By L.S. Klepp
Updated December 01, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Genius & Lust: The Creative and Sexual Lives of Cole Porter and Noel Coward

  • Book

Think of a certain suave, urbane style that reigned in New York, London, Paris, the theater, and the movies in the ’20s and ’30s. Think of cigarettes, smoking jackets, cocktails, cynical epigrams, and sexy, witty, world-weary songs. Think, in other words, of Cole Porter and Noel Coward, who were friends moving in the same café-society circles, and who virtually invented that style. Now imagine these two incarnations of sophistication being subjected to a strange mad-scientist experiment — injections of mind-numbing prose, surges of near-lethal syntax, ordeal by cliché — and you get an idea of this book, which aims higher than gossip but lands lower. There are interesting parallels between Porter and Coward, apart from style — domineering stage mothers, distant fathers, homosexuality at a time when it had to be hidden from the general public. And interesting differences in their clandestine sexual tastes, with Porter going after rough heterosexual truck drivers and Coward preferring handsome trophies from his own set. The authors have some discerning things to say about these points, yet they say them with a clumsiness that amounts to reckless endangerment. Have style and wit ever been written about with less style and wit? D

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Genius & Lust: The Creative and Sexual Lives of Cole Porter and Noel Coward