Magazine article The Spectator

A Sadder and a Wiser Man

Magazine article The Spectator

A Sadder and a Wiser Man

Article excerpt

ENTER A FOX by Simon Gray Faber, L9.99, pp. 121

As well as being one of our most celediarist and ferocious chronicler of theatrical life. His first published journal, An Unnatural Pursuit, amusingly described the original production of his play The Common Pursuit, his second, the more knockabout How's That for Telling 'em, Fat Lady covered the Los Angeles and New York productions of the same play. (The latter book will be reissued shortly by Faber at 9.99) And the third, Fat Chance, described the stormy experience of directing his Cell Mates, culminating in the flight of one of his actors to Bruges.

Gray's latest chronicle's alternative title is Further Adventures of a Paranoid, and paranoia is his speciality - except that the true paranoiac cannot see the comic side of his condition. By turns resembling Evelyn Waugh's Pinfold and the Kingsley Amis of `The Sod You, Society', Gray is a wonderfully glum humourist with flashes of pure hilarity. An irrelevant digression about Wittgenstein had me laughing as helplessly as at P. G. Wodehouse: how many other writers could achieve this with Wittgenstein?

Enter a Fox differs from its predecessors in two distinct ways. First, Gray is now teetotal after a critical operation. Before, he made no secret of his constant, near-epic drinking bouts. The result is not a mellow, good-tempered Gray - perish the thought - but a sadder, quieter one, his reflective side much more in evidence. Contemplating ageing, he writes:

Inevitable - that as one's outer self swells, thickens, coarsens, one's inner self, one's soul, psyche, ego and id ... all shrink.

Secondly this diary, whilst it coincides with the production of one play and the completion of another, is not directly connected with work in the theatre. This is something of a relief. The gestation period of plays - casting, rewriting, coping with recalcitrant actors and directors appeared so painful to Gray that one admired his courage in continually writing them. …

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