The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan


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About the Author

John Lahr has been writing about theatre and popular culture for The New Yorker since 1992. He is the author of sixteen books, among them NOTES ON A COWARDLY LION: THE BIOGRAPHY OF BERT LAHR, PRICK UP YOUR EARS: THE BIOGRAPHY OF JOE ORTON, DAME EDNA EVERAGE AND THE RISE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, and SHOW AND TELL.


Tynan was the most respected and feared theater critic of his age, a board member of London's National Theatre, and a producer of Oh! Calcutta! Edited by New Yorker drama critic Lahr (Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton), his diaries, dating from 1970 to his death in 1980 at the age of 53, will sell for the wrong reasons. His politics (Marxist) and his sexual habits (sadomasochist) provide sensationalism to spare: his observations will thus offend, titillate, or amuse. Tynan had acquaintances but few friends; a shameless name dropper, he sought the warmth of social contact. The value of this diary rests in its honesty, self-loathing, pleasure in life, and insight into his period. The critic's acumen illuminates the text throughout, as Tynan documents the shift in power from the Olivier years to the Peter Hall regime at the National Theatre, critiques travel and food, and savors the human comedy. After leaving the National, his life disintegrated into frantic travel, a search for work, and horror as his final illness, emphysema, destroyed him. Obituaries of departed friends and a clear-sighted examination of his failing talents make this a sustained and tragic document. Recommended with caution. Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"Kenneth Tynan is about to become a star...his scandalous diaries are a confessional cross between the two Alans, Clark and Bennett" Scotland on Sunday 'No one, they say, ever erected a statue to a critic, but Kenneth Tynan has bequeathed something even larger to posterity: a legendary life" Michael Billington, Guardian 'The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan don't half dish the dirt...Packed with scandal and salacious anecdotes about his famous friends and, believe me, it is premier-cru gossip, these diaries are a testament to his flamboyant wit' Tatler

Every so often a book proves so compelling that certain sections beg to be read aloud the "hey, listen to this!" syndrome. Readers of Tynan's rambunctious recollections better rehearse their oratory, as every page here contains a minimum of two such passages. These entries, consistently fascinating, also manage to be witty (frequently of the laugh-out-loud variety), thought-provoking (few sacred cows escape Tynan's dead-on skewering) or raunchy (not a few sections should carry an "R" rating). Tynan, who in 1980 succumbed to a years-long battle with pulmonary emphysema (at age 53), was one of Britain's foremost drama critics; here, he spent two seasons as theater critic for the New Yorker. Along with Laurence Olivier, he helped found London's National Theater, where he functioned as literary manager for 10 years. Not surprisingly, Tynan dissects theatrical foibles and politicking with a keen inside perspective; he can also discourse on the European common market, Spaniards' attitudes toward homosexuality, cricket, French cuisine, Ethel Merman and much more. He's eminently quotable, often suggesting Oscar Wilde on ecstasy. Celebrated names are not merely dropped (from Katharine Hepburn and Princess Margaret to W.H. Auden and Jerry Lewis), but integral to his revelatory anecdotes. Colorful turns of phrase proliferate (a hearse is a "sepulchral flivver"; a luncheon-club group, aspiring to Algonquin Round Table status, is a "lovable, bawdy throng of deaf, drunken, droning monologuists"; Cordova is "a fetid yawn of a city"). Nor does Tynan shy away from his own perspicacity: indeed, there are many spanking good passages here about, well, good spanking (Tynan's sexual activity of choice). (Nov. 5) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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