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A book of memoirs
on 3 June 2010
I ordered this book, principally because of my interest in Picasso, but the title is misleading to some extent because this is not a book about Picasso, but a partial autobiography of the author. As a memoir, it provides an insight into a decade that deserves more exposure, the 1950's and a subculture that was definitley below most peoples' line of vision, gay lifestyles. I was additionally surprised that the book was published in 1999, having thought that it was, perhaps, an early attempt by John Richardson at writing. This is not to say that the book is poorly written, but compared to his works on the Life of Picasso, somewhat tedious, although undoubtedly accurate. The work comes alive, for the most part, towards the end, when, after 12 years, he awakes to the realisation that he has become the "sorcerer's apprentice" under his mentor and partner, Douglas Cooper, rather than an authority in his own right; the worm turns, as it were, and he takes off.
We learn far more about Picasso in Richardson's definitive biography of the painter and little in this book. Actually, we don't learn much about anyone really; for the most part, Richardson appears as something of a hanger-on to the glittering people and lifestyle he enjoys while living with Douglas Cooper - ostensibly the subject of the book, with a lot of name dropping and Picasso shoe-horned in whenever the account starts to flag. It is a bitchy account at times; the author appears not to find his lover of a dozen years particularly attractive, even from the outset and describes him as an amorphous blob later on.
I found myself plowing on to finish it, but I was glad that I did so. It's not a great book, contains few gems and it could be so much better, because the subject matter is such a rich one. The problem seems to be that the author is constantly struggling to rise to the surface, while dealing with far more important people; it would have been far better to have written an account principally about himself; a proper autobiography.