Playing With Ideas by Daphne Merkin. New York Times. November 26, 2006
It may be impossible to write a boring article about an interview with Tom Stoppard. In any case, this longish New York Times piece, replete with lines such as “I look at him and am struck by the aura of louche glamour he carries — like a lounge lizard who reads Flaubert — daring you to cause ripples in his carefully arranged and well-defended image,” is certainly not dull.
It is, however, one of those articles that reveals the reporter’s fascination with her own peccadilloes to be a close contender with her interest in the putative subject of the interview. (My personal scorecard shows the reporter’s self-interest eking out a win on points, neither side scoring a knockdown.) I’m willing to overlook such distractions because I’m wild for Stoppard. Of course, I would be a Stoppard fan if he had written nothing other than his play devoted to the life of A.E. Housman, “The Invention Of Love;” the less Housman-infatuated reader may wish to adjust his or her expectations accordingly.
In addition, I find it comforting and perhaps even gratifying that an author who is accorded the status of genius displays reading and writing traits, as characterized in the following excerpts, that (I can convince myself) are vaguely reminiscent of my own:
As has been the case with many of his other plays, “The Coast of Utopia” was inspired by Stoppard’s avid reading in a field that intrigued him. His interest can be sparked by an overheard remark, a newspaper article or a biography he’s read of Byron. “My life,” he once remarked, “is sectioned off into hot flushes, pursuits of this or that.”Some writers write because they burn with a cause which they further by writing about it. I burn with no causes. I cannot say that I write with any social objective. One writes because one loves writing, really.
All in all, it’s a decent read.
Photo by Gorupdebesanez – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,, Wikipedia Commons