Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Books: THE METEOR by Friedrich Durrenmatt (as translated by James Kirkup)

This play, apparently a key work in the development of Durrenmatt's career and approach to writing his plays, but still not the first item thought of when discussing the author of The Visit, was published in English translation in paperback in 1974 by Grove Press and sold as a remainder by my favorite bookstore in 1978 in Derry, NH, and read aloud by me and my three closest friends on a slow August afternoon that year. It's a mild if wistfully bitter comedy, featuring a slowly dying writer and Nobelist who stands in for Durrenmatt's grim prescription for his own future, and the various vexing folks who come to visit him over the course of his waning days. David Lapadula, Mike Frankauski, Steven Durost and I, having spent the night at Lapadula's house, passed the book around to do the reading as various characters, and generally enjoyed the experience (and amused David's younger brother Tony), with a rather dismissive description of a daughter by her mother, in jogging the memory of the writer about her offspring, damn near putting us on the floor. (It does rather come out of left field, and half-asleep 13-year-old boys are often easily amused.) Steven was the only true actor (and a good one) among us, though all of us had at least some keen interest in the arts...David and Mike would eventually become engineers, but at the time David was a good trumpeter (and a comics fan) and Mike at least a pretty good clarinetist (I was a terrible trombonist, but already showed a bit of facility for playing by ear), and Steve, as noted, was already an accomplished if at times a bit florid thespian (he could commit).

Inasmuch as we lost touch after I left New Hampshire for Hawaii, and I gather they lost touch with each other after high school, that was still a very pleasant memory, even given the play's rather-good rather than outstanding or memory-searing quality on its own. But you could do worse, and often with rather overpraised work.

(Mike has an engineering firm in New Hampshire, Dave was in the NY Times a while back as he and his wife were attempting to sell their Massachusetts house at the beginning of the Big they chose the Lapadulas to highlight, I don't know...and Steve has been wrestling with an undesired homosexual tendency through Christian "post-gay"-related thearapy activities for some years, and was working as that sort of therapist a few years ago, when last I saw press about him. Life is full of odd and interesting turns.)

See Patti Abbott's blog (or, soon, George Kelley's) for further "forgotten" books.


K. A. Laity said...

I remember reading Dürrenmatt in my German classes, but I didn't read this play. I did always find him amusing. I can't imagine most of the boys I knew at 13 wanting to read such a thing, let alone read aloud. In praise of exquisite idleness!

Todd Mason said...

I remember awakening earlier than the rest and reading the August F&SF while waiting for the others to stir...Gregory Benford's "In Alien Flesh," all the Freudian/Faulknerian birth recapitulation you could possibly want.

What can I say, we were a bright bunch.