Jason Robert Brown Reflects on The Eighth Day
On November 14, 1968, Thornton Wilder received the National Book Award for his sixth novel, The Eighth Day. On the 50th Anniversary this event, we celebrate with Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s thoughts on the book.
There was a time in my life when all I knew of Thornton Wilder was the plays. And then I realized that there were all these novels and so I began to read those. The first one I picked up was The Eighth Day. And I thought, “This is how my life changes: by reading this book.” Everything that was being written here was stuff I needed to learn and to understand in my life. It’s a whole specific kind of humanity he writes about. It’s not a Pollyanna humanity. It’s very clear-eyed, but generous. That understanding that people can be utterly terrible, but also have the capacity for enormous good. After reading that, it became a thing for my writing to aspire to. To appreciate the humanity of the characters. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times now. I think I’ve re-read The Eighth Day more than I’ve reread anything.What’s also significant about the book is that it talks about the responsibility of brilliant people. (Lets assume that everyone has an enormous ego and go from there.) And being an artist requires of something of you. There are both responsibilities and challenges of being an artist.
Weirdly, last month, I just finished reading it again.