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4.0 out of 5 stars Was Osborne really an "angry young man" or just an "angry young con man"?, 18 April 2011
By 
John Fitzpatrick (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Almost a Gentleman: An Autobiography, 1955-66: Vol II: 2 (Paperback)
I've just read this for the third time with the same enjoyment as the first time round which may be a bad sign as perhaps it shows I haven't developed much over the years and am becoming set in my ways.

Or perhaps like Osborne himself I am just making the usual transition from angry young man to angry old man. In fact, Osborne became such a caricature of a reactionary old buffer as he became older than one cannot help but wonder whether the younger rebelliousness was just another piece of theatre.

This books starts with the first staging of Look Back in Anger, a play that must look hopelessly dated to today's "angry young men" who have even less to be angry about than Jimmy Porter*.

It weaves in and out over the next decade - with a "fast forward" to 1990 - in line with Osborne's quote from Berlioz: "I shall tell only what I wish to tell".

And what he tells us, he does in a take no prisoners style which spares virtually no one - relatives, friends, critics, lovers or ex-wives, like Mary Ure and Jill Bennett.

Just what Jill Bennett did to deserve Osborne's contemptuous portrait of her which only increased when she died is a mystery.

This bile gives the book a dimension that may seem cruel at times but, at least, he is a sadist with style and many of his victims should be almost flattered to be dispatched so elegantly.

Virtually every page has something worth quoting. My favorite is:""Hamlet is too long. So is Don Giovanni. So, sometimes, is life."

Another gem: "One of the advantages of being an Englishman in Italy...is that you can see over the heads of everyone else".

Finally, can anyone nowadays believe that there once existed someone called the Lord Chamberlain whose permission was needed to present plays. Osborne presents a letter from this august official on The Entertainer containing instructions like "alter `pouf" (twice)", "alter `shagged'", "omit `had Sylvia'" and "a photograph should be submitted of the nude in Britannia's helmet".

Best of all, is this from Look Back in Anger "as tough as a night in a Bombay brothel and rough as a matelot's arse". `Arm' was substituted for `arse'".

*Sound a bit like Harry Potter? Freudian slip Ms Rowlings?
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Almost a Gentleman: An Autobiography, 1955-66: Vol II: 2
Almost a Gentleman: An Autobiography, 1955-66: Vol II: 2 by John Osborne (Paperback - 14 Jan. 1993)
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