It's been too long since we had new discussion here, and I've been rereading The Fourth Wall
(for the... third? fourth? time) this weekend.
This time around, knowing what was going to happen, I let myself concentrate on the craftsmanship, how Barbara organizes and structures the book, and that's been a great pleasure and an education: I especially noticed the command of pacing (when to give plenty of detail, when to summarize and keep moving) and cast of characters (it's a longish list, and each individual gets introduced in an appropriate way, by description or dialogue or a mixture). I also enjoy the realism, which lesser writers ignore, of changing police decectives as soon as the case becomes homicide (even though Piperson had been individualized in a way that would make us think he was sticking around for the whole book).
I also re-noticed what one is aware of on first reading: how gruesome a story it is. (Reading the description here
of how she'd been reading revenge tragedies beforehand provided a context for the horrifying (because it was made believable and real) details of revenge-by-deprivation.
But somehow I'd forgotten how full of lightness and fun it also is, especially all the insidery theater stuff: understudies, casting, recasting, rewriting, regional productions, talking to students, dealing with directors devoted to differentness, all of it. I have such a good time reading this sort of thing. Also: all the little (what seemed to me) "extra" scenes and curlicues. By this I mean scenes that don't necessarily advance the plot or characters, that could be omitted without structural harm, but again add to the completeness and believability of the experience (examples: the whole Pittsburgh trip, the talk of Tosca
, "mugging" a passerby for a nickel, the growth of Vivian Frank from hardworking understudy to self-indulgent would-be-star).
I also found myself doing the old "cast the movie" game. Anybody want to play? This time around, I saw mild-mannered chameleon Hugh Odell as Kevin Spacey for some reason. I can't think of someone who's both drop-dead-handsome and an indisputably great actor for Ian Cavanaugh. And I was picturing Allison Janney for Abby, but that's mainly because I enjoying watching her in anything; I'm not sure she's really right.
Anyway, I enjoyed the re-experience so much, I wanted to say something.