Saturday, May 27, 2017

"The Rule of Themed Anthologies"

The May 28 Arts & Style section in the Washington Post (which I received a day early as a longtime subscriber) features a review of a set of essays titled In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs.  The book sounds absolutely dreadful, but I did get a kick out of the following comment by Michael Lindgren, the reviewer:

The Rule of Themed Anthologies says that one-third of such collections will be thought-provoking and insightful, one-third will be just okay, and one-third will be tossed-off words from writers too guilty or desperate to say no to the commissioning editor.

Thinking back over the many anthologies we've read during our 18 years (and counting!) as a group, I would say that rule holds up pretty well!

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 .