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