A reevaluation of Isherwood's literary achievements in the light of his Vedantism
In a comprehensive critical study of the literary artist, mystic, and gay-activist icon Christopher Isherwood, David Garrett Izzo draws on previously unavailable material to offer a fresh appraisal of the writer's literary milieu and his influence on twentieth-century literature and culture. The first thorough examination of Isherwood's work and life in twenty years, Izzo's analysis brings into play the Mortmere stories, by Isherwood and Edward Upward (dating from the 1920s but published only in 1994), and the Diaries, 1939–1960, published in 1996, to reposition Isherwood within a circle of British writers that included—besides Upward—W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, and Cecil Day Lewis. Describing Isherwood as a "catalyzing influence" on the Auden generation, Izzo explores the dissemination of Isherwood's ideas through his own work and the writings of his contemporaries.
Tracing Isherwood's personal and literary evolution, Izzo details the writer's rebellion against England's class-conscious traditions, his immigration to the United States in 1939, and his study of Vedantic philosophy. Izzo chronicles Isherwood's rejection of the traditional hero and his search for a more sensitive, less vainglorious alternative, whom Isherwood dubbed the Truly Strong Man. Izzo describes Isherwood's mentorship of Auden, their shared philosophy, and the continuity of that philosophy as they both left Britain for the United States. Whereas most accounts emphasize a break between their English and American periods, Izzo focuses the many similarities shared by their early and later work. Izzo suggests that all of Isherwood's writings—British and American—reflect his quest to represent artistically the Truly Strong Man, a quest Isherwood fulfilled after meeting his Vedantic guru Swami Prabhavananda. Proposing that the writer's American art serves as a metaphor for his spiritual philosophy, Izzo reads Isherwood's American novels in light of his Vedantism and places his autobiographical work from the final years of his life in the context of his adopted religious beliefs.
David Garrett Izzo is a former journalist, writer, and editor from New York City who became an educator in 1985. He is the author of Aldous Huxley and W. H. Auden: On Language and an editor of Thornton Wilder: New Essays. In 1998 Izzo wrote, performed, and published the one-man play The American World of Stephen Vincent Benét. He has written extensively on many figures from the 1920s and 1930s, including Isherwood, Auden, Benét, Wilder, Vachel Lindsay, Conrad Aiken, Archibald MacLeish, Elinor Wylie, Zona Gale, Genevieve Taggard, Sara Teasdale, and Carl Sandburg. Izzo lives in Chico, California.