Your man Jones greatly enjoyed the documentary on Eugene O’Neill that aired on PBS last night, hagiographic though it was. I could have done without Pacino, for sure. But wasn’t Plummer fantastic?
Jonathan Kalb, writing on the documentary in the New York Times yesterday, offered this opinion on O’Neill’s status:
The big question for many critics and writers is the extent to which O’Neill, the Nobel Prize-winning dramatist, ever really succeeded in manipulating his soap opera into great literature.
First Dreiser isn’t literature, now O’Neill isn’t. Leaving aside the question of what American playwright could possibly be “in” if O’Neill is “out,” this is the kind of thing that makes me fear for the future.
In such circumstances, the mind longs to repose in what Johnson called “the stability of truth.” This time, truth comes from the unlikely source of Gore Vidal:
Literature is, primarily, a chain of connections from the past to the present. It is not reinvented every morning, as some bad writers like to believe.