This melodramatic comedy is set in SoHo, London, on the stage of the Tivoli Palace of Music in April of 1895. A young man is hopelessly in love with a teenage music-hall dancer who can't stand him, thinks he is stalking her (which he is), and fears that he is going to shoot her (which he isn't). Because she rejects him, he decides to kill himself. The girl's aunt, an actress and singer, and their friend, an over-the-hill comedian still mourning the death of his wife, try to intervene to "cure" him, and at the same time, teach the thwarted lover what true love really means. This is one of Wilder's many treatments of unrequited love.
"A laugh at sex is a laugh at destiny. And the stage is peculiarly fitted to be its home. There A woman is so quickly All Women. What more telling ratification could be found of my favorite principle that the characters on the stage tend to figure as generalizations, that the stage burns and longs to express a timeless individualized Symbol. The accumulation of fictions-fictions as time, as place, as character-is forever tending to reveal its true truth: man, woman, time, place." -Thornton Wilder, Journal, October 29, 1940.
Such Things Only Happen in Books was first produced November 25, 1931, at the Yale University theater in New Haven, Connecticut, by the Yale Dramatic Association and the Vassar College Philalethis, with The Long Christmas Dinner, Love and How to Cure It, and The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden.