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Clifford Odets: Playwright

Clifford Odets: Playwright


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Description for CLIFFORD ODETS: PLAYWRIGHT by Gerald Weales:

Not a conventional biography, CLIFFORD ODETS mixes criticism with narrative---and tells the story of one of America's most powerful and sensitive playwrights in terms of his work. Not a conventional critical study, this book provides the social and political context in which the reader can see Odets, indisputably the American playwright of the 1930's; Odets, the successful playwright invading Hollywood; and finally, Odets, the ambiguous man, torn between Broadway and Hollywood, between art and commerce, between risk and security.

This brilliant study provides the fullest and most distinguished analysis of the playwright to date. Although his work is uneven and none of it unflawed, Odets turned out a remarkable body of plays which testify to his self-awareness as a dramatist who attempted to make art out of the ordinary. Celebrated as a playwright who caught the moment, Odets transcended that label in plays that are as timeless as they were once contemporary. That the young Odets had the profound force of a representative man is best illustrated in the use other writers made of him and his plays.

A long chapter on "Awake and Sing" establishes the themes, the characters, and the language that Odets used in the bulk of his work, and the chapters that follow clock the variations from play to play. The author offers particularly sympathetic examinations of plays like "Paradise Lost" and "Night Music" that have been too long passed over as minor Odets.

Mr. Weales sees Odets as both playwright and celebrity and traces the confusion and pain in the conflict of the two selves. What emerges from this critical biography is a portrait of a troubled man and a very creative playwright, the body of whose work can stand alongside the best that the American theatre has produced. As teh author remarks in his Afterword, "ODETS PLAYS HAVE A WAY OF BEING LESS THAN WHAT THE PERFECTIONIST IN US WANTS THEM TO BE, BUT THEY ARE A GREAT DEAL MORE THAN THEY SEEM TO THE JAUNDICED EYE."

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