old appointment books and such to jog his memory. The results, edited by Katherine Bucknell Katherine Bucknell, American-born English scholar and novelist.

Katherine Bucknell is the editor of W. H. Auden's Juvenilia and of three volumes of the diaries of Christopher Isherwood.
, are now being published as Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951. It is a book that anyone with even a passing interest in Isherwood or gay social history shouldn't miss.

The period covered was a crucial one for Isherwood. He was juggling many things: his devotion to Hinduism, his professional triumphs and defeats (one of his major projects at the time was the screenplay for The Great Sinner, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner), his relationship with his lover Bill Caskey (whose career he was trying to advance), and finally his many sexual adventures, which are recounted at great and delightful length. An astonishing a·ston·ish  
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise.
 cast appears--Igor Stravinsky, Bertolt Brecht Noun 1. Bertolt Brecht - German dramatist and poet who developed a style of epic theater (1898-1956)
, Georgia O'Keeffe Georgia Totti O'Keeffe (November 15, 1887—March 6,1986) was an American artist. She is typically associated with the American Southwest and particularly New Mexico where she settled late in life. O'Keeffe has been a major figure in American art since the 1920s. , Marlon Brando--and each member is described with an illuminating story or two. My favorite may well be a teenage Roddy McDowall having sex at home with a rugged young actor while his parents sit unaware in the next room.

Isherwood finds just the right tone in which to couch his recollections. He writes in the third person, as if describing a young man named Christopher. Rather than distancing the reader, this allows for greater analysis and intimacy. He never brags, though he has plenty to brag about, and readily admits his many insecurities, including a martyr complex and a drinking problem that sometimes got out of hand--Charlie Chaplin accused him of peeing on his couch, and the friendship never recovered. He is often irritated with his younger self. What he remembers most, he acknowledges ruefully rue·ful  
1. Inspiring pity or compassion.

2. Causing, feeling, or expressing sorrow or regret.

, are the compliments paid him and the sexual episodes. Evenings spent deep in conversation with E.M. Forster and Igor Stravinsky are blurred and impossible to reconstruct.

Lost Years ends in 1951. Just ahead were two major events: the Broadway production of I Am a Camera, based on his Berlin stories, which would make him a household name. Then, in 1953, he was introduced to an 18-year-old artist named Don Bachardy after seeing him on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., and thus began one of the century's great love stories. They were still together 33 years later; Bachardy sketched Isherwood on his deathbed.

The new memoir is just one of a group of Isherwood books on tap. Adding to its ongoing reprinted series of Isherwood's novels, the University of Minnesota Press has just reissued Lions and Shadows: An Education in the Twenties, the first of Isherwood's autobiographical writings. And from the University of Wisconsin Press The University of Wisconsin Press (or UW Press), founded in 1936, is a university press that is part of the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States. It published under its own name and the imprint The Popular Press. , a selection of essays titled The Isherwood Century has also reached bookstores. With contributions from Edmund White and Armistead Maupin, among others, it provides an invaluable look--sometimes lively, sometimes just academic--at an amazing life. Isherwood was always a step ahead. His artistry, his delight in sex and friendship, his intensely social manner, and finally his devotion to his lover make you feel, as Maupin puts it, "more connected to a past I had never known and a future I had yet to realize."

Plunket is the author of My Search for Warren Harding and Love Junkie junkie Popular health A popular term for a person, usually an IV narcotic abusing addict, whose life is disorganized vis-á-vis family and societal structure, whose existence revolves around obtaining–often through theft, prostitution or other illicit .
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Plunket, Robert
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 12, 2000
Previous Article:The Isherwood Century: Essays on the Life and Work of Christopher Isherwood.
Next Article:The World of Normal Boys.

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