James Ivory, famous for his button-down movies, talks about sex and more in his memoirs

Merchant and Ivory, working normally with writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, were one of the most dominant cinematic forces of the late 20th century, deploying luxurious adaptations of the novels by EM Forster and Henry James, with occasional anomalies more contemporary like that of Tama Janowitz. Slaves of New York. The merchant died in 2005; Jhabvala in 2013. After decades of warding off the Anglo-American aristocracy clinking mugs in gardens and living rooms, Survivor Ivory is ready to spill the tea.

He spreads it not in the typical big autobiographical splashes, but in dropper: letters, diary entries, sultry memories of fashion, food and furniture (and the other F word), with dozens of attractive and casual photographs dotted around. Established master of slow reveal, Ivory serves gossip with a veil overlay. Contrasting with the tributes to the men who escaped, “diamond sweater, erections and all,” are the chapters devoted to difficult women like bombshell actress Raquel Welch, who had the temerity to resist an energetic love scene. ; the active and contentious Vanessa Redgrave policy; and the intellectual Jhabvala, whom Ivory considered a civilizing “tutor” but has never forgiven for criticizing Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of Forster’s homosexual-themed novel “Maurice”. It also seems to annoy the author that Jhabvala (a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and mother of three) did not do any housework – “Ruth never lifted a finger except at her typewriter. “- which, excuse me, but: goals.

I kept thinking that “Solid Ivory”, which was edited by novelist Peter Cameron, was more like an album of finely crafted prose sketches than the fully sculpted self-sculpture suggested by its title, of which I won’t spoil the touching origin story. . Then after a little nighttime google search I found out that most of the material was originally published – bound in antique silk, of course – by Cameron’s private press, Shrinking Violet. About a quarter of the material has also appeared previously in various publications, from Sight and Sound magazine to Christie’s catalog.

Everything is put together very efficiently here, but with occasional interruptions to continuity, as they say in the movie world – like a diary entry about New Yorker writer Lillian Ross not noting her death, in 2017, as if she always dropped “Talk of the Town” pieces of the sky (honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised). Ivory’s account of dating Ross at her son’s christening is one of the most chaotic in the book, with cameos from a cranky JD Salinger, the annoying friend who refuses to pose for photos commemorating the occasion , and William Shawn, the famous editor and longtime lover of Ross, who cried during the ceremony.


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