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Bliss

Michael Neve, 16 October 1980

My Guru and his Disciple 
by Christopher Isherwood.
Eyre Methuen, 338 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 413 46930 1
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... Cleanliness has always been next to godliness: Christopher Isherwood (‘this rebellious son of a British lieutenant-colonel’ – Time Magazine) has found the two things in California, where they have become One. My Guru and his Disciple, an account of Isherwood’s relationship with the Swami Prabhavananda in the gentle climes of the West Coast, is clear-sighted and clean-limbed, a relaxed vision of love and devotion, a diary that records difficulties effortlessly and remembers trials as periods of intense relaxation ...

Tiff and Dither

Michael Wood, 2 January 1997

Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-60 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Methuen, 1048 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 413 69680 4
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... make art out of self-effacement. This at least is one of the suggestions of the first volume of Christopher Isherwood’s Diaries, a whingeing, inward-bound mammoth of a book, where the author laboriously chronicles and inspects his every moment for changes in the moral and spiritual weather. Well, it can’t be his every moment, but it feels like ...

I am a cactus

John Sutherland: Christopher Isherwood and his boys, 3 June 2004

Isherwood 
by Peter Parker.
Picador, 914 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 330 48699 3
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... solitary, self-sufficient, hard to handle and difficult to love. How to get to grips with ‘Isherwood’ (as he has chosen to address him) was a problem for Peter Parker: something that perhaps explains the 12 years this usually brisk biographer has spent on his task. A main difficulty is that Isherwood (‘I am a ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive, 10 June 1999

... Writing in the Tablet in 1951, Evelyn Waugh described Christopher Isherwood as the best of those British writers who had ‘captured’ the Thirties. It was not, Waugh being Waugh, high praise. Auden he felt to be a mysterious cove comprehensible only to his pals (among whom Waugh did not number himself). Stephen Spender, Waugh declared, had been granted at birth all the fashionable literary neuroses but his fairy godmother ‘quite forgot the gift of literary skill ...

All about Me

Kevin Kopelson: Don Bachardy, 8 April 2015

Hollywood 
by Don Bachardy.
Glitterati, 368 pp., £45, October 2014, 978 0 9913419 2 4
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... man’ in the fall of 1999. And like the doomed protagonist, George, in the novel A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, I too was gay; I too was an English professor (on a one-term sabbatical back then); I too was middle-aged (at 39 years old then, whereas George is 58); I too was living in Los Angeles (although my teaching position is in Iowa City); I ...

Back to Byzantium

John Thompson, 22 January 1981

Destinations 
by Jan Morris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 19 502708 6
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The Venetian Empire 
by Jan Morris.
Faber, 192 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780571099368
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... men have been among us’ and ‘great spirits now on earth are sojourning.’ Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy are ‘great spirits’ – resident in Los Angeles: ***This is a city of hard workers. Out on the hills at Santa Monica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the writer ...

Poor Jack

Noël Annan, 5 December 1985

Leaves from a Victorian Diary 
by Edward Leeves and John Sparrow.
Alison Press/Secker, 126 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 436 24370 9
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... me, I can remember them very well.’ They had in fact been sitting there for longer perhaps than Christopher Isherwood knew. In June 1849 Edward Leeves, an elderly expatriate, driven out of Venice by the Austrian bombardment, made his way to London. There he met Jack Brand, a trooper in the Blues. A month later Leeves went to Scotland to stay with the ...

Knitting

Adam Phillips: Charm, 16 November 2000

Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-51 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 388 pp., £25, July 2000, 0 7011 6931 1
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... Isherwood was a novelist with the inclinations of an autobiographer. There are always characters in his novels who love what he calls ‘playacting’, who charm and flirt and reinvent themselves whenever necessary, and as much as possible. They are such compelling and irreverent storytellers that they help us forget about truth-telling; they make everyone, including themselves, feel that it would be earnest and silly to start worrying again about honesty and good behaviour ...

Auden’s Funeral

Stephen Spender, 4 June 1981

... To Christopher Isherwood I One among friends who stood above your grave I cast a clod of earth from those heaped there Down on the great brass-handled coffin lid. It rattled on the oak like a door knocker. And at that sound I saw your face beneath Wedged in an oblong shadow under ground: Flesh creased, eyes shut, jaw jutting, And on the mouth a smile: triumph of one Who has escaped from lifelong colleagues roaring For him to join their throng ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Dream On, 27 June 2002

... he enthuses to Victoria Lambert as she joins him for a session with Pilates guru Dreas Reyneke. Christopher Isherwood was a devotee of the exercise technique, devised by Joseph Pilates in the 1930s, so it has a strong literary pedigree. The ‘52-year-old writer’ – that’s Amis – ‘has been attending Reyneke’s Notting Hill studio twice a week ...

Neglect

Ian Hamilton, 26 January 1995

An Unmentionable Man 
by Edward Upward.
Enitharmon, 102 pp., £5.99, October 1994, 1 870612 64 7
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Journey to the Border 
by Edward Upward.
Enitharmon, 135 pp., £5.99, October 1994, 1 870612 59 0
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The Mortmere Stories 
by Christopher Isherwood and Edward Upward.
Enitharmon, 206 pp., £7.99, October 1994, 1 870612 69 8
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... his book. And yet Upward, when he started out, was highly regarded as a joker. In Christopher Isherwood’s Lions and Shadows, he appears as ‘Allen Chalmers’, the brilliantly mischievous co-inventor of Mortmere, ‘a sort of anarchist paradise in which all accepted moral and social values are turned upside down’. ...

No more alimony, tra la la

Miranda Carter: Somerset Maugham, 17 December 2009

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham 
by Selina Hastings.
John Murray, 614 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 7195 6554 0
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... Maugham enjoyed a ‘firm friendship’, described him as ‘an extremely mysterious character’; Christopher Isherwood likened him to a Gladstone bag: ‘God only knows what is inside.’ (Maugham said much the same about Isherwood.) In contrast to his reserve in company, however, Maugham was addicted in his writing ...

A Little Bit of Showing Off

Adam Phillips: Isherwood’s 1960s, 6 January 2011

The Sixties: Diaries 1960-69 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 756 pp., £30, November 2010, 978 0 7011 6940 4
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... This is a period without glamour,’ Isherwood writes in a diary entry for 18 May 1962, apropos his lover Don Bachardy’s birthday. ‘He blames me because his birthday isn’t marvellous, and I would blame him under the same circumstances.’ Isherwood feared these times without glamour – if they were without glamour – because he was about to be in his sixties and on this particular day Bachardy had turned 28 ...

What’s Happening in the Engine-Room

Penelope Fitzgerald: Poor John Lehmann, 7 January 1999

John Lehmann: A Pagan Adventure 
by Adrian Wright.
Duckworth, 308 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 7156 2871 2
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... Cecil Day Lewis, Stephen Spender, William Plomer and Lehmann himself. Through Spender he met Christopher Isherwood. The friendship with Spender from the very first seemed edgy, uncertain and uneasy, but durable for all that. Isherwood he loved, but he was tolerated, rather than loved, in return. Spender and ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... of Frances Partridge than, say, Jimi Hendrix. We hear of lunches at Chez Victor, where Spender and Isherwood giggle at jokes ‘all about Stephen’s boyfriends in Berlin’. And with every story young David rises in his own steely estimation. Stephen asked me to lunch with him at his club, the Garrick. I had never before been in a gentleman’s club. He told ...

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