Di­aries

54. The Orton Di­aries 53. THE ORTON DI­ARIES

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE BOOKS - Edited by John Lahr

52.53. Gentle­men Pre­fer Blondes

Anita Loos The de­lec­ta­ble Lorelei Lee tells her tale in her own voice, in­no­cent and not-quite-soin­no­cent, af­ter one of her many ‘gentle­men friends’ tells her she should put down her thoughts. ‘I mean I seem to be think­ing prac­ti­cally all of the time. I mean it is my favourite re­cre­ation and some­times I sit for hours and do not seem to do any­thing else but think,’ she be­gins. A hoot from start to fin­ish. The plays of Joe Orton are start­ing to date. Anti-Es­tab­lish­ment views that were out­ra­geous in the Six­ties have be­come main­stream. But his di­aries still have the power to shock, largely be­cause they are so can­did about ev­ery as­pect of his ex­is­tence, in­clud­ing his breezily un­sen­ti­men­tal sex life.

55. THE ALAN CLARK DI­ARIES

Not ev­ery­one liked him. ‘Any­body who went to public school will have recog­nised Clark as the sort of old boy who re­turns to his old school in some vet­eran vin­tage car to im­press the smaller boys,’ wrote Auberon Waugh. There’s some truth in that, but shame­less show-offs make good di­arists, and Clark’s Flash­man-style jour­nals of his time as a ju­nior min­is­ter un­der Bri­tish PM Mar­garet Thatcher are both ri­otously un­fair and hi­lar­i­ously in­dis­creet.

56. THE COM­PLETE SMOK­ING DI­ARIES: SI­MON GRAY

An amaz­ing tech­ni­cal ac­com­plish­ment, writ­ten in a sort of con­trolled stream-of-con­scious­ness, these di­aries are funny, icon­o­clas­tic, self­scru­ti­n­is­ing, lan­guid, wry and some­times – par­tic­u­larly when friends die, or he learns of his own im­pend­ing death – un­ex­pect­edly mov­ing.

57. THE PIL­LOW BOOK OF SEI SHONAGON

Writ­ten more than 1,000 years ago, it’s by far the old­est book in my se­lec­tion, but who’d have guessed it? Sei Shonagon was a court lady in 10th-cen­tury Ja­pan. She jot­ted down stray lists, ob­ser­va­tions, philo­soph­i­cal reflections and gos­sip, of­ten pep­pered with an ir­ri­tabil­ity caused by ex­act­ing stan­dards. It reads like a post­card from an­other age, writ­ten this morn­ing.

58. THE DI­ARIES OF AUBERON WAUGH

Auberon Waugh’s fan­tasy di­aries, pub­lished fort­nightly in Pri­vate Eye from 1972 to 1985, re­main as out­ra­geously com­i­cal to­day as they ever were – per­haps even more so as the pas­sage of time has made his grotesque fac­sim­i­les of fad­ing fig­ures such as Cap­tain Mark Phillips, Ed­ward Heath and Jimmy Gold­smith more vivid than the orig­i­nals. Fun­da­men­tal to his strength as a satirist was, of course, his re­fresh­ing ab­sence of good taste.

59. THE DI­ARIES OF SA­MUEL PEPYS

Pepys wrote his di­aries for no­body’s eyes but his own. They are of­ten cherry-picked for eye­wit­ness ac­counts of the Great Fire Of Lon­don and the Great Plague, but his ev­ery­day life as a man-about-town is ev­ery bit as com­pelling, not least be­cause of the breath­tak­ing hon­esty with which he chron­i­cles his own most in­ex­cus­able char­ac­ter­is­tics.

60. THE JOUR­NAL OF THE DE GONCOURTS

‘A ring at the door. It was Flaubert.’ The Gon­court Broth­ers chron­i­cled their lives at the cen­tre of events in lit­er­ary Paris from 1851-1870. Like artists Gil­bert and Ge­orge, they shared a sin­gle point of view. They knew ev­ery­one who was any­one – Tur­genev, De­gas, Vic­tor Hugo, Rodin, Zola – and turned gos­sip into an art form. One day, they have din­ner with Os­car Wilde, just back from the Wild West. ‘It ap­pears that in that part of the world theatre man­agers look for real crim­i­nals to play crim­i­nal parts; and when Mac­beth is be­ing put on, a con­tract is of­fered to a poi­soner who has just come out of prison, and the posters read: “The part of Lady Mac­beth will be taken by Mrs X (10 years’ hard labour)’.

61. KILVERT’S DI­ARY

Fran­cis Kilvert was a ru­ral vicar, mainly on the Welsh borders, around the mid­dle of the 19th Cen­tury. He kept a di­ary of his daily com­ings and go­ings from 1870 un­til 1879, when he died at the age of 39 of peri­toni­tis. It’s warm and kindly – you can tell what a good vicar he must have been – and, ev­ery now and then, yearn­ingly erotic.

62. THE KEN­NETH WIL­LIAMS DI­ARIES

Pepys’ di­aries ran to a mil­lion words, and are con­sid­ered long. Ken­neth Wil­liams’s ran to more than four mil­lion, of which only a few hun­dred thou­sand have ever been pub­lished. They were his best friend, and his only real con­fi­dante. The Carry On star was a self-loathing nar­cis­sist, an un­happy but elec­tri­fy­ing com­bi­na­tion. His di­aries – im­petu­ous, abu­sive, frus­trated, hi­lar­i­ous, rhap­sodic, sui­ci­dal – teem with life, and de­serve to be read long af­ter his per­for­mances have faded.

Fun­da­men­tal to his strength as a satirist was his re­fresh­ing ab­sence of good taste

tHINKer: Marilyn Mon­roe in the 1953 film Gentle­men Pre­fer Blondes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.