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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction

The Cambridge Companion
to Tom Stoppard

edited by
Katherine E. Kelly

general information | review summaries | our review | links

To purchase The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard

Title: The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard
Authors: various
Genre: Essays
Written: (2001)
Length: 230 pages
Availability: The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard - US
The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard - UK
The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard - Canada
  • Edited by Katherine E. Kelly
  • Includes a Chronology
  • Includes ten illustration

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Our Assessment:

-- : essays covering most of Stoppard's work, a good survey-volume

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
American Theatre . 1/2002 Sarah Hart
Contemporary Review . 1/2002 Michael Karwowski
TLS . 28/12/2001 William McEvoy

  Review Consensus:

  Of some interest, but only glimpses of Stoppard (and the work), not the whole

  From the Reviews:
  • "Each author provides diverse approaches to the Stoppard canon (...) but the format also hampers the book as each author reacquaints the reader with Stoppard's work and many observations overlap. Rather than bridge the divide into an understanding of the works, each essay ends at the precipice." - Sarah Hart, American Theatre

  • "(N)one of the essays here really gets to grips with Stoppard's use of language. Concerned to pin Stoppard down, these largely descriptive pieces rarely take risks. (...) While these compartmentalized essays give a thorough introduction to Stoppard's work, they rarely excite or stimulate in the way their subject does." - William McEvoy, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard is a collection of thirteen essays, and also includes a summary-introduction, chronology, brief discussion of the Stoppard archives (at the Ransom Humanities Research Center in Texas), and solid bibliography. It serves as a broad introduction to the works of Stoppard, and while published before Stoppard's most recent trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, could be taken into account, is a useful survey-collection.
       The book is divided into three parts: two essays in the first offer "Background" (with Paul Delaney's serving as a good, quick overview of Stoppard's life), while the second part focusses on "The Works", and the third on "Culture and Context".
       The chronology and Delaney's biographical introduction are particularly useful for those looking for some background but unwilling to tackle, say, Ira Nadel's extensive (if also not quite exhaustive) Double Act (also: Tom Stoppard: A Life).
       The essays on the works touch on almost all of them, and offer interesting discussions; Paul Edward's on "Science in Hapgood and Arcadia" is of particular interest (if also only a starting point on the subject). Perhaps must useful, however, are the essays that consider the less-discussed Stoppard: his forays away from the stage. Peter J. Rabinowitz considers the "Narrative difficulties in Lord Malquist and Mr Moon", discussing Stoppard's early (and only) novel, while Ira Nadel offers a good overview of "Stoppard and Film". Perhaps surprisingly, film appears to have preoccupied Stoppard far more than fiction; he was a film critic for a time, and has written numerous film-adaptations (with very mixed success -- a fact Nadel touches on but which certainly deserves to be examined in more depth). (Lissa S. Guralnick also offers an essay on "Stoppard's radio and television plays", but these are much more closely tied to his stage-work than the novel and the screenplays.)
       The last section offers more general discussions -- more or less forced playful/clever efforts as their titles ("Tom Stoppard's Brit/lit/crit" by Enoch Brater and "'Is postmodernism ?': Stoppard among/against the postmodern" by Michael Vanden Heuvel) suggest. Brater's piece, especially, does raise some interesting points, as he tries to trace "the development of Stoppard's engaging 'Brit/lit/crit' and consider its implications for the kind of audience that continues to be attracted to his plays.".
       The piecemeal approach -- distinct essays -- is fairly successful, as many significant aspects of Stopard's life and work (and most of the works themselves) are addressed. There are a few attempts to find links and similarities across the work, but it's hard to do that effectively - and one of the more successful efforts, John Bull on "Tom Stoppard and politics", suffers from the absence of The Coast of Utopia, which adds significantly to any discussion of that topic. There are numerous topics of interest that aren't covered; perhaps the most prominent is a thorough examination of the critical and especially the popular reception of Stoppard's work (including abroad, where the English-language word-player hasn't made near as much of an impression). Also perhaps of interest: Stoppard's reworking of his plays: changes and revisions are mentioned in numerous essays, but it's probably worthy of a more thorough examination. (Melissa Miller's very brief introduction to the Stoppard archives is also something that could have been developed more fully.)

       The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard is a fine companion book, and a good starter-volume for those who are dipping their toes into some Stoppard-background literature for the first time, introducing practically all aspects of his work. The chronology and bibliography are also of use, making it a handy reference work.

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The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard: Tom Stoppard: Other works by Tom Stoppard under review: Works about Tom Stoppard under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama under review

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© 2004-2009 the complete review

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