THE YEAR OF THE JOUNCER by Simon Gray

THE YEAR OF THE JOUNCER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Transcript of a year’s rambling thoughts, from British playwright and diarist Gray (The Smoking Diaries, 2005, etc.).

Best known for his acerbically witty play Butley (1972), the author is now a jittering and bouncing senior raconteur, offering set pieces and riffs in an apparently effortless stream—nay, torrent—of consciousness. Sitting in the Barbados sun on holiday with wife Victoria, Gray writes assiduously in his yellow pad. “What else can I do in life,” he asks, “but fill these spaces?” His year’s worth of memories, observations and pronouncements includes salutes to eminent men of England’s theatrical arts, such as Simon Callow, Harold Pinter and Alan Bates. The playwright dispassionately describes a disastrous London opening with an unreceptive audience, then another, more pleasing, premiere. He is not parsimonious with wordplay, nor in the consumption of cigarettes. He recalls his mother, also a smoker, and his father, a philanderer. Apparently random thoughts cover a bit of cricket; the association of Cary Grant and Randolph Scott; and the sex lives of stars of yesteryear. Gray has some beliefs, too, about “infantilely lavatorial films” and “the contemptible awfulness of this culture of ours.” He contemplates frankly the shame and mortification and pride of writing plays. He displays a stereotypical Brit’s cynicism and judgmental prejudices: Boorish strangers are all probably Americans; when asked if he would accept a spot on the Queen’s honors list, he writes, “There is a distinct possibility that I am the victim of a joke.”

Facile and frequently amusing.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2007
ISBN: 1-86207-896-3
Page count: 282pp
Publisher: Granta UK/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2006