AN IMPERSONATION OF ANGELS by Frederick Brown

AN IMPERSONATION OF ANGELS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

For Professor Brown, Cocteau was endlessly ""impersonating"" his confreres (Picasso, Stravinsky, Satie, Diaghilev) and his lovers (Radiguet, Jean Desbordes, Jean Marais). In turn, Professor Brown seems bent on impersonating Sartre's immensely belligerent study of Baudelaire. One is tempted to remark that a Cocteau impersonation succeeds, Professor Brown's does not. At least, that is the usual feeling generated when one keeps coming across so many cold, censorious, seemingly gratuitous remarks. If Cocteau lives at Santo-Sospir, it has to be in ""sumptuous sloth."" If he has genius, it is merely ""a genius for flashes, for imaginative short-circuits."" Cocteau is ""coy,"" ""hysterical,"" ""effete,"" always working behind the scenes, manipulating life as he manipulates his fictional puppets, adjusting ""every little cog and flywheel of his immortality machine."" Yet Brown's biography is still the fullest, the most ambitious close-up of Le Petit Cocteau's seven decades to appear in English, much better than the recent Sprigge-Kihm biography, (though nowhere as good or as pertinent as the purely critical appreciations of Oxenhandler and Crossland). Brown has evidently pillaged all libraries, periods, and sources (including Cocteau's correspondence and the various memoirs of his friends), and simply as a marshalling of heretofore isolated incidents, events, or revelations, An Impersonation of Angels is of unequivocal importance. Nevertheless, it works against itself. Here Le Petit Cocteau seems very small indeed.

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1968
Publisher: Viking