Sights and Spectacles, 1937-1956

Sights and Spectacles, 1937-1956

Sights and Spectacles, 1937-1956

Sights and Spectacles, 1937-1956

Excerpt

"It is to be hoped that Mr. Young will devote himself to one of Chekhov's more mature plays." This insufferably patronizing sentence was written by me, eighteen years ago, in a review of Stark Young's adaptation of The Sea Gull. The reader should be warned that he will come upon many such sentences in the early parts of this collection; he will have to bear with them, if he can, in the interests of the record. I have not tried to up-date my views or to rewrite passages that grate on my ear today. The only rewriting has been for the sake of clarity, where a topical reference has lost its meaning or where a passage has become obscure, even to me. What is heard in the early sections is the voice of a young, earnest, pedantic, pontificating critic. The judgments are harsh, though I do not, for the most part, disagree with them. What irritates me is the tone of cocksure, condescending cleverness.

"The playwright assumes that his hero's irresolution is of a tragic order while, as a matter of fact, it is comicopathetic." It is the voice of a period, as well as that of a person. The period was 1937. The place was downtown, in the old Bible House on Astor Place, where Partisan Review, a radical literary magazine, had just opened its offices, after a break with the Communist Party over the . . .

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