Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Welles on Tynan

Dedicated to Javier Botero
Puzzler, Polymath and Strongman

From Orson Welles' introduction to He That Plays the King: A View of the Theatre, Kenneth Tynan's first book, published in 1950. Tynan was twenty-three years old at the time.

As Welles himself explains, Tynan and he were strangers at the time Tynan requested this introduction.

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"Dear Mr. Tynan,

Why, you will ask, do I address this introduction directly to you? After all, we are scarcely acquainted. I must tell you that I am adopting the pretty fiction of a personal letter in the fear that like me your readers tend to skip introductions and in the hope that they are as tempted as I am by other people's mail.

Dear Mr. Tynan then,—by the way, what are you? Besides being the author of this book, I mean.


since I seem to be criticizing your criticisms—let me say that from my viewpoint you have also some inflated enthusiasms which beg for pricking. I'm not the man for that job, I just thought I'd mention it.


Whatever you are, Mr. Tynan, there is no doubt that you are some sort of magician. You materialized out of a puff of Paris fog, handed me the manuscript of this book and before vanishing somehow bamboozled me into reading it and writing this.

A neat trick it was because as I tried to tell you I never read or write about the theatre, this being a matter of the strictest principle. No, I save myself for other subjects concerning which I enjoy a more amiable ignorance.


Also this heated nonsense about being alone in a theatre... Do you really feel that?

Alone is what you must be in a movie palace where something all finished and wrapped up is delivered to large numbers of people at once for the simple reason that, to date, this is the cheapest form of distribution. But how can you be alone in a living theatre? In the big moments there is, to be sure, an almost mystical effacement of self but this is part of the mystery of becoming one with the congregation..."

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