Review:

Noel and Cole: The Sophisticates - Stephen Citron

DNF @ 24%

Enough.

This is not a great biography of either of its subjects. It’s not even a good or tolerable biography… I weep for the trees that had to die for this waste of paper.

I should have stopped after the introduction which included the following clanger:

“Kate Porter and Violet Coward steered their young sons early into creative and performing lives. Kate did so because she was a frustrated singer and Violet because she hoped to rise above the penny-pinching boarding-house-keeper life she had been born into. Because of this interdependence, each youth was to revere his mother, have night terrors about losing her while writing off his milquetoast father who left breadwinning and discipline to the distaff side. Coming from such a classically twisted psychological situation it is not surprising that both Noel and Cole were homosexual. With their raising of women, especially strong, determined and opinionated women, to such an exalted pedestal, perhaps bisexual would be a more apt description of their libidinous behaviour.”

The author clearly has issues. He also, clearly, is full of crap.

And yet, I hoped he may have something insightful to say about the work of either of his subjects. Unfortunately, of the part of the book I managed to read, I believe I have learned more about the author’s personality (and his many, many issues) from his gossipy, presumptive, speculative, condescending statements than I learned anything of impact about about Coward or Porter.

I finally drew the line when reading this about Coward’s The Vortex:

“The idea for the play, whose controversial theme was one of the main reasons for the queues at the box office, came to Noel when he was invited to a party by his friend Stewart Foster. Across the room he glimpsed Stewart’s beautiful and seductive mother, Grace, sharing a banquette with a young admirer. As soon as the party was seated one of the young girls blurted out, “Look at that old hag over there with the young man in tow; she’s old enough to be his mother.”

The Freudian Oedipus complex, the Hamlet-Gertrude relationship and perhaps Stewart Forster’s own attentions to his seductive mother at the soiree immediately propelled Coward’s dramaturgical mind into the concept of weaving the plot of a play wherein both a son and her young lover would vie for the love of the mother.”

It’s a good thing for the author that you can’t libel the dead. Did I mention that there are little to no references to sources in this book?

I should have DNF’d this at the introduction.

On the plus side, it’s another one off Mt. TBR.

I’m going to put on some Cole and make another cup of coffee.

 

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