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England has Kenneth Tynan, we have Robert Brustein. Mary McCarthy dismembered Tynan's recent collection Curtains, a much-praised work; heaven help Brustein if she ever reviews Seasons of Discontent. As the blurb states, Brustein is ""the brilliant young drama critic of The New Republic,"" and what we have here is an assemblage of his best magazine pieces from 1959 to the present. Is his best very good? Sometimes. With Beckett, Brecht, and Genet, for instance, Brustein is invariably intelligent, resourceful and not given to more editorializing. And the various reviews of Shakespeare festivals or of Ibsen revivals or his famous dismissal of Lincoln Center are other high points. But Brustein is addicted to the ""lively"" remark, the ""provocative"" statement. ""The tendency of Beat writers to invest the French Rebel tradition (de Sade-Rimbaud-Genet) with a pseudo-religious flavor seems to me quite similar to the tendency of Broadway playwrights to identify romantic love with God; and although such ideas may endear these writers to the Luce publications they signify a general flabbiness in American feeling and thought."" Alas, the Rebel tradition has always had a religious aura and ""identifying romantic love with God"" is one of the oldest forms of European romanticism. If that is the flabbiness in America, we're a classical nation. Brustein's demolition of Miller and Baldwin are engaging. The book as a whole has nowhere near the solidity and scholarship behind Brustein's The Theatre of Revolt, an impressive analysis of modernism.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1965
Publisher: Simon & Schuster