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Sunday, April 2, 2017

A critical review of good writing

“A novel is a static thing that one moves through; a play is a dynamic thing that moves past one.” – Kenneth Tynan

One of the most impactful theater critics of the mid-20th Century, Tynan was born on this date in 1928 and in his relatively short lifetime (he died at age 53 of emphysema) he became a force in the theatrical world, which often regarded him with a mix of awe, fear and hatred, according to fellow writers. 

His understanding of what made good writing (and a good show) led to his eventual appointment as literary manager of the British National Theatre Company.  In that role he not only greatly expanded the Theatre’s reach and choice of plays but also established his own worldwide reputation.

Tynan's career first took off in 1952 as a young theatre critic for the London Evening Standard.   In 1954, he joined The Observer and it was there that he rose to prominence.  After becoming part of the National Theatre’s management team, he continued his writing as a film reviewer.  During the final decade of his life he lived in California, writing often for The New Yorker and doing screenplays and theatrical pieces, including the very popular Oh, Calcutta!           He also kept diaries that have been much studied, both in writing courses and by historians.

“A good drama critic is one who perceives what is happening in the theatre of his time,” Tynan wrote, when asked what advice he might give to aspiring critics. “A great drama critic also perceives what is not happening.”

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