N(orman) F(rederick) Simpson Kenneth Tynan - Essay

Kenneth Tynan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

On the strength of his double bill, A Resounding Tinkle and The Hole, I am ready to burn my boats and pronounce N. F. Simpson the most gifted comic writer the English stage has discovered since the war…. [In my review of A Resounding Tinkle (see excerpt above)] I tried to explain how and why it had convulsed me, this casual surrealist sketch of a suburban couple with an elephant at their front door. (p. 210)

But I wondered at the time how Mr. Simpson would follow his tour de force. Could he bring it off again without repeating himself? The Hole proved triumphantly that he could; that he was no mere flash in the pen, but a true lord of language, capable of using words with the sublime, outrageous authority of Humpty Dumpty.

People who believe with John Lehmann that English writers have lost interest in verbal and stylistic experiment should see Mr. Simpson's work and recant. Indeed, everyone should see it: for it is not a private highbrow joke, but pure farce, wild and liberated, on a level accessible to anyone who has ever enjoyed the radio Goons (Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, especially) or treasured the memory of W. C. Fields. I suspect, in fact, that Goon-lovers, who are accustomed to verbal fire-work displays at which logic is burnt in effigy, may get more sheer pleasure out of Mr. Simpson than professional intellectuals, against whose habit of worrying about the meaning of...

(The entire section is 510 words.)