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Honesty is such a Lonely Word,
This review is from: The Kenneth Williams Diaries (Paperback)
Few actors on-screen personas stand in such stark contrast to their private characters as Kenneth Williams's. The perennial star of The Carry On films with its crude innuendo and clumsy slapstick were a million miles away from the physically meticulous and fundamentally serious man who we meet in these moving and hugely revealing diaries. If you like snippets of showbiz gossip or bitchy comments about fellow performers from Sid James to Tony Hancock then you will find them here, but what is much more interesting is the portrait of Williams the man which emerges from these pages-one torn between admiration and disgust at is own appearance and acting ability, his constant battle between the moral censure of his homosexuality and a delight in exploring its possibilities alongside his desire to find a spiritual meaning to existence whilst doubting that such a revelation was possible. Many may find the mundane details of Williams' daily life the most compelling as he lives a curious `husband and wife' kind of relationship with his mother, his travails doing the shopping or his acute criticisms of television programmes.
Partner less throughout his life, Williams' diaries had to act as his mentor, sounding board and punch bag and surely few written records of lives have afforded such an in-depth view of a performer, his opinions, hang-ups and motivations for if these diaries are one thing then they are blisteringly honest. Every thought, bitter word, prejudice, and malicious aside are allowed to stand unexpurgated and unexplained and consequently by the end one feels one knows a truly convincing and rounded character whose opinions and judgements are neither consistent nor predictable. Some may find Williams observations on race, politics or his associates offensive, but opening the book at random one may as easily marvel at his compassion or humanity. In short, this is the work of a complex, contradictory but highly intelligent man who found himself increasingly alienated from a world which had offered him a degree of fame and recognition but little happiness. Many may see a glimpse of their own frustrations captured in the writer's daily struggles and this adds poignancy to the final denouement of the diaries which is tragic as it is inevitable, one feeling a sadness which only comes from losing someone who you feel you truly know. It is a book which I often dip into: it's a bit like having a conversation with a fascinating but acerbic friend. Recommended especially to those who don't particularly like Williams or his films.