Even when you’re in Baghdad, as I am at the moment, it’s impossible to miss the furor back home over John McCain’s visit here a few days ago. The press seems to think it has caught the Senator in a big “gotcha” over his trip to the Shorja market on Sunday. McCain (whose presidential campaign, I should disclose, I am advising on foreign policy) touted his visit to the market as evidence that the Baghdad security plan, “Operation Fardh Al Qanoon,” is working.
“Hah!,” the news corps screamed. Reporters wrote that McCain was able to visit the market only because of “heavy” extra protection and that merchants there complained that overall security conditions weren’t great. All of this true, but taken in isolation it provides a very distorted impression.
• Most American playgoers of my generation only know John Osborne through the excellent films of Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer directed by Tony Richardson a half-century ago. Though the original Angry Young Man enjoyed a brief American vogue—Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer were produced simultaneously on Broadway in 1958—no play by Osborne has been seen on the Great White Way since 1969. I wouldn’t be greatly surprised if the much-praised Old Vic revival of The Entertainer makes it to New York sooner or later, Anglophilia being what it is, but I very much doubt that Osborne’s plays will ever take root in this country, for what (mostly) made him angry was the British class system, about which normal Americans know little and care less. A novelist can overcome that obstacle if he’s sufficiently clever and has other interesting things to say—Kingsley Amis did it—but only the very greatest of playwrights can contrive to embed in a two-hour-long play sufficient background information to make so fundamentally impenetrable a subject intelligible to those who know nothing about it going in. Osborne had his moments, but he wasn’t that good, not even in The Entertainer.