Mountain,” a prayer for his late fathernthat plays delicately on the biblicalnassociations of North Carolina mountains:nI see my father has gone to climbnEasily the Pisgah Slope, takingnthe timenHe’s got a world of . . .nHe is alone, except what voicesnout of timenCome to his head like bees tonthe bee-tree crown.nThe voices of former life asnindistinct as heat.nOn principle, I don’t believe in talking,nmuch less writing, about what a poemnis supposed to mean, as if only the poetnwere as smart as I am. And oF Fred, thennarrator of Midquest, is the last man onnearth I’d make an exception for. (TF)nIN FOCUSnStage Props &nProgram Notesnby Raymond J. PentzellnThe Plays of Eugene O’Neill: A NewnAssessment by Virginia Floyd, NewnYork: Frederick Ungar; $24.50.nEugene O’Neill’s life was a purgatory,nas he never ceased informing us. Hisnfinal plays, those written or revisednfrom 1939 on, leave us with a vision ofnhim plodding at last toward the top ofnthat inverted mountain, the mannemerging from his lifelong tormentsnand the artist from his befuddlements.nO’Neill is unique among Americanndramatists in having had a long, continuallynchallenging career and in actuallynlearning his art as a result: his last playsnare of course his best, hi comparison tonthem, only The Emperor ]ones and ThenHairy Ape, out of all the piecesnchurned forth between 1913 and 1934,ncan give a clear-eyed playgoer thenslightest inkling of what all the fuss wasnonce about. A half-dozen truly remarkablenplays out of 50 written may seemninefficient, like the ratio of shot footagento finally edited film in a Hollywoodnmovie, but who are we, after the fact, toncomplain?nStill, purgatory (as I remember myncatechism) is not only for the searingnaway of unrepented sinfulness but alsonfor “the temporal punishment still duento sin already forgiven,” the idea beingnthat a sin’s ongoing harm to othernpeople continues to deserve some retri­nbution, hi this light, O’Neill may yetnstand in need of the prayers of thenfaithful, for his career, though exemplarynin its perseverance and final accomplishment,nhas continued to servenas a model for the most baleful of ourndramaturgical vices, the confusion ofnartistic production with confessional,nself-serving autobiography. Every week,nyear in and year out, every playreader ofnevery theatrical company groans underna new pile of scripts revealing “How MynMother (My Father, Capitalism, thenChurch, a Small Town) Made Me anRebel (Homosexual, Sensitive Artist,nAlcoholic, Nymphomaniac, Vegetable)”nand “What It’s Really Like to Be anJew (Negro, Irishman, Italian, Southerner,nLett, Playwright, Inmate, etc.).”nMoreover, at least until the passingnaway of Beck and Malina, Americanndrama remained infected by that othernof O’Neill’s bad examples, Nietzscheanngasbaggery about “Oneness” with morenor less everything. O’Neill’s shade stillnneeds indulgences.nAnd, yes, his work still fascinates us,non every level of generality or pedantry.nIf you want to know (let us just supposenIn the forthcoming issue of Chronicles:nAmber Waves of Grainnyou might) how many characters innO’Neill’s oeuvre ever pulled a gun, youncan find out in Virginia Floyd’s ThenPlays of Eugene O’Neill: A New Assessment,non page 557. If your mad interestnlies in counting the characters describednby stage directions as looking likenO’Neill himself (or like one of hisnparents, or like brother Jamie, or like annold shipmate or a onetime drinkingnbuddy), you can track that informationneasily through the play-by-play entriesnin this handy handbook. A virtual concordancento the 50 completed—andnfistfuls of “projected”—plays, Floyd’snlittle book is a most useful addition tonthe five- or six-foot shelf of O’Neilliananby now available to all of us caught bynthat brooding, awkward, overreaching,nself-lacerating, windy, honest, and impressivenmonument of Americanndrama. Floyd has put together a catalogn(lacking, however, a decent bibliography)nof plot-summaries, recurring “motifs”nof character and theme, first productionsnand copyright dates, andnreferences to O’Neill’s workaday notebooksnand rough drafts.nIt is by no means “A New Assess-n”l-‘rol5ably tl:c poet va,s iieer tlie .substantial friend tlicnfarmer was looking for. Still he has proved a better friendnthan the seientkst and the government expert. He hasngenerally shown admiration rather than eontempt for thenfarmer’s personal eapacities, and if his adviee has notnalways been useful, at least it has not been deadly.”n—from “The Poet Behind the Plow”nby Fred ChappellnALSOnClyde Wilson defends the Southern farmernagainst his criticsnE. Christian Kopff makes anvideo tour of the boondocksnErik von Kuehnelt-liCddihn discoversnthe American bishops have asses’ earsnnnJUNE19S6/33n