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Why do novelists struggle to write plays?

2nd July 2010

It appears to be an enduring mystery of the literary world why many novelists find it difficult to write for the stage, a theatre critic has argued.

Writing in the Guardian, Alexis Soloski pointed out that many authors who are well respected for their novels have received little in the way of praise when they turned their attention to theatre.

She cited Graham Greene's The Great Jowett, The Riviera Girl or Candle-Light by P.G. Wodehouse and Virginia Woolf's Freshwater as productions that failed to match the brilliance of their authors' novelistic efforts.

'Why have so many writers had so much success between paperback covers and so little on stage? Novels, like plays, rely on plotting and character; they often include mounds of dialogue,' Soloski pondered.

However, she also claimed that some writers have managed to overcome this mysterious problem and have achieved success in both forms, giving Anton Chekhov as the most notable example.

Soloski is not the only writer who has recently recognised Chekhov's brilliance. In an article for the Independent last month, novelist Scarlett Thomas praised the Russian author's commitment to basing his writing around objectivity, honesty, brevity, daring and compassion.

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