PLEASURES OF A TANGLED LIFE by Jan Morris

PLEASURES OF A TANGLED LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In her earlier autobiography, Conundrum (1974), travel, writer Morris (Hong Kong, Journeys) detailed the pain, doubt, and sexual confusion that led to a sex change operation in 1972. Now, she promises--but doesn't quite deliver--a celebration of her own individual, if unusual, sensibility and the ""pleasures experienced by a traveler across strange frontiers."" These pleasures include ""the best meal in the world"" at a Stockholm smorgasbord, and her ""distinctly erotic"" love for her old house (opening its front door after a long journey gives her a feeling ""undeniably akin to lechery""). Several chapters are devoted to travel reminiscence (including a magical account of convalescence in a Sherpa home in Nepal), but Morris never really explores the contrast and continuity of pleasure in her different roles: from the perspective of youth and age, male and female. Much of the book revolves around personal opinion rather than active experience, making for a strangely coy autobiography; because one of Morris' pleasures is an anarchic delight in outrageous statements (e.g., a theoretical defense of incest), her musings, while entertaining, cannot be taken at face value: the real person hides behind the pose. Her predilections often remain too private to be instinctively understood: in her obsession with a long-dead British admiral, she finds ""a paradigm of my particular condition,"" but the biographical sketch she provides of the man fails to demonstrate why. An affirmative, anecdotal memoir with a fair share of quirky delights, but Morris remains elusive enough to tantalize rather than satisfy.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1989
Publisher: Random House