THORNTON WILDER: The Bright and the Dark by M. C. Kuner

THORNTON WILDER: The Bright and the Dark

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Thornton Wilder's works are for a variety of obvious reasons, a staple in high school English classes and Ms. Kuner's introduction provides just the kind of homework help that the average student (or at least the conscientious student who goes beyond the Masterplots approach) is looking for: it is responsible, easily comprehended, unhampered by any dogma or critical prejudice, and, at this level, enlightening. Her research has been thoroughly assimilated, and her use of sources is intelligent: her citation of the exchange of correspondence between Wilder and Sol Lesser, producer of the film version of Our Town, aptly reveals the ""careful balancing act"" by which the author kept the affirmative thrust of his work from falling into the ""sweetness-and-light Aimee MacPherson spiel"" he feared the movie was becoming. Of course, just as Ms. Kuner takes no partisan position, she offers no new viewpoint or assessment of Wilder, nor any startling insights; she indulges too in excessively detailed summaries of all the plays and novels, and frequently seems to belabor the obvious. An early chapter intended to provide orienting background contains a review of modern drama -- Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Gogol, etc. -- so fleeting as to be meaningless to the novice and redundant to anyone else. But why blame Ms. Kuner for qualities that seem to be obligatory in non-fiction at this level? For better or worse -- and it's mostly better -- this is the very model of a YA interpretation.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1972
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell