Friday, March 30, 2007

No Stage Magic For This Production?

It must have been a year ago that I started reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. In that year, despite it being a very short read, I never finished. I could never put a finger on the exact reason why. The book got glorious reviews.

Terry Teachout at the Wall Street Journal and Ben Brantley at the New York Times (an acquaintance of Didion's) reviewed today the stage version of Joan Didion's book. The show just opened in New York at the Booth Theater.

I haven't seen the new stage version, but I think Teachout may be on to something when he critiques both the play and the book on which it is based.

Teachout is going to draw some major criticism as well, since he is the first to point some things out that no doubt others have felt, and his review might come off as rather cold, especially since this work by Didion is based on the death of her husband and her daughter, who died young, 39, my present age.

First in the complaint line about Teachout should be, not surprisingly, Joan Didion herself.

Let me also note, as Teachout does, that "the death of a loved one is among the most devastating things that can happen to a human being, and that Ms. Didion is to be pitied for having been forced to swallow a double dose."

Yes, absolutely.

But the word Teachout uses to describe the play is ... meritricious.

What a great, unkind and probably fitting word. Is it appropriate? I can't answer that until I finish the book and see the play.

But to describe any creative person or creative work (particularly a personal work based on the deaths of two close loved ones) as meritricious has to be ... painful.

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