The Half-Finished Hat

Reading & Writing

Very rarely do I reach out with small baby-grab motions toward a book, moaning softly. Trust me, it’s not a good look. But this one – oh, I’ve been waiting to get my mitts on it for months, and there it was in Foyles, ahead of Amazon! Sondheim’s dissection of his writing is enlightening, riveting and, in places, vitriolic.

The book comprises lyrics, notebooks, observations, anecdotes, tips and complaints. He’s his own toughest critic and sometimes unjustly hard on himself. One disappointing thing – this big volume ends at the arguable peak of his career, with ‘Into The Woods’, ‘Sunday In The Park With George’, ‘Passion’, ‘Bounce’ and all of his unfinished projects still left uncovered.

Apparently while Sondheim was in London a couple of weeks ago, he said that Volume 2 is on its way. This is a dream Christmas present for anyone who cares about words

4 comments on “The Half-Finished Hat”

  1. It’s right at the top of my Christmas list.

  2. J F Norris says:

    When I was writing songs for a cabaret back in my theater college days (and later for a comedy troupe with singing actors) I learned how to write lyrics from two sources: Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. Porter taught me how to use wit, unusual rhyme and meter, but Sondheim taught me how to match words to notes and sentences to musical phrases and how pronunciation should match tonal quality and …need I go on? I’ll be hunting down this book within the next few days. Thanks for enlightening me about its existence!

  3. RobertR says:

    My copy arrived from Amazon today – it’s a wonderfully detailed record of the shows Sondheim has been involved in up to ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and is a masterclass in lyric writing, how songs changed their shape as productions developed and just from dipping into his short essays on other (all dead) lyric writers is both a very personal view as well as a reflection and comment on his own work. Plus it’s a well produced nicely hefty book!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I’m to pass on the title to a friend of a friend as a Christmas gift suggestion.

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