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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and enduring writer at his very best., 7 Feb 2006
This review is from: Down there on a visit (Hardcover)
When I was fortunate enough to find several Christopher Isherwood hardcovers in a used book store shelf-clearing sale, I thought that perhaps 'Down There' would be one of the last that I read, due to it being a four-part 'novel' where the stories have the common thread of the protagonist being narrator. I have never been a great fan of what I deem 'short stories'.
However, there are far more threads to weave the tales together of this fine example of why Isherwood was one of the most highly regarded authors of his time, and why his works endure to this day.
An observation of various stages in his own life, the 'narrator' at times seems an entirely autonomous character from the protagonist, as his wisdom, experience, and reflection are so evident in the way he describes four important chapters in his life. The youth becomes the adult, the adult becomes the observer, and the observer becomes the chronicler in this caring, thoughtful memoir.
Isherwood's four observances begin with 'Mr. Lancaster'...a portrait of an encounter with a gruff, abrasive man who Chris visits, reluctantly..and teaches him that appearances are not all that they might seem.
'Ambrose,' the second section, concerns a summer in the Greek Isles as Chris finds freedom to express his hidden desires while basking in the warm sun, and living in the near seclusion of an island setting with little distractions, but plenty of experiences to shape his young adulthood.
'Waldemar,' the third novella, follows Christopher's adventures in Germany, as he immerses himself into a foreign culture, and finds that some experiences, some people, some situations are universal, no matter where you roam, and sometimes the masks we wear, daily, are all too similar, no matter what the circumstances.
'Paul,' the culmination of the work, follows Christopher's encounters with a seemingly rootless, care-free acquaintance as he floats from experience to experience, and then asks to share in Christopher's Hindu teachings, before enlisting in the service. Christophers finds himself in a more care-taking role at this stage of his life, as he bails Paul out of situation after situation, and learns how to be a true friend, without expectations, without thought of self, and therefore without, many disappointments that can come with those who occasionally let us down in our lives.
An excellent read, cover to cover, 'Down There' is as fine a work as any other Isherwood offerings, and certainly one to explore for any fan of his works.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Isherwood's Best, 7 Feb 2006
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This review is from: Down there on a visit (Hardcover)
After A Single Man, this is my favorite Isherwood book. The four stories interconnect in several fascinating ways. They say a lot about the passage of time, about European history and Isherwood's personal history. They also say plenty about various forms of detachment. In fact, "Variations on Detachment" could be the book's sub-title. Isherwood has a way of gently underscoring the precariousness of being gay during a more repressive time in Western culture. "Mr. Lancaster" and "Paul" were the most moving sections in this regard. Throughout, Isherwood writes in clear, clean prose. It may sound like I'm reaching for a simile but as I was reading this book, I felt like I was drinking fresh spring water.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Isherwood still shines, 13 May 2013
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schumann_bg - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Down There on a Visit (Paperback)
Down There On A Visit is a rare book in that it conveys a great deal while remaining unassuming on the surface. Isherwood's observations are always telling and there is something that stands out in every paragraph, yet it never interrupts the flow. The four stories this volume contains are linked by a narrator called Christopher Isherwood yet are fictionalised - to find out what really happened you have to read Christopher And His Kind, I'm reliably told! In fact I decided to reread this book, as I remembered it giving such pleasure a number of years ago, And my feeling now is the same. The narrative persona changes somewhat over the twenty years it covers, but in a subtle way, reflecting how one's attitudes to people and situations evolve over time. It also moves across different continents (from Berlin to Greece to London to California), yet seems admirably unified, even with the relative lack of plot. Each section carries the name of a character as a heading, with some recurrence, but in a very freewheeling, natural way. There's no scheme to the book, really, beyond a kind of homage to the people he knew at that time and an uncanny ability to get right to the heart of human character without any of the forensic approach of many modern novelists. His generosity comes across in an ever-flowing stream of words, always considered, never stinting in his empathy. In fact I was often made to feel how I might have been less patient than he was, particularly with Paul, and even Waldemar, who could appear simply out to exploit, but somehow emerge as much more worthwhile than that, even if there is an element of that too. It's a book to make you value human uniqueness more and strive for more benign detachment in your own life, which makes it a pretty moral book, without setting out to be one at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, funny book, 17 Sep 2010
This review is from: Down There on a Visit (Hardcover)
Read this book.... it is such an entertaining and indulgent read. Isherwood never fails to amuse.
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Down There on a Visit
Down There on a Visit by Christopher Isherwood (Paperback - 10 Oct 1985)
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