Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Book of Days

by Lanford Wilson

“A significant addition to the Lanford Wilson canon . . . his best work since 5th of July. . . . Book of Days manages to combine Wilson’s signature character-based whimsy with an atypically strong narrative book and politically charged underpinnings.” –Chris Jones, Variety

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 128
  • Publication Date November 15, 2000
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3741-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

Book of Days is the new play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Lanford Wilson that makes us re-examine how we perceive the people we thought we knew best, and the threat posed by the religious right.

Reminiscent of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, Book of Days is about a small southwestern Missouri town confronted by a violent death and is forced to reconsider the world and values they thought they knew inside and out. Dublin, Missouri is dominated by three institutions: a cheese plant, a fundamentalist church, and a community theater. The Cheese factory is owned by Walt, who wants to keep the status quo and reap the profits from producing mediocre cheese for Kraft Foods. The plant manager, Len, has bigger plans. He wants to transform the part of the output into fine cheeses for a more refined clientele.

The play begins when a guest director, escaping Hollywood and on the run from the IRS, casts cheese plant bookkeeper Ruth Hoch, and Len’s wife, as Joan of Arc in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan. When Walt, the owner of the cheese plant, dies mysteriously in a hunting accident and Ruth’s husband’s dreams of turning the plant into a gourmet cheese factory are threatened, Ruth is forced into action. Suspecting murder, Ruth launches a one woman campaign to see justice done. In doing so, she pits herself against the church and against the lascivious new owner of the cheese plant. Ruth, forced into heroism, gradually becomes the character she is playing onstage–crusading, single-minded, fearless Joan of Arc. In Book of Days, Lanford Wilson uses note perfect language to create characters that are remarkable both for their comic turns and for their enormous depth.


“Mr. Wilson’s powerful new play has a storytelling beginning that recalls his early work, Rimers of Eldrich Book of Days does not just blend contradictions. It is a meditation on Joan of Arc and what would become of her today. It is about fundamentalism and honor (and dishonor and hypocrisy), the masking of evil and all manner of religious fanaticism to mask truth. . . . Mr. Wilson adroitly weaves and unravels a many-layered tale, develops complex characters and themes upon themes upon themes. Time has deepened his inimitable lyricism, sense of irony, humor gentle and wicked as well as his regard for humanity. . . . Mr. Wilson’s cosmic consciousness, intense moral concern, sense of human redemption and romantic effusion have climbed to a new peak.” –Alvin Klein, The New York Times

“No playwright is truer at conveying the work people do. . . . These basically realistic characters [are] not only themselves but also members of a fluid and flexible commenting chorus. . . . [Wilson’s] Pirandellian playfulness and Brechtian distancing, new for him, effectively convey the two-way traffic between art and life. . . . Wilson sees the world clearly and represents it without grudge-bearing or edulcoration, and keeps the play moving forward with unflagging vivacity in plot and subplots alike.” –John Simon, New York Magazine

“This Book of Days is an event. . . . Book of Days is lively storytelling by one of our best playwrights.” –Lawrence DeVine, Detroit Free Press

“A significant addition to the Lanford Wilson canon . . . his best work since 5th of July. . . . Book of Days manages to combine Wilson’s signature character-based whimsy with an atypically strong narrative book and politically charged underpinnings.” –Chris Jones, Variety

“Many elements contribute to the dense, delicious texture of Book of Days . . . above all, there’s the language. . . . You could go to the theater night after night and never hear language so supple. In Book of Days, you hear nothing but.” –Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post Dispatch

“Its real beauty lies in the poetry of the ordinary, in the unexpected turns life takes. Here is a chronicle of life in a small town, laid out day by surprising day, as Wilson explores such subjects as ambition and the fear of change. . . . It is what it says it is: a book of days, a diary, a story to be told by characters at once good and bad, admirable and not. It’s a snapshot of small-town American life at the end of the millennium–in some ways not so different from big city life, in other ways light years distant.” –Scott Miller, In Theater

[Book of Days] is a daring combination of humor, melodrama and intrigue, resulting in an entertaining night of theater. . . . [Wilson] is known as a subtle Chekhovian writer chronicling the quiet lives of Midwesterners. He constructs his plays on character rather than plot.” –E. Kyle Minor, New Haven Register

“A wonderfully executed black comedy that burrows slowly beneath the cherry surface of contemporary American small town life, and down into the darker impulses that underpin it. You don’t know whether to laugh or be appalled by much of what you see, so you laugh and are appalled. But never are you bored.” –Alistair Highet, Hartford Advocate

Praise for Lanford Wilson

“From his earliest plays to his latest, Lanford Wilson has been firmly committed to the free expression of the individual spirit, no matter how nonconformist or even prodigal that spirit may seem to be.” –Mel Gussow, The New York Times

“A writer who illuminates the deepest dramas of American life with poetry and compassion.” –Frank Rich, from the Introduction to Lanford Wilson: 21 Short Plays

“Lanford Wilson’s writing leaves an indelible fingerprint of humanity for the reader to detect with gasps of delight.” –Marshall W. Mason

“From the beginning, Lanford Wilson has had a fabulous ear for American dialogue. . . . He could conjure the mood in a line or two or even in just a pause.” –Booklist