December 26, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 

The Berlin Stories

The Berlin Stories
Christopher Isherwood

The encrustation of memories of a famous Broadway play and an even more famous musical (Cabaret!) aren't the chief obstacle to these stories, nor even the difficulty of remembering that, in 1931, you couldn't know what was about to happen. The real difficulty is remembering how vivid Isherwood's comparative frankness about the existence of sexuality (and even, coyly, of homosexuality) must have seemed right after the war, at a time when Norman Mailer had to pretend that Marines said "fug" a lot.

Still, these strike me as period pieces of chiefly historical interest, and if Isherwood had been straight and had spent the thirties in, say, Brussels or Stockholm, and if his choice of lovers late in life had been less distinguished, I wonder if these stories would be remembered. But perhaps that's unkind; there may be dusty, neglected volumes that are just as good, but this is good enough.