Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Even in 1934...

To research my Hallie Flanagan play, I am reading a book called The Unpossessed: A Novel of the 30s, written in 1934 by a young woman named Tess Slesinger. It was a really serendipitous find (on the sale table at Powell's just before I left Portland) because it's about the sort of people Hallie would have known: Greenwich Village leftist intellectuals. I'm not too far into it yet, but I smiled when I saw this passage, as it dovetails with my current thoughts about Eugene O'Neill:

The character Miles Flinders is telling his wife Margaret about his hard childhood among stoic, flinty Yankee farmers. NYC-born Margaret romanticizes this: "You make it [...] as fascinating--both as real and unreal--as O'Neill does in his plays." Miles replies: "O'Neill [...] didn't get my people straight. He made them far too Irish, almost quaint, and too explicit. My Uncle Daniel would have sneered at Beyond the Horizon; even my father would have walked out on it--staggered out, to the nearest saloon." Miles goes on to observe that O'Neill might have identified Freudian-type psychological symptoms in Miles' own family ("pathological," "an incest pattern") but that would "leave the blood out of the picture."

Interesting to see that even in 1934, O'Neill's stage-Irish dialects and explicit, sometimes reductive psychologizing could come in for some criticism!

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