RIP Simon Gray


I was sad to see that Simon Gray had died. I started reading him when an extract from the first of his diaries to be published – The Smoking Diaries – appeared in Granta some years ago, and I’ve been buying each new instalment as it came out, in hardback, unusually for me, because I couldn’t wait. I remember reading the first volume at more or less the same time as an edition of the journals Christopher Isherwood kept when he was living in Los Angeles in the late 50s-early 60s and coming to the conclusion, with a heavy heart, that I preferred the stubborn, tetchy, doubt-ridden, heterosexual, pet-loving, regretful, easily irritated playwright to the vacuous bed-hopping star-fucking campy pseudo-Quaker that Isherwood had become. Both men wrote their journals to be read, Isherwood presumably – and wisely – after his death, Gray as soon as possible, and there’s a wonderful feeling in the latter’s diaries of a very public confession going on, of an opening out. I’m not a theatre-goer, and I’ve never seen any of his plays, I’m not even sure that I want to, but his diaries were a source of great and constant pleasure to me. He wrote about animals as well as he did about himself and other people; at one point he wonderfully describes the ‘dainty waddle’ of a cat. There is, apparently, a final volume waiting to be published, and that’s it.

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4 Responses to RIP Simon Gray

  1. Kay Sexton says:

    It is terribly sad, isn’t it. And yet what a celebration of a life well lived his diaries gave us. Excellent obit on radio 4 by the way.

  2. Ms Baroque says:

    Lovely account. I love your comparative descriptions of Gray & Isherwood. xx

  3. kate says:

    why don’t you want to read (or see) his plays? He wrote very good plays.I was in one of them (‘Close of Play’ at the National and the Dublin Festival)All his plays were witty, well-observed and beautifully crafted. His dialogue was a joy to speak. My favourite is one about a group of teachers on an English for foreigners course.(Forget the title) Edward Fox was brilliant in it. He also wrote some excellent television plays. If you like someone’s writing, chances are you’ll enjoy their work generally. By the way, he was a most delightful person – we shared a passion for old movies, of which he had an enormous collection.

  4. You’re absolutely right to pick me up on this, Kate. The fact is that I live outside England and rarely go to the theatre. But I’ll certainly read the plays, and I look forward to doing so. And I’ll chase up the one you recommend.

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