Final volume of the meticulously detailed diaries of the acclaimed author of Goodbye to Berlin (1939) and other celebrated works.
Isherwood (1904–1986), who, writes Edmund White in his preface, “had a personality that sparkled,” was the icon of the infant gay liberation movement during the 1970s, where this collection picks up. Editor Bucknell’s (What You Will, 2008, etc.) close knowledge of the man and his world may have eased her monumental task, but it may be difficult going for readers not privy to the vast assortment of friends that Isherwood collected throughout his lifetime. In the last 135 pages, the editor presents a glossary explaining personages cited often or only once, events mentioned in passing and Hindu terminology. Most readers should consult the glossary first, as footnotes prove to be little more than distractions pointing out typos and errata. Isherwood knew that one day his diaries would be published, but readers may wonder if he assumed the mundane quotidian drivel would be edited out. The entries drag as he lists his weight, visits to the gym, swims in the ocean, movies attended, lunch with this famous cultural icon, dinner with another famous person, etc. His complete comfort with his homosexuality, his adoration of his partner, American portrait artist Don Bachardy, and the sheer variety of people whose “friendship never ends” may keep the pages turning for more dedicated readers, but his comments on his writing projects and these later diaries don’t really expose the man as writer, only as the man who writes.
Isherwood was unquestionably a fascinating man. True fans of his work as well as gossip lovers will no doubt read all three volumes of his diaries. For the rest of us, a simple biography should be sufficient.