A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
My interest in this book was aroused after viewing a 2011 BBC production bearing the same title. Of course, reading the book version of a work is always more satisfying, though I do believe good films can spark interest in doing further research. The text is an appealing one for several reasons.
An older Christopher Isherwood (seventy-two) writes about these ten years in the third person, as if this “Christopher Isherwood” is one of his fictional characters. At the same time, any passage in which he’s unsure about a fact or date or is definitely speaking retrospectively he employs the first person. I suppose the practice helps Isherwood to separate himself from the past, from the time when he may have acted as a callow yet, at times, callous fellow.
“Christopher’s first visit to Berlin  was short—a week or ten days—but that was sufficient; I now recognize it was one of the decisive events of my life. I can still make myself faintly feel the delicious nausea of initiation terror which Christopher felt as Wystan [W. H. Auden] pushed back the heavy leather door curtain of a boy bar called the Cosy Corner and led the way inside” (3).
But Isherwood makes some startling admissions, too, one in particular concerning his feelings toward Heinz, a young man with whom he shares a life for five years, mostly in Berlin. When it comes time to help Heinz escape Nazi Germany (and conscription), many complications arise—including lengthy and expensive legal battles—that ultimately disallow it. They must part ways. Even though Isherwood draws on his diary for this passage, it is nonetheless very telling:
“Heinz is always the last person I think of at night, the first in the morning.
Never to forget Heinz. Never to cease to be grateful to him for every moment of our five years together.
I suppose it isn't so much Heinz himself I miss as that part of myself which only existed in his company.
I had better face it. I shall never see him again. And perhaps this is the best for us both.
What should I feel, now, if, by some miracle, Heinz was let out of Germany? Great joy, of course. But also (I must be absolutely frank) I should be a little bit doubtful; for what, really, have I to offer him? Not even a proper home or a place in any kind of social scheme” (289).
NEXT TIME: New Yorker Fiction 2015
NEXT TUESDAY: Profile of Katie Cortese's new book, Girl Power and Other Short-Short Stories
Date of Original Post:
11/13/14 — Introduction to My Long-Playing Records
11/20/14 — "My Long-Playing Records" — The Story
11/27/14 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
12/04/14 — "Ghost Riders"
12/11/14 — "The Best Mud"
12/18/14 — "Handy to Some"
12/25/14 — "Blight"
01/01/15 — "A Gambler's Debt"
01/09/15 — "Tales of the Millerettes"
01/15/15 — "Men at Sea"
01/22/15 — "Basketball Is Not a Drug"
01/29/15 — "Engineer"
02/05/15 — "Snarked"
02/12/15 — "Killing Lorenzo"
02/19/15 — "The Age I Am Now"
02/26/15 — "Bathed in Pink"
Listen to My Long-Playing Records Podcasts:
03/12/15 — "A Certain Kind of Mischief"
03/26/15 — "The Best Mud"
04/02/15 — "Handy to Some"
04/09/15 — "Tales of the Millerettes"
04/16/15 — "Men at Sea"
04/23/15 — "My Long-Playing Records"
04/30/15 — "Basketball Is Not a Drug"
05/07/15 — "Snarked"
05/21/15 — "Killing Lorenzo"
05/28/15 — "Bathed in Pink"
Also available on iTunes. Watch for more podcasts!