THE SIX­TIES Di­aries, Vol­ume Two: 1960-1969

By Christo­pher Isherwood Edited by Kather­ine Buck­nell Harper. 756 pp. $39.99

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - — Den­nis Dra­belle dra­belled@wash­post.com

Not for noth­ing did Christo­pher Isherwood coin the line “I am a cam­era.” In this, the sec­ond vol­ume of the Bri­tish ex­pat nov­el­ist and screen­writer’s di­aries, he takes the reader to the fu­neral of movie pro­ducer David (“Gone With the Wind”) Selznick, at which Katharine Hep­burn read Rud­yard Ki­pling’s poem “If.” As Isherwood tells it, “When she got to the last line, she turned to­ward the cof­fin and said, ‘. . . You’ll be a Man, my son!’ I later heard that Ge­orge Cukor thought this a supreme touch of artistry. I thought it far­ci­cal.” Else­where, Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s lover, lists which of their friends he finds it “fun to be with,” the first three be­ing Tru­man Capote, Gore Vi­dal and Tony Richardson — two writ­ers and a film di­rec­tor, all of such bril­liance that it makes you won­der how Bachardy and Isherwood put up with or­di­nary mor­tals.

Isherwood’s un­flinch­ing per­cep­tive­ness ex­tends even to inan­i­mate ob­jects, as when he takes a hard look at the Watts Tow­ers, those pieces of junk ar­chi­tec­ture that have be­come a Los An­ge­les land­mark. He re­minds us that the as­sem­bler, Simon Ro­dia, wasn’t just a throw­away-item aes­thete. It was fame he was af­ter. “I had in mind to do some­thing big,” Isherwood quotes him as say­ing, “and I did.”

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