Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In addition to composing plays and occasionally adapting the dramas of others, Tom Stoppard has written several short stories, radio plays, teleplays, screenplays, and the novel Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon (1966). He prides himself on his versatility, eschewing the notion of the dedicated author plowing a lonely furrow and sacrificing almost all other concerns on the altar of high art. Instead, as he told an interviewer in 1976: I’ve got a weakness . . . for rather shallow people who knock off a telly play and write a rather good novel and . . . interview Castro and write a good poem and a bad poem and . . . every five years do a really good piece of work as well. That sort of eclectic, trivial person who’s very gifted.

Stoppard’s novel Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon is “rather good.” It is an exuberant farce that uses a collage of literary styles and allusions ranging from those of Joseph Conrad to Oscar Wilde, and from James Joyce to T. S. Eliot. Lord Malquist is a modern-day earl who seeks to sustain the dandyish refinements of his eighteenth century ancestors. His hired diarist, Mr. Moon, is a pathetically ineffectual man obsessively nursing a homemade bomb. Where the imperious and selfish Malquist anticipates such later dramatic characters as Sir Archibald Jumper of Jumpers, the confused, Prufrockian Moon models for the rebuffs experienced by the same text’s George Moore. Malquist sums up what seems to be the novel’s thesis when he declares, “since we cannot hope for order, let us withdraw with style from the chaos.”