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SOME REMARKABLE MEN by James Lord

SOME REMARKABLE MEN

Further Memoirs

By James Lord

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-374-26655-7
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 With his skill at polishing his enviable experiences and an apparently inexhaustible supply of illustriously populated journals, Lord (Picasso and Dora, 1993, etc.) remains a formidable memoirist in his latest book. Threading together Lord's intersections with Harold Acton, Jean Cocteau, Balthus, and Alberto and Diego Giacometti, these vibrant extended sketches bring together those who might otherwise be incompatible company. We get a witty but trenchant biographic summary of Acton's youthful promise and expatriation in China; he has at last settled down in middle age with his disapproving parents at their lavish villa in Florence when Lord enters the picture. Lord's description of Acton's waspish flights of conversation are matched with his Brideshead-like impressions of Acton's oppressive family life, with his parents regularly locking him out at night after his revels. The conversation of the ubiquitous, multi-talented Cocteau was likewise stimulating if superficial, as was everything about Cocteau, but their relationship dwindled after Lord declined the impossible task of translating Cocteau's Diary of an Unknown. With Balthus, Lord found himself bargaining for a portrait by the reclusive painter--the cost of which was an antique rug that belonged to Lord's grandmother and that the self-styled ``Count de Rola'' wanted for his ch√Čteau. In the longest section, Lord expands on his close relationship with Giacometti (Lord is too modest to claim friendship) to include his growing amity with Alberto's brother, Diego, and his vexatious dealings with his widow while trying to preserve Alberto's legacy in a biography. Of all these remarkable men, only Giacometti is unequivocally pronounced a genius. Underneath Lord's witty, dilettantish style, his recollections have a serious core about living the artistic life, with its hidden costs and uncertain legacies. (illustrations, not seen)