Isherwood after Stonewall



LiberationLiberation:  Diaries, 1970-1983
by Christopher Isherwood
Edited by Katherine Bucknell
HarperCollins.  875 pages, $39.99


TWO YEARS AGO [March-April 2011], I reviewed Christopher Isherwood’s Diaries: The Sixties in this publication, in an essay called “Too Much Information!” The title was mine; the exclamation point was not. While I found much of value in the book, as I had in the previous volume, which covers 1939 to 1960, I registered an objection to the decision by Isherwood’s partner, Don Bachardy, and editor Katherine Bucknell to publish the diaries in full. I wrote, “some editing would have been a kindness to Isherwood, who is spared nothing in these pages.” Now that we have the rest of the diaries, I find myself compelled to reevaluate that criticism.

There is plenty more of the same here: more health and money worries; more self-flagellation for drunkenness and laziness; and more of life with Don, though much of that has improved from the previous decade. In the 70s, at last, the two men found an equilibrium that seemed to be lacking in their earlier years. Liberation provides a narrative of love and contentment that is rather heart-warming: it feels well earned. The final entry for 1971 nicely captures their relationship: “No words can describe how happy I am with Don, just now. But oh how difficult it is to enjoy happiness in and for itself!”

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