To review this, I’ve dipped into the vast resource that is the F.R. Jameson diaries. They’ll probably be available to buy sometime around 2050.
December 26th, 2016
I received a brand new paperback edition of THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES from my lovely wife yesterday. I’m greatly looking forward to them. Obviously. I’ll dip in and out as the mood takes me, but I’m sure I’ll get through it fairly quickly.
January 20th, 2017
The only reason the 1940 diary, which opens the book. is there because is clearly because it’s available. Its tone is little more than “Played rugby. Went to cinema to see ‘The Oklahoma Kid’ – it was good.” It has no literary value whatsoever and can be skipped easily.
If you’re planning to read this book, go straight to the 1965 section which finds Burton lost in thrall to Taylor. Certainly, there’s a ‘Whicker’s World’ outsider peering into opulence quality to it, but it’s a fascinating insight into THE tabloid romance of the Twentieth Century.
March 29th, 2017
I’m making slow progress on this as I’m still only at 1968, but when I am getting chance to dip into it I’m enjoying it immensely.
I found myself at a loose end looking around at articles about Rich and Liz online and there is a strange disconnect between articles and the diaries I’m reading. This article for instance portrays a glamorous over-sexed couple, with Burton having bisexual affairs while married to Taylor, including one with her ex-husband, Eddie Fisher. The diary portrays a somewhat sad couple, one locked in a routine of drinking too much, arguing, apologising in the morning and starting the whole routine again. There doesn’t seem any hint of an affair, just too much booze. The scenery around them may be spectacular, but the lives in front of that scenery seem desperately commonplace.
June 28th, 2017
Mrs Jameson is getting annoyed at seeing Richard Burton’s face on the book’s cover. About three or four times a month, I tuck into the diaries and the good lady wife has now told me that she’s bored of seeing this particular book in my hands and wishes I would read it faster. I wish I were reading it faster too, but there’s just so much good stuff here. That’s with me realising that there’s so much potentially good stuff missing (making of ‘Where Eagles Dare’, for instance).
Sept 3rd, 2017
I spoke to my friend, James, who hasn’t read the diaries, but has read the Melvyn Bragg biography of Burton which quotes extensively from them. He said he went completely off Elizabeth Taylor when he read the quoted entry about Richard Burton discovering her in the bathroom bleeding out of her posterior. As chance would have it, I’ve just read that entry myself and what struck me about it was how tender Burton is, how racked with worry, how much he loves her. James’s sole takeaway from it is that it’s forever ruined Elizabeth Taylor to him as a sex goddess. James has issues.
Sept 17th, 2017
My new short story collection, CONFINED SPACES is out today and incredibly features a story – ‘The Movie Star in her Ivory Tower’ which is based on my reading of these diaries. So even though I haven’t finished it yet, I have managed to write, edit, have professionally edited, proof and publish a work of fiction based on it. Hmm, maybe Mrs Jameson has a point.
Oct 30th, 2017
Still reading the diaries and still annoying Mrs Jameson. Tonight, she called it ‘Richard bloody Burton’s bloody Diaries.”
Dec 8th, 2017
The flaw of these diaries as opposed to a proper biography is that there are no entries for the stuff you’d really like to read about. The juicy bits, as it were. So, we pick up after Taylor and Burton are together, and as such there’s nothing from what it was like in the midst of that scandal. The pages tail off again before they get divorced, pick up around the time of the second marriage but disappear before the end of it and are then only intermittent from that point on. I can appreciate that at those stressful times, Burton may not have had the focus or time to put pen to paper, but it’s really frustrating for a reader.
Jan 2nd, 2018
Just found a couple of weeks of entries where every day has the same one-word recap – “Booze”. I think we can call that a cry for help.
Jan 28th, 2018
Mrs Jameson danced a jig of joy today as I have finally finished THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES. She won’t have to look on his face on the cover anymore.
I’m a lot more reflective on finishing, as I think I’m going to miss Rich. Yes, the diaries are patchy and sometimes frustrating, but at their best are brilliantly written and insightful. I must try and get hold of a biography of him.
I see on Amazon that Donald Spoto’s biography of Taylor is cheap. Now if I want scandal that seems the place to go. Maybe ‘The Movie Star in her Ivory Tower will have a sequel yet…
My diaries aren’t available yet, but if you fancy some free FRJ short stories, there’s a whole collection available here.