... a collection of stories from a remarkable life and a glittering career...showcases Mr. Ivory’s caustic wit ... Solid Ivory may not make...naysayers see the light and acknowledge the supreme artistry of Howards End,A Room With a View and The Remains of the Day. However, they, along with the rest of us, may well be charmed and edified by Mr. Ivory’s insightful selection of scenes from memory and his absorbing self-portrait of an artist ... One standout section entitled 'Making Movies' offers a fascinating look at Mr. Ivory’s craft ... The section called 'Portraits'...[is] somewhat disappointing ... And yet despite these shortcomings there is still a lot to admire here ... candid, informative and infused with warmth, verve and humor. Sit back and enjoy a series of well-executed master shots and captivating close-ups.
I wasn’t expecting his memoirs to be quite such a 'Remembrance of Penises Past' ... There is a wistful defiance to his sexual frankness as a Protestant gay man who came of age in an era of intense repression ... He spills it not in the typical big autobiographical splash but in dribs and drabs: letters, diary entries, tumbling sense-memories of fashion, food and furniture (and the other F-word), with scores of appealingly casual photographs sprinkled throughout. An established master of the slow reveal, Ivory serves gossip with a voile overlay ... more of a scrapbook of finely wrought prose sketches than the fully carved self-sculpture suggested by its title, whose touching origin story I won’t spoil ... It’s all very effectively spliced together here, but with occasional lapses in continuity ... This book does tend to skirt over or even coldly aestheticize unpleasant truths ... But I now look at the famous scene in A Room With a View that so embarrassed me as a young teen, naked men splashing full-frontally at a swimming hole, in a new and dappling light.
... in this elegant, finely detailed—but often frustrating—book, he offers a life filled with incident, accomplishment, memorable friends, few regrets—and lots of sex, described with admirable directness ... in this elegant, finely detailed—but often frustrating—book, he offers a life filled with incident, accomplishment, memorable friends, few regrets—and lots of sex, described with admirable directness ... In telling his story, Ivory opts to hop and skip through incidents, locations, and films, creating a loose structure that often challenges coherence. There are some chapters that are head scratchers in their irrelevance. You wonder how much of the book was compiled from journal entries, diaries, and conversations, a speculation given weight by the unusual editorship credited to the estimable novelist Peter Cameron ... But jerry-rigged or not, the book offers an irresistible voice narrating travels to far-flung destinations and encounters with a merry cavalcade of unlikely folk ... Ivory ends the story of his rich, enviable life with an anecdote from his high school years that embraces his love of movies, an obsession with an obscure MGM musical actress, and his own thirst for applause. In doing so he illuminates his book’s title. Suddenly, what seemed to me a perplexing choice—unimaginative and ordinary—now was just right, perfect in fact, and well worth readers taking the journey to find out for themselves.
It is this sense of perspective, good humor, and a willingness to go with the flow that shines through in his writing. Ivory’s book makes for a charming, yet unconventional, entertainment industry memoir ... Readers looking for a typical Hollywood 'tell-all' should look elsewhere, because this is not that kind of celebrity autobiography. It is best to consider the experience of reading Solid Ivory as the opportunity to allow a prolific independent artist to share his insights ... As with any storytelling that isn’t strictly chronological, the book can sometimes feel a bit meandering. But Ivory’s descriptions of his experience as an out gay man during the mid-20th century is more than enough reward for some sections that might leave readers scratching their heads ... The most refreshing aspect of his memoir is the author’s outsider perspective of modern Hollywood conventions, such as the focus placed on awards. His detailing of the making of Call Me By Your Name is one of the most fascinating sections ... The sections dealing with Merchant flow cohesively, expressing hidden depths of emotion with restraint just as their best films do ... At times, I found the flow of the book to be steady, if uneven. Many anecdotes rely on the fact that the reader is familiar with the people who were part of Ivory’s social circle (footnotes are included when explanation is deemed necessary.) There is very little discussion of the making of specific Merchant Ivory films. The focus remains solidly on Ivory and the experiences that formed him. At first, I was resistant to this style; I wanted more gossip and behind-the-scenes drama, but as I continued reading, I realized that wasn’t the point. Much like his films, Solid Ivory unfolds at its own speed, revealing stylistically beautiful and generous portraits of the personalities, locations, and events that shaped James Ivory. In our current age, so focused on measurable success, Solid Ivory reminded me that storytelling should be the most important thing to an artist. Art exists to illuminate life, and what greater creation is there than the life we build with the people close to us?
One thing I did not expect to find in his memoirs was quite so much talk about penises, and by 'quite so much' I mean 'any.' If those are your expectations, they will be gratified often and early ... I don’t know if the American Urological Association picks a Book of the Year, but this should be it. If you are contemplating giving the book to an elderly relative who loves the Merchant Ivory movies for their civilized dignities, think again ... the other great surprise of Solid Ivory is that the four-time-nominated and one-time Oscar-winning filmmaker devotes very little of the book to his films. He has almost no anecdotes or insights about his most celebrated works ... The lack of focus on the films is frustrating not only because Ivory’s work is my principal curiosity about his life, but also because he is a very good writer and I was eager to see what he would say about the material he and Merchant chose, the people he picked to bring the material to life, and the many challenges he must have faced getting such seemingly uncommercial material before the public ... All storytelling momentum is lost. In lieu of that momentum, we get the compensation of Ivory’s lively renderings of, among others, Lillian Ross, Bruce Chatwin, and Susan Sontag; a too short but still interesting view of a late-career George Cukor; a long and engrossing account of Vanessa Redgrave; and, most surprisingly, a razor-sharp but not altogether unsympathetic profile of Raquel Welch ... He writes about Merchant here, too, but it feels curiously impersonal—we have no detailed sense of how Ivory feels for this man whose prodigious energies and charm, not to mention whose deft gift for connivance, kept them in business for five decades. Let’s take the broad view and hope that what Ivory felt for Merchant, who died in 2005, was too big to be reduced to a handful of sentences in a memoir, and that the noble thing was for those emotions to be felt but unsaid.
... it is odd that the second half of the famed Merchant Ivory film ... Once the focus of Solid Ivory: Memoirs moves beyond his youth in Depression and postwar America, the charming narrative becomes disjointed and much less engaging ... Ivory directed more than three dozen films, usually working with his partner in both business and life, Ismail Merchant. Yet his memoir contains surprisingly little on the making of these movies, the main reason one might pick up the book in the first place ... Beyond making movies, what Ivory chooses to discuss doesn’t anticipate what most readers might seek. He devotes far less space and insight to a portrait of Merchant than he does for famed travel writer Bruce Chatwin, an off-and-on lover. Other sketches of people in his life, including screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Vanessa Redgrave, are hit and miss ... Ivory’s sharpest remembrance of things past comes from his first two decades and draws a colorful portrait of mid-20th century life, particularly for a gay teenager growing up in a small Oregon town and later off to college. Still, one is left to wonder how his own sexuality affected the creation of his films ... At one point Ivory describes his personal attributes as 'relaxed, easy-going and comfort seeking' and says those qualities are reflected in his films. In his memoir, too, which isn’t a bad thing, except when they fail to fuel introspection.
... fascinating ... a life that has been anyting but ordinary ... The highly readable text is enriched with a generous collection of black-and-white photos. Ivory is always good company, kind hearted, generous, and thoughtful. His memoir will delight film buffs, of course, but it will also appeal to general readers who value intelligent writing and insights into the lives of accomplished people.
Even fans of Ivory’s work would have to admit his films differ radically in quality ... The same unevenness is evident in this leisurely memoir ... The highlights of the book, most of which is told in a stream-of-consciousness style readers will find either sloppy or charmingly unfocused, are stories about his filmmaking process, the grand houses he has visited or shot films in, and the luminaries he’s worked with ... A unique amble through seven decades of film history.
... [an] urbane memoir ... no shortage of descriptive prose ... vivid thumbnail sketches of lovers, colleagues, and acquaintances ... Throughout, Ivory relates this often bawdy, gossipy narrative with a dry, catty wit ... Cineastes will find it a tasty, engrossing browse.