"The movies aren't drama, they aren't literature—they're pure mathematics." —Christopher Isherwood, Prater Violet*
*Though we like that particular line, Prater Violet
is what today we'd call a blog post, not a novel by any definition of that word. Anything this light, this flimsy, ought at least to be satirical or outright funny. One might be tempted to say that the book is, at the very least, an inoffensive slice of life, yet in the end it actually does
offend. And that is because of its central lie. Isherwood portrays himself in the story as a struggling screenwriter, but he hasn't the imagination to conceive of any legitimate role that his character has been hired to do. In other words, why is he being paid to be a day-and-night companion to an Austrian film director? Not as a screenwriter (the film's story has already been written; at most, Isherwood serves as a text doctor, but that's hardly a 24-hours-a-day, months-on-end job). No -- in fact, what is blazing obvious is that Isherwood was assigned not to a writing job but as a spy/minder of the director. He portrays his character as being an artist, but in fact he's a government spook. The dishonesty is disgusting. We love a good, honest spy story -- but this is a spy story that believes its own cover story and expects the reader to be stupid enough to follow along like an idiot dog.