‘Isherwood’: The Uses of Narcissism

Brook Allen reviews Isherwood: A Life Revealed, by Peter Parker, in The New York Times Book Review:

Isherwood184 Isherwood never quite fulfilled the extraordinary promise of his early work (W. Somerset Maugham, voicing the opinion of many, once claimed that the young Isherwood held the future of the English novel in his hands). His career peaked when he was still in his 30’s, with the publication of ”Mr. Norris Changes Trains” (1935) and ”Goodbye to Berlin” (1939), now usually published in tandem as ”The Berlin Stories” and popularized by ”Cabaret,” the musical and film they inspired. After his 1939 move — or, as some branded it, flight — from England and the impending European war to a softer life in Southern California, he struggled to find a new, American voice, though continuing to work his distinctive vein of thinly veiled autobiography. While the American books tended to lack the sparkle and gaiety that had marked his English ones, they eventually succeeded on quite a different level — as bleakly scrupulous confessionalism in which the once irrepressible humor reappears in a sardonic, disabused form.

More here. (W.H. Auden stands behind Isherwood in the photo.)