Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lowered Expectations

"The Richard Burton Diaries" edited by Chris Williams   Yale University Press   639 pages   $ - huh, that's funny -- no price on the inside flap or the back cover.

From a promising start - "At about 12 noon this same day I did something beyond outrage.  I bought Elizabeth the jet plane we flew in yesterday.  It costs, brand new, $960,000.  She was not displeased" to a dismal, boring finish.  Burton was an insatiable reader (good for him) but with the very unfortunate habit of giving a book review of virtually everything he was reading.  Since he had esoteric tastes, this was very much Not A Good Thing.

Throughout his drinking years and they were long, he writes over and over that he behaved outrageously last night; Elizabeth furious; huge row.  He rues some of the times, but never once does he write something like, "when I drink I have to be careful of my temper and I know that."  No, he blithely goes right on ahead and misbehaves very badly.  In fact, I rather got the ipression that he enjoyed making an ass of himself.  

Major names in the theatre, his fellow stars, famous politicians and the ultra-rich members of the jet set are dropped often, sometimes with disdain, other times with affection.  

When he buys a piece of jewelry/airplane/yacht for her, you may be certain that the price tag will not only be mentioned, but flaunted.

Despite having been inserted into a ready-made set of children, while he makes it clear that he loves them; it's equally clear that he was a very passive parent in controlling them in any way.  When Elizabeth and Michael Wilding's son Michael goes hippy, all Burton can say is that he hopes he grows out of it.

His background (poverty) made him, in wealthy adulthood, alternatively frugal and wildly extravagant.   He was a contradiction in terms.

If you like book reports (and bragging) then this book is for you.  Burton may have been amusing in company (or not) but his editor has done him no favors in this book.

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