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Not Pete Atkin >> Off-topic >> Clive & Michael Frayn
(Message started by: Kevin Cryan on Today at 09:21)

Title: Clive & Michael Frayn
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 09:21
Michael Frayn rules at the pinnacle of the unclassifiable. When he writes a book of philosophy, he is a philosopher; when he writes a play, he is a playwright; when he writes a novel, he a novelist. In every category he is somebodyís favourite among modern writers, but what unites his work across all the categories is a linguistic fastidiousness simultaneously both poetic and critical. People who praise him in such solemn terms, however, are in danger of being reminded that he is also a master of farce.
Clive James on Michael Frayn (http://www.clivejames.com/video/library/4)

This is  how the philosopher and music critic Bernard Jacobson (http://www.musicweb-international.com/contrib/Bernard_Jacobson.htm), writing about Michael Fraynís The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Human-Touch-Michael-Frayn/dp/0571232175) for  yesterday's ís edition of The Philadelphia Enquirer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Philadelphia_Inquirer), registers his recognition that Frayn and Clive are writers who constantly and pleasurably wrong-foot readers' expectations.

The Human Touch is the latest in a series of blockbuster volumes in which writers from whom you might expect something different - in 2004, the American Bill Bryson with A Short History of Nearly Everything, and more recently, the Australian-born Clive James in Cultural Amnesia - have taken on the cosmos, whether conceived physically or in intellectual terms.

With the Englishman Michael Frayn, it would be hard even to guess at what we might expect his next trick to be. The author of 10 novels and 14 plays, he has also published translations from French and Russian literature, created scripts for film and television, and written nonfiction books of essentially philosophical character. His gift ranges comprehensively from the profoundly serious (as in the award-winning play Copenhagen, which succeeds in discussing problems of physics for two hours without ever losing its grip, even on a scientific know-nothing like me) to the rib-ticklingly hilarious (as in the farce Noises Off). And he can often mine these disparate veins simultaneously, as in Headlong, a novel about the supposed finding of a "lost" Brueghel canvas.

Whatever else, then, he can certainly be expected to come up with the unexpected, and that is, indeed, the word for this fascinating treatise, profoundly conceived yet written with the lightest of touches and with many a flash of wit.

Critics this side of the Atlantic tend not to approve of Frayn's (and indeed of  Clive's) writing with the "lightest of touches and with many a flash of wit" when writing about about what they consider to be serious philosophical matters.


Kevin Cryan

Title: Re: Clive & Michael Frayn
Post by Kevin Cryan on Today at 18:01
I omitted to mention, by way of a footnote and for the benefit of those of you not familiar with his work, or those daunted by the prospect of reading a writer whose greatly admired for his philosophical turn of mind,  that a fair amount of Michael Frayn is available (very often in abridged form) on audio cassette from Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?ie=UTF8&rh=n%3A1066314&page=1). It's usually read by the marvellously inventive Martin Jarvis (http://www.bbcworldwide.com/spokenword/interviews/mjarvis.htm) who is so good at catching Frayn's tone that over time the listener comes to believe that his voice is Frayn's  

This Jarvis tour de force (http://www.btowstore.com/epages/Store.sf/?ObjectPath=/Shops/3828/Products/%22TTDMC%20809%20%20ISBN%3A%201%20901768%2051%201%22), produced by one  Pete Atkin,  is by no means a bad place to start your listenting. It too is avaliable from Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jarviss-Frayn-Michael/dp/1901768511/ref=sr_1_3/202-6014611-8695857?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184342395&sr=1-3).

Kevin Cryan

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