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Book Report: Stage Directions

When I saw a book with Michael Frayn’s name on the spine along with the title Stage Directions, I naturally picked it up and took it home. It could have been a novel, or a collection of essays on theater, or well, anything really, but the odds were strongly in favor of it being good.

Even if the actual contents are a disappointment. Methuen essentially took all the introductions they had him write to all the plays they have published, and published them again as a new book. That means that I had read quite a few of them already. The short introductions to the first collection and the second collection were not new to me; I would love to read something lengthier and more detailed about some of those plays, but that is not this book. He wrote long and detailed introductions to the later three plays, all of which are based on historical incidents. Sadly, those introductions are long, detailed and rather dull, and furthermore I had read the introduction to Copenhagen already. There were also long, detailed (and rather dull) introductions to his translations of Chekhov plays; those were actually fairly interesting, despite their dullness, if you know what I mean. Every now and then I read something about Chekhov’s plays that makes me wish I liked them better; it’s undoubtedly a character flaw, or a lapse of taste, but I find them dull.

The best thing in the book, for me, was the introduction, which Mr. Frayn wrote new for the book. And if somebody is going to write an introduction to a book of introductions, I think Michael Frayn is probably the best choice. Well, or John Barth. But, you know, that’s different.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,