Most theater critics deal in perishable wares. Their work serves its turn; then it can be laid to rest, never again to be revisited (except, perhaps, by theater historians). But a few—a very few—critics resist this hard fate. They are still worth reading long after most of the productions they write about have been forgotten. What they have to say, and the way that they say it, are of permanent interest.
Is John Simon a member of this select band? The recently published collection of his theater criticism makes the implicit claim that he is. It runs to well over 800 pages. It is beautifully produced. It ranges back from the near-present to productions which came and went over thirty years ago. It’s a big book, whichever way you look at it—and no one who wasn’t a front-rank critic would deserve to have his work preserved at such length, or with such care.