COMING UNBUTTONED by James Broughton


A Memoir
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 Merry confessions of a cheerful poet and filmmaker who's had his bouts with anxieties and ulcers but has come through all smiles. Broughton writes with disarming frankness about his 80 years as an artist and as a human being seeking wholeness. Much of his life was spent overcoming memories of a humorless, demanding mother who never grasped the nature of his free spirit. His parents- -shocked by his favorite diversion of dancing naked with a scarf to Victrola records and by a letter of his to a young lover that his mother opened before mailing--shipped him off to military school to make a man of him. There, Broughton found that he enjoyed the warmth and friendship of sleeping with young men--but not of the several boors who failed to seduce him. His life, he believes, has been guided by an angel, Hermy, three years his elder, who first appeared in full brilliance in his bedroom when the author was three and has reappeared many times since. It may be that Broughton became fixated by the freedom the angel offered, since he's lived the unchained life of a poet ever since--as the angel told him he would. Examples of Broughton's poetry in the text do not greatly convince about his poetic talent, although each poem has its unfetteredness. We follow him through the making of his 20-some avant-garde films, which also don't convince on the page, but then, he says, easterners don't grasp the lyric mode of the unbuttoned California filmmaker. Broughton's strongest pages tell of his long friendship with the ever more befuddled alcoholic guru Alan Watts, and of his marriage, at age 49, and two children. The marriage failed after several years, when the author became impotent, but Broughton's sexuality revived at age 65, when he bonded with a 16- year-old admirer with whom he then made a handful of farewell films. Straightforward, dry, charming. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87286-280-1
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: City Lights
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993