Thursday, May 4, 2017

"More interesting as a paranoiac than as a pederast"

Those of you who were unable to join the 10 of us for last night's discussion of "The Green Bay Tree" missed a great session!

As I promised at the end of our session, here are three online reviews of the play for your reading pleasure.  The first is The Spectator  review of the April 1950 revival, from which I have taken the title of this posting.  (I suspect, by the way, that the final sentence on the page, which trails off, ends with the phrase "twentieth century," but that's merely a guess.)

The second pair of reviews, from The Guardian and The New York Timesdiscuss the 2014 staging that forms the basis of the edition most of us used for our discussion.  No prizes for guessing which side of the pond gave the play a more sympathetic review!

Unhinting the Cochon

The poet Hugo Williams’ step-grandfather was Mordaunt Shairp and he wrote a reminiscence of him that appeared in the TLS  of 14 May 1993. Shairp and Stepen Spender taught at the University College School in Hampstead contemporaneously. Did Spender think Shairp was gay? “Oh yes, we all assumed he was gay. We thought his getting married was something to do with your father [Hugh Williams] and that The Green Bay Tree was semi-autobiographical. I know Forster and J. R. Ackerley thought it was a gay play.” Although Hugo’s father was tutored by Shairp at the USC and soon thereafter married Hugo’s grandmother, Hugo writes “the more I think about it, the more I see the wolf under the old lady’s bonnet: the wicked sybarite was none other than my granny” (whom he describes as “a large, powerful woman in the Edwardian dowager mould”). Hugh, Shairp’s stepson, played Julian in the first production. The reminiscence concludes:

… the play’s true content was abundantly clear to contemporary audiences. “Not for years have I observed such an outbreak of horrified protestation at any play", wrote the Sunday Referee. “The association between the man and his adopted son is such as to fill normal-minded people with abhorrence”, wailed the Evening Standard. “Only Shairp’s tactful handling of a very unsavoury theme can have got this play past the censor", said The Times. Or, as James Agate put it: “perhaps one cannot expect a playwright to go the whole hog when too obvious a hint of the cochon might suppress the animal altogether.”

The TLS Historical Archive (back to 1902) has only become available today! I am unsure whether I can link to it. But for any who have access to Gale databases, the document number is EX1200470024.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

RIP, William M. Hoffman

Today's Washington Post contains an obituary of William M. Hoffman (1939-2017), a prolific writer best known for his 1985 Tony-nominated play "As Is" and for his libretto for John Corigliano's 1991 opera, "The Ghosts of Versailles."

I could have sworn our group had discussed "As Is," but we haven't.  (We have discussed Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart," which opened weeks after Hoffman's play.)  If memory serves, I nominated it several years ago, but it didn't garner enough support to make the reading list—but I think I'll try again. Here is a sampling of other obits:

  New York Times ,   Playbill ,   L.A. Opera ,   POZ .

Monday, April 24, 2017

Royal Beauty...

Just in case you missed the Washington Post story about it, I wanted to alert you to a very interesting title that will be released tomorrow: Kings and Queens in Their Castles by Tom Atwood.  According to the Amazon blurb: "Over 15 years, Atwood photographed more than 350 subjects at home nationwide (160 of whom appear in the book), including nearly 100 celebrities (about 60 of whom are in the book). With individuals hailing from 30 states, the book offers a window into the lives and homes of some of America's most intriguing and eccentric personalities."

Since it is a photography book, my assumption is that there wouldn't be enough text to qualify it for a Bookmen discussion.  However,  I may nominate it for our next reading list anyway, if it lives up to its promise.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


While reading "Hidden..." I remembered (on page 64 "Rev. John Church") that I saw "Mother Clap's Molly House" at the National Theater in London in 2001.  There was this wonderful song that everyone broke into at the Molly House called "Shit on Those Who Call This Sodomy, Fabulous!"


Friday, April 14, 2017

Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

I thought this conversation on Theater Talk was interesting when it turned to the "hysterical" Tennessee and Edwina and also the relationship between Tennessee's sexual and literary awakening.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hadrian's "little" poem

On display before the first section is Hadrian's famous "little" poem, with odd unending ellipsis "…". I wonder how many readers realize when they finish the penultimate page of the Memoirs (page 295) that the poem has been translated and the ellipsis supplied, with Yourcenar's own thematic continuation. This poem "animula vagula blandula" is too good and too famous to be passed over so silently. I refer readers to William Fitzgerald's How to Read a Latin Poem If You Can't Read Latin Yet (or even if you can!). You can see what he has to say by clicking on the link above, next clicking on the "Look Inside" and then "Search[ing] Inside This Book" on "Epilogue", and finally clicking the second result. (Phew, I know!) But you will be able to read the entire Epilogue which is entirely about the famous "little" poem.