Erotic Vagrancy: Everything about Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
'The book of the year' SUNDAY TIMES
'One of the very best biographies I have ever read' STEPHEN FRY
'A hot thunderstorm of a book' DAVID HARE
'Erotic Vagrancy gave me a week of pure joy' CRAIG BROWN
'Unputdownable' TONY PALMER
'A genius writer' LYNN BARBER
'ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE . . . ONE OF THE GREAT READING EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE' MARINA HYDE
A TOP 25 BEST BOOK OF 2023 (INDEPENDENT)
Thirteen years in the writing, Erotic Vagrancy doesn't only surpass every other biography of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton yet to appear, this rich, vital and passionately articulated book, which is as extravagant and wayward as its two subjects, is also about celebrity, creativity, being flawed, being brilliant, sexuality, the intermingling of a low and a highbrow existence, pride, insecurity, attraction and repulsion, and devilry.
We see Taylor the child actress exchanging dogs and horses for husbands. We see Burton emerging from the mists and brimstone of Wales to be the greatest theatrical animal of his generation. The pair come together in Rome during the making of Cleopatra, which gives Lewis the opportunity for a major farcical set-piece. We then enter a world of jewels and private jets, vodka, yachts and furs - the splendid vulgarity of the Sixties, where the narrative of Taylor and Burton becomes a Pop Art story.
Then, inevitably, it all goes wrong, with alcoholism, violence, recrimination and divorce ( twice ) - with Burton, whom Lewis depicts as a Faustus figure, damned by fame, dead at fifty-eight.
Stephen Fry has said, 'It is one of the very best biographies I have ever read. One of the best books about fame, desire, Hollywood and mid-to-late twentieth century culture ever written. Inside which, brilliant, hilarious and sensitive insights on all manner of subjects fizz and froth. Magnificent, terrible, tragic, triumphant.'
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