Kenneth Tynan, Author, John Lahr, Editor, John Lahr, Introduction by . Bloomsbury $32.95 (420p) ISBN 978-1-58234-160-6

Every so often a book proves so compelling that certain sections beg to be read aloud—the "hey, listen to this!" syndrome. Readers of Tynan's rambunctious recollections better rehearse their oratory, as every page here contains a minimum of two such passages. These entries, consistently fascinating, also manage to be witty (frequently of the laugh-out-loud variety), thought-provoking (few sacred cows escape Tynan's dead-on skewering) or raunchy (not a few sections should carry an "R" rating). Tynan, who in 1980 succumbed to a years-long battle with pulmonary emphysema (at age 53), was one of Britain's foremost drama critics; here, he spent two seasons as theater critic for the New Yorker. Along with Laurence Olivier, he helped found London's National Theater, where he functioned as literary manager for 10 years. Not surprisingly, Tynan dissects theatrical foibles and politicking with a keen inside perspective; he can also discourse on the European common market, Spaniards' attitudes toward homosexuality, cricket, French cuisine, Ethel Merman and much more. He's eminently quotable, often suggesting Oscar Wilde on ecstasy. Celebrated names are not merely dropped (from Katharine Hepburn and Princess Margaret to W.H. Auden and Jerry Lewis), but integral to his revelatory anecdotes. Colorful turns of phrase proliferate (a hearse is a "sepulchral flivver"; a luncheon-club group, aspiring to Algonquin Round Table status, is a "lovable, bawdy throng of deaf, drunken, droning monologuists"; Cordova is "a fetid yawn of a city"). Nor does Tynan shy away from his own perspicacity: indeed, there are many spanking good passages here about, well, good spanking (Tynan's sexual activity of choice). (Nov. 5)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
Hardcover - 978-0-7475-5990-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-58234-231-3
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-1-58234-245-0
Hardcover - 445 pages - 978-0-7475-5418-9
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