WRIT­ING DI­VERT­ING DI­A­LOGUE FOR DIF­FER­ENT SORTS OF PEO­PLE IS NOT A GREAT GIFT

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - TOM STOP­PARD Anna Karen­ina will be re­leased na­tion­ally on Fe­bru­ary 7. Pa­rade’s End will screen on Nine next year. A pro­duc­tion of Rosen­crantz and Guilden­stern are Dead features in the Syd­ney The­atre Com­pany’s 2013 sea­son.

in Bris­tol in 1954. It was jour­nal­ism, via drama crit­i­cism, that took him into the the­atre. ‘‘ I read a lot — I read ev­ery­thing. I mean newsprint. I’m ad­dicted to newsprint. I wish I were not. I think, ac­tu­ally, my ad­dic­tion to newsprint has got a lot more to do with the fact that I haven’t writ­ten a play for six years than with Anna Karen­ina or

Pa­rade’s End.’’

He likes colum­nists who ‘‘ don’t write down to any no­tional au­di­ence’’. He doesn’t think he does, ei­ther. What he de­spises is dumbing down.

I feel a bit dis­con­so­late about some­thing that is pre­sented like hav­ing your food cut up for you on the plate. I dis­like page lay­out that some­times uses two or more colours, which presents the news as though it were a school text­book for small chil­dren.’’

I sug­gest that it may be tech­nol­ogy, in part, that is to blame for this kind of spoon-feed­ing. For all its won­der­ments, Twit­ter, for ex­am­ple, is not a medium best suited to com­plex ar­gu­ment. Does it con­cern Stop­pard that the fore­most mode of ex­pres­sion for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will not be plays or films but blurts? ‘‘ The plays and movies you’d like to see, the books you’d like to read, they ex­ist in­de­pen­dently of what’s hap­pen­ing to mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s a mir­a­cle, in a way, that there’s any­thing much left be­sides Twit­ter.

‘‘ I feel, not for the first time, that I’ve had some kind of mys­te­ri­ous good for­tune in be­ing the last of a gen­er­a­tion that has that ex­pe­ri­ence — the last gen­er­a­tion that was able to keep tabs on ev­ery­thing that hap­pened on TV and in newsprint be­cause there were only five news­pa­pers and four chan­nels. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, now there are hun­dreds of chan­nels and so much elec­tronic news, I don’t even at­tempt to keep in touch. One feels one­self draw­ing into one­self, think­ing, OK, my val­ues are in a way out­moded. Es­sen­tially, I’ve been left be­hind by my chil­dren and their chil­dren.’’

He refers back to Pa­rade’s End: ‘‘ There’s a won­der­ful thing that Christo­pher Tietjens says, and it rang true, in some ways, for me. In the lat­ter part of the story, where he’s learned a thing or two about him­self, he says some­thing like, ‘ If you live by an out­moded code of ethics, peo­ple take you to be a fool . . . and I’m coming around to their opin­ion.’ ’’

It’s a typ­i­cally teas­ing line, and I won­der — is that from Ford or did Stop­pard in­vent it? ‘‘ I refuse to an­swer. Although I wouldn’t hes­i­tate to tell you if it were Ford’s.’’

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