Book Report: Jumpers by Tom Stoppard (1972, 1981)

I thought I’d read a quick bit of drama to break up a larger multi-book volume that I’m also working on currently. A full evening play. You know, something you could read in a night. Ha. This one took me three nights.

It’s not a straightforward play, unlike the stuff I’ve read by Neil Simon recently or even this author’s own Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It’s a bit, erm, stylized, which requires a lot more attention reading and relies on some conceits and whatnot that you have to keep in mind to follow along.

For example, this book takes place in a future England from 1972, where England has landed on the moon, but tragedy struck there as the lander was damaged and the two landing astronauts fought each other to see who would survive, and the television audience back home saw the fight live. Fancy that: in 1972, they thought everyone would go to the moon.

Also, the government has been taken over by a totalitarian left (but I repeat myself) party that has rounded up the usual suspects and has replaced the Archbishop of Canterbury with some other government minister. The main characters are a philosopher who holds a chair at a university where the ultimate leader has a band of professors/acrobats (the titular jumpers) and his wife, a former musical actress who lost it singing a moon song after the above mentioned astronaut incident.

During a party, when the professor is working, the wife shoots one of the jumpers.

She deals with covering it up with the help of her “therapist” who does some strange things with her and might be schlepping her.

The professor works on a major presentation and tries to reconcile with the wife. Then an inspector, a fan of the wife, shows up. He might know something about the dead jumper, but he squelches the investigation for a chair at the university (open as said jumper is dead), maybe some autographs, and maybe some schlepping.

I think I’ve given you the nutshell of this piece. I don’t even remember how it ends. I certainly didn’t get the point.

On the whole, I think the nicest thing I can say for it is at least it’s not French drama.

Books mentioned in this review: