Books by Neil Simon

REWRITES by Neil Simon
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

The prolific master of Broadway fun hops over the footlights to recall much—but not all—of his personal history. This is an intelligent and diverting memoir, artfully constructed. The work of crafting Simon's first dozen or so plays, from Come Blow Your Horn and Little Me to The Sunshine Boys and The Good Doctor, is presented in the order of their creation. The periods of Simon's life that they recall do not fall so neatly in order, and yet the memories that eddy around the landmarks of the plays are somehow all the more effective without strict chronology. There is a funny set piece on young Neil's sexual initiation. His native wit is as abundant as ever, but he can easily write a simple declarative sentence without punctuating it with a gag. There are poignant glimpses of a childhood in a strangely inoperative family, of a sometimes loving, always complex relationship with gagwriter brother Danny. Simon hasn't much use for agents or their advice on business deals. (Following such advice, he ``never saw a dime, a nickel, or a penny'' from the TV series of The Odd Couple.) There are third-act problems, out-of-town rewrites, and missing stars. Though there are no lessons on how to be funny, the book is full of clues on the craft of playwriting. There are deft character sketches, but, by far, the most touching parts of Simon's story deal with his love for wife Joan. With her early passing some two decades ago Simon brings down the curtain. Not covered: military escapades, much of life as a TV gag writer, and later uxorial adventures. There are more plays, of course, so let's have the next installment soon, Mr. Simon. Neil Simon delivers, from the heart, a fine portrait of the artist. (First printing of 100,000; first serial to Reader's Digest; author tour) Read full book review >