To the Editors:
In his article on Edward Albee [“These Illusions Are Real,” NYR, September 23], Fintan O’Toole quotes a comment of mine out of context. He says that in 1966 I wrote an essay on homosexual playwrights “accusing Albee, together with Tennessee Williams and William Inge, of producing a ‘badly distorted picture of American women, marriage and society.'” Here is what I wrote:
The principal complaint against homosexual dramatists is well known. Because three of the most successful American playwrights of the past twenty years are (reputed) homosexuals and because their plays often treat of women and marriage, therefore, it is said, postwar American drama presents a badly distorted picture of American women, marriage and society in general. Certainly there is substance in the charge; but is it rightly directed?
I then went on to stress the point that the (then prevailing) strictures on homosexual playwrights, about which society complained, were the result of society’s conventions.
This statement of a generally held view hardly amounts to an accusation by me, even though I thought it had some substance, especially since the object of my piece was to protest those strictures.
Besides, O’Toole misspelled my name.
New York City
Fintan O’Toole replies:
Stanley Kauffmann makes a fair point in that my brief quotation from his essay does rather flatten out its complexities and ambiguities. The implication of mere prejudice on his part is certainly unjust. However, his essay did, as he acknowledges, endorse the substance of the charge it analyzes. In relation to my general point that Edward Albee’s work was affected by such accusations, it is worth noting that Stanley Kauffmann’s essay continued to rankle with Albee a quarter of a century after it was published. In an interview with David Richards in The New York Times, published on June 16, 1991, Albee was still complaining about “that disgusting article by Stanley Kauffmann, about 25 years ago, in The New York Times.”
October 21, 2004