Sad news out of Britain today: playwright and essayist Simon Gray is dead at the age of 71.
I was introduced to Gray's work in graduate school via Jim Nicholson's playwriting class at Washington University. For me, he's a vastly underrated playwright who was often dismissed as slightly on the verge of middle-brow. The work is a lot deeper than that, however. (Harold Pinter's close working relationship with Gray, I think, is a true sign of that depth. Pinter directed many of Gray's plays.)
The obituaries have fastened on Butley, Otherwise Engaged (one of the most nihilistic plays I've ever read), The Common Pursuit and Quartermaine's Terms -- and, of course, his tartly hilarious diaries. But for my money, The Rear Column is my favorite Gray play. It's been a really big influence on what I write -- which often touches on history. And I did manage to see Hidden Laughter near the end of its run in 1990.
Here's a great profile from The Observer in 2004 that gives you a sense of the man. He'll be missed.