Monday, July 13, 2009

More Same Old Same Old

"It is said that in these hectic days no item of news is capable of holding the interest of the public for more than a week; wherefore journalists and news editors age swiftly, and become prematurely bald and bad-tempered . . . . A new sensation must be provided from day to day, and each sensation must eclipse its predecessor, till the dictionary is bled dry of superlatives, and the imagination pales before the task of finding or inventing for to-morrow a story fantastic and colossal enough to succeed the masterpiece of yesterday."

"I hope I never live to see the day when the miserable quibbling hair-splitters have won the earth, and there's no more black and white, but everything's just a dreary relative gray, and everyone has a right to his own damned heresies, and it's more noble t0 be broadminded about your disgusting neighbours than to push their faces in as a preliminary to yanking back into the straight and narrow way. . . ."

These come from books published in 1930. Here's something more recent:

"Simply to slap your audience in the face satisfies an austere and puritanical streak which runs in many of his disciples and sometimes, detrimentally I think, in Brecht himself. But it is a dangerous game to play. It has the effect of shock because it is unexpected. But it is unexpected only because it flies in the face of a thoroughly established convention (a convention which goes far beyond naturalism; briefly, the convention that the actors are there as actors, not as themselves). Each time it is done it is a little less unexpected, so that a bigger and bigger dosage will be required to produce the same effect. If it were continued indefinitely it would finally not be unexpected at all. The theatrical convention would then have been entirely dissipated and we should have in the theatre a situation with one person, who used to be an actor, desperately trying to engage the attention -- by rude gestures, loud noises, indecent exposure, fireworks, anything -- of other persons, who used to be the audience. As this point was approached some very lively evenings might be expected, but the depth and subtlety of the notions which can be communicated by such methods may be doubted. When we use alienation method just for kicks, we in the theatre are sawing through the branch on which we are sitting."

This was written in 1960 by Robert Bolt as part of the preface to A Man for all Seasons.

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