The English writer Christopher Isherwood settled in California in 1939 and spent the war years working in Hollywood film studios, teaching English to European refugees, and converting to Hinduism. By the time the war ended, he realized he was not cut out to be a monk. With his self-imposed wartime vigil behind him, he careened into a life of frantic socializing, increasing dissipation, anxiety, and, eventually, despair. For nearly a half decade he all but ceased to write fiction and even abandoned his lifelong habit of keeping a diary.
This is Isherwood's own account, reconstructed from datebooks, letters, and memory nearly thirty years later, of his experience during those missing years: his activities in Santa Monica, and also in New York and London, just after the war. Begun in 1971, in a postsixties atmosphere of liberation, Lost Years includes explicit details of his romantic and sexual relationships during the 1940s and unveils a hidden and sometimes shocking way of life shared with friends and acquaintances--many of whom were well-known artists, actors, and film-makers. Not until the 1951 Broadway success of I Am a Camera, adapted from his Berlin stories, did Isherwood begin to reclaim control of his talents and of his future.
Isherwood never prepared Lost years for publication because he rapidly became caught up in writing the book that established him as a hero of gay liberation, Christopher and His Kind.
With unpolished directness, and with insight and wit, Lost Years shows how Isherwood developed his private recollections into the unique mixture of personal mythology and social history that characterizes much of his best work. This surprising and important memoir also highlights his determination to track down even the most elusive and unappealing aspects of his past in order to understand and honestly portray himself, both as a writer and as a human being.
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Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was the author of more than 20 books. His best-known work, Goodbye to Berlin, was developed into the musical Cabaret, which later won eight Academy Awards in the film version starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray.From Publishers Weekly:
English expat novelist and autobiographer Isherwood (1904-1986) may be best known for The Berlin Stories, the basis for the musical Cabaret; he spent most of his later life in southern California, where his productions included the groundbreaking gay-themed 1976 memoir Christopher and His Kind. Bucknell edited Isherwood's Diaries Volume One 1939--1960, which appeared in America in 1997; those diaries gave day-by-day accounts of Isherwood's WWII years and the '50s, but left the time in between sparsely covered. Begun in the 1970s and perhaps unfinished, this long, intimate, sometimes repetitive book was Isherwood's attempt to reconstruct those seven years; it takes the form of third-person diary entries ("On February 25, Christopher drove to Los Angeles"; "On September 6, Christopher went down to Trabuco"; and so on). During those years, "Christopher" investigated psychic powers and Indian mysticism; visited England, Italy, South America and New York; made contacts in the world of Hollywood film; worked on novels and autobiographies; and maintained a serious, if troubled, romance with William Caskey, with whom he lived for much of that time. The book is notable throughout for its portrayals of sex, sexuality and pre-Stonewall gay identity. It stands out, too, for its wealth of highbrow celebrities: prose writers E.M. Forster, Aldous Huxley and Ana?s Nin; poet W.H. Auden; and spy Guy Burgess are among the diaries' famous figures. Individual episodes (especially one surrounding Isherwood's surgery) can be touching, or funny, or both; the diary structure, though, prevents the book from acquiring momentum or shape. While it lacks the artfulness of the memoirs Isherwood chose to publish, it will nevertheless find grateful readers among those who care about his work. (Sept.)
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