The Richard Burton Diaries Chris Williams, Richard Burton

Publication date:
20 Jun 2013
Yale University Press
704 pages: 210 x 140mm
16 pp. b-w illus.
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The irresistible, candid diaries of Richard Burton, published in their entirety

“Just great fun, and written out of an engaging, often comical bewilderment: How did a poor Welshman become not only a star, but a player on the world stage that was Elizabeth Taylor’s fame?”—Hilton Als,
“Of real interest is that Burton was almost as good a writer as an actor, read as many as three books a day, haunted bookstores in every city he set foot in, bought countless books on every conceivable subject and evaluated them rather shrewdly. . . . Apt writing abounds.”—John Simon, New York Times Book Review

Irresistibly magnetic on stage, mesmerizing in movies, seven times an Academy Award nominee, Richard Burton rose from humble beginnings in Wales to become Hollywood's most highly paid actor and one of England's most admired Shakespearean performers. His epic romance with Elizabeth Taylor, his legendary drinking and story-telling, his dazzling purchases (enormous diamonds, a jet, homes on several continents), and his enormous talent kept him constantly in the public eye. Yet the man behind the celebrity façade carried a surprising burden of insecurity and struggled with the peculiar challenges of a life lived largely in the spotlight.
This volume publishes Burton's extensive personal diaries in their entirety for the first time. His writings encompass many years—from 1939, when he was still a teenager, to 1983, the year before his death—and they reveal him in his most private moments, pondering his triumphs and demons, his loves and his heartbreaks. The diary entries appear in their original sequence, with annotations to clarify people, places, books, and events Burton mentions.
From these hand-written pages emerges a multi-dimensional man, no mere flashy celebrity. While Burton touched shoulders with shining lights—among them Olivia de Havilland, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Laurence Olivier, John Huston, Dylan Thomas, and Edward Albee—he also played the real-life roles of supportive family man, father, husband, and highly intelligent observer. His diaries offer a rare and fresh perspective on his own life and career, and on the glamorous decades of the mid-twentieth century.

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Chris Williams is professor of Welsh history, director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities, and deputy director of the College of Arts and Humanities, Swansea University. He lives in Swansea, Wales.

 'Likely to prove the literary sensation of the year.' Christopher Wilson, 'As compulsively page-turning as a novel.''Shameless, prolix, vivid and curiously touching. Burton's diaries are a telling, often painfully truthful addition to the social history of the years between 1960 and 1974'. 'Indispensable.' Roger Lewis,'Richard Burton's diaries, published in full for the first time 28 years after his death, show a man who was far more than an actor obsessed and twice married to an Oscar-winning Hollywood icon.' 'Meticulously edited by Welsh history professor Chris Williams, the diaries are, in a word, fascinating - indeed downright compelling - reading ... Altogether, The Richard Burton Diaries make for utterly involving, fascinating reading, giving a rare insight into a complicated, gifted individual.' 'I have to say that, even in this culture when we seem to get too much information on celebrities, there's something about the words on these pages that's really fascinating.' Matt Lauer, 'Burton describes himself as 'idiotically listenable' - and indeed he is. Even when he’s realizing that his fights with Elizabeth sound like the squabbles of a couple in a cheap hotel, '20 years married and bored witless by each other'; or lusting for a double ice-cold vodka martini, 'the glass fogged with condensation', and opting instead for a '[d]isgusting' Tab... you can’t help liking him.' 'Full of surprises and revelations.'

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