Thursday, March 19, 2009

On That Damn Intellectual Arrogance

On That Damn Intellectual Arrogance

"Putting two incompatible ideas together - Tom Stoppard's made a whole career out of it" Double Denim asserts, holding court in a workshop I have come to suspect is firmly about him marking his territory than actually workshopping the material up for discussion.

There is, immediately, the exchanging of looks, quiet smiles. For Tom Stoppard would most definitely qualify as an in-joke. And an in-joke which is at my expense, possibly the favourite kind of in-joke for some of The Writers.

For, in case it hadn't been noted, I rather heart Tom Stoppard. If I could have written any 20th century play then it would most definitely have been Arcadia which has a final scene of such utter perfection that it makes my heart leap. And it has Byron stomping around off-stage. So, Stoppard. There's some love in that room. But for reasons known to no-one Stoppard has become the whipping boy of visiting tutors, much to my chagrin. Because I genuinely believe him to be one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century. Clearly Goldsmiths does not agree. And there may have been a little bit of ranting about this incompatibility.

Double Denim catches the silent joke. "Is there a Stoppard fan in the room?"

There is no point me hiding. I've already stepped into the ring with the Publisher of Oberon on this one, so why should I hide from Double Denim?


Double Denim looks at me. I sense I have just opened myself up to his ego.

"It's always the same, two incompatible ideas. Shakespeare plus Existentialism in...what was it..."

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" I say in unison with him. I realise now he is playing some sort game.

"Thrillers and quantum physics..." Double Denim says, all the while looking at me.

Given that there has only been two professional productions of this play in Britain since it was written twenty years ago I realise Double Denim has deliberately picked an obscure Stoppard. Good job then that I saw it last year (and indeed that it gave its name to a character on this very blog).


There is not a flicker, though I sense we both know I have just jumped through a relatively small hoop.

"We could keep playing this game all day" I say, my own arrogance standing to meet his.

I realise as soon as I say this that I probably should have kept my mouth shut and maintained my victory.

Sure enough, Double Denim trumps me with murder mystery and avant-garde art, for I have neither heard nor read Artist Descending a Staircase which is a flippin' radio play.

When he goes on to say that Stoppard no longer has anything to say, it is probably safe to say that Double Denim is not my favourite person in the world.

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