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The love story between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy—in their own words
The English novelist and screenwriter Christopher Isherwood was already famous as the author of Goodbye to Berlin when he met Don Bachardy, a California teenager, on the beach in Santa Monica in 1952. Within a year, they began to live together as an openly gay couple, defying convention in the closeted world of Hollywood. Isherwood was forty-eight; Bachardy was eighteen. The Animals is the testimony in letters to their extraordinary partnership, which lasted until Isherwood's death in 1986—despite the thirty year age gap, affairs and jealousy (on both sides), the pressures of increasing celebrity, and the disdain of twentieth-century America for love between two men.
The letters reveal the private world of the Animals: Isherwood was "Dobbin," a stubborn old workhorse; Bachardy was the rash, playful "Kitty." Isherwood had a gift for creating a safe and separate domestic milieu, necessary for a gay man in midtwentieth-century America. He drew Bachardy into his semi-secret realm, nourished Bachardy's talent as a painter, and launched him into the artistic career that was first to threaten and eventually to secure their life together.
The letters also tell of public achievements—the critical acclaim for A Single Man, the commercial success of Cabaret—and the bohemian whirl of friendships in Los Angeles, London, and New York with such stars as Truman Capote, Julie Harris, David Hockney, Vanessa Redgrave, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams. Bold, transgressive, and playful, The Animals articulates the devotion, in tenderness and in storms, between two uniquely original spirits.
This collection of letters between famed writer Christopher Isherwood (1902–1986, author of Goodbye to Berlin), and his partner of over three decades, Don Bachardy, a 30-years younger portrait painter, offers considerable insight into the life of this extraordinary couple. An astute introduction by Bucknell (editor of Isherwood’s Diaries) sets up the correspondence, which spans February 1956 to April 1970. Throughout the chatty exchanges, the lovers drop names, discuss projects, shows, and collaborations, dish, commiserate, and even bitch. What emerges is a remarkable portrait of love in exile. Bachardy often wrote to Isherwood to discuss insecurities, doubts, and despair; both men gave each other much-needed support. The book’s title comes from their imaginary identities as “the Animals”: Don being the cat to Chris’s horse, which prompts the lovers to open and close their letters with romantic mushiness and cutesy terms of endearment—for example, “Dearest Silkmuzzle Adored Pinktongue” and “Most Treasured Plug.” A little of this affection, however, goes a long way. The copious—and perhaps too comprehensive notes—detail everything and everyone, including affairs. Most of the correspondence is chaste; the raunchiest entry concerns “an intravenous of horse essence.” This worthwhile volume may be best suited for Isherwood completists. 52 b&w illus. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (May)