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Thread: Harold Pinter, one of the true greats, dead at 78

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Harold Pinter, one of the true greats, dead at 78

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/de...ld-pinter-dies

    One of the greatest dramatists of the 20th Century. Certainly my favourite and one of the few famous people I might have liked to meet one day, however long the odds of that happening. I feel genuinely sad.

    But hey, at least this might mean a retrospective of his work on the BBC this year. Controller willing.

    Some clips:

    A scene from The Birthday Party. This is the film version. There's actually a better TV version in which Pinter appears himself as Goldberg. But the casting of McCann here is very good.

    A scene from The Homecoming.

    Here's one of his seventies TV plays, for those of you who don't have UK TV. No guarantee of that retrospective anyway. I haven't seen this yet, so can't vouch for it, but it was the only thing I could find complete on Youtube.

    Excepts from a very great speech at the National Student Drama Festival, Bristol, 1962:

    'I'm not a theorist. I'm not an authoritative or reliable commentator on the dramatic scene, the social scene, any scene. I write plays, when I can manage it, and that's all. That's the sum of it. So I'm speaking with some reluctance, knowing that there are at least twenty-four possible aspects of any single statement, depending on where you're standing at the time or what the weather's like. A categorical statement I find will never stay where it is and be finite. It will immediately be subject to modification by the other twenty-three possibilities of it. No statement I make, therefore, should be interpreted as final and definitive. One or two of them may sound final and definitive, they may even be almost final and definitive, but I won't regard them as such tomorrow, and I wouldn't like you to do so today.'

    On an early performance in Dusseldorf:

    'I was at once booed violently by what must have been the finest collection of booers in the world. I thought they were using megaphones, but it was pure mouth. The cast was as dogged as the audience, however, and we took thirty-four curtain calls, all to boos.'

    'What I write has absolutely no obligation to anything other than itself.'

    'A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

    'Apart from any other consideration, we are faced with the immense difficulty, if not impossibility, of verifying the past... If one can speak of the difficulty of knowing what in fact took place yesterday, one can, I think, treat the present in the same way. What's happening now? We won't know until tomorrow or in six months' time, and we won't know then...'

    'The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear.'

    Any my favourite bit by far:

    'We have heard many times that tired, grimy phrase: "Failure of Communication"... and this phrase has been fixed to my work quite consistently. I believe the contrary. I think we communicate only too well...'

    The whole thing is worth quoting, but that would probably be illegal and anyway I haven't got the patience to type it all out.

    Thanks for everything, Harold.

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    This is rather sad. I've never read any of his works, but I remember when I first about him, in a drama class, and the "Pinter pause". I'll have to get myself in gear and read some of his plays now.
    J.H.S.

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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    He was very good, one of the few modern Nobel Prize winners who I think deserved the award. However, I believe he got it for his anti-war work more than for his writing. I wouldn't put him above Williams, Miller, or O'Neill, and he's certainly below his friend Beckett, but for the second half of the twentieth century he's definitely one of the front runners. I don't have any trouble considering him alongside the previously mentioned authors and others like Pirandello or Sartre. I don't know that he'll last as long as Shaw, but The Dumb Waiter was very good.

    If anyone wants to see some good interviews of Pinter, Charlie Rose interviewed him in two hour long segments, and all of Rose's shows are available free on Google Video.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
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    Sadly, I have never experienced Pinter in the theater, because my forays into performance were mainly during university, and then some short stints at Wilma while I still had a real career, but Pinter is constantly discussed as someone who changed theater itself, and I did happen to see his interview with Rose, but that seemed to drift off into Pinter's leftist stance, more than not. He said he would never write another play.

    I do wonder though: Is it that he made Beckett relevant to modern audiences?

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    He was very good, one of the few modern Nobel Prize winners who I think deserved the award. However, I believe he got it for his anti-war work more than for his writing.
    His Nobel Prize was for literature. At the time, he was writing anti-war poems protesting the War in Iraq. They were widely criticised as being lacking in literary merit, trite and overly reliant on obscenities. The suggestion that it was this that he got his prize for this work was made by him, mainly, I think, as a jokey response to his detractors.

    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror
    I wouldn't put him above Williams, Miller, or O'Neill, and he's certainly below his friend Beckett, but for the second half of the twentieth century he's definitely one of the front runners. I don't have any trouble considering him alongside the previously mentioned authors and others like Pirandello or Sartre. I don't know that he'll last as long as Shaw, but The Dumb Waiter was very good.
    So are The Birthday Party, The Homecoming and Old Times, to name a few.

    For some reason I can't resist engaging in this comparison game: I think Pinter's better than either Williams or O'Neill, both of whom date a lot less well and can end up ridiculous when they want to be gut wrenching.
    Last edited by blp; 12-25-2008 at 02:12 PM.

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jozanny View Post
    I do wonder though: Is it that he made Beckett relevant to modern audiences?
    Beckett's a huge influence on Pinter, but a lot of their work is contemporaneous and I wouldn't say one was more relevant to modern audiences than the other.

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    Ditsy Pixie Niamh's Avatar
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    What!!! Harold Pinter died! Cant believe it! He has had a long battle with cancer. may his soul rest in peace.
    The Gate will be playing his works more often than usual now. They always have a Pinter on every year.
    "Come away O human child!To the waters of the wild, With a faery hand in hand, For the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand."
    W.B.Yeats

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    Internal nebulae TheFifthElement's Avatar
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    Would that we all had such a legacy as Pinter has left. May he rest in peace.
    Want to know what I think about books? Check out https://biisbooks.wordpress.com/

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    Mr RonPrice Ron Price's Avatar
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    FINDING OUT: On Pinter

    I feel as a citizen of the world that I have a responsibility, to the best of my ability, to find out what is going on, to be vigilant, to speak about it, to act on it. My poetic writing is an expression of this action, this speaking, this finding out. It allows me to confront the issues which concern me. It also allows me to celebrate life, to set the living language of poetry, of art, against the dead prose of so many places, to challenge the established views of society and oppose them with the power of my own imagination; and to enjoy the private, solitary side of my life. My religious commitment is also an expression of this trying to find out what is going on, but in a different way; so is a plethora of acts in my daily life. As we strive to understand what is going on we must keep in mind that we often will not know until tomorrow, or in six months time. By then we might have forgotten or have our imagination attribute false chacteristics to the past event. The following poem is a meditation on the question of finding out what is going on. -Ron Price with thanks to Penelope Prentice, The Pinter Ethic: The Erotic Aesthetic, Garland Pub., Inc., NY, 1994.

    What is going on? you ask.
    Well, there is a question
    of such immense complexity,
    such staggering fascination,
    that this poetic opus can be
    filled again and again until
    I leave this mortal coil and
    confront and celebrate in the
    privacy of my chamber until
    tomorrow and tomorrow and
    tomorow become yesterdays
    and my metaphysic,
    my epistomology,
    my ontology,
    my weltanschaung,
    meets yours in what seems to me
    a never-ending journey or, more
    often, on a trip that goes absolutely
    nowhere, fast, or so it often seeems,
    eh, Harold: I wonder if you have gone
    nowhere, Harold: time will tell, yes....

    Ron Price
    3 August 2000
    Ron Price is a Canadian who has been living in Australia for 42 years(in 2013). He is married to a Tasmanian and has been for 37 years after 8 years in a first marriage. At the age of 69 he now spends most of his time as an author and writer, poet and publisher. editor and researcher, online blogger, essayist, journalist and engaging in independent scholarship. He has been associated with the Baha'i Faith for 60 years and a member for 53 years.cool:

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    Champion Pierogi Eater Mr. Vandemar's Avatar
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    I was in a production of "One for the Road".

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    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Great. The one living writer that I actually liked is no longer living.

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    Great. The one living writer that I actually liked is no longer living.
    That's it, isn't it? He was also the last living link I can think of to Modernism and the foremost proponent of the great, iconoclastic tradition of absurdist drama that came out of that.

    It's a hard act to follow and I don't think it's been adequately followed yet. Younger writers for theater have either gone kind of po-mo and fantastical, returned to realism or got stuck in sub-Pinterisms on the order of Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill and Jez Butterworth, the little clutch of writers who hit it big briefly in the nineties. Kane was the only one who might have had staying power, though I disliked her work, but she killed herself. The other two have faded away, mainly, I think, because they didn't have voices of their own, just a shallow ability to mimic the Pinter manner, with none of the tension, oddness and surprise of his work.

    I always think Pinter and the painter Francis Bacon are sort of artistic equivalents. Pinter said he only met Bacon once at a dinner for three arranged by another man. At some point, the other man left and Pinter asked Bacon who he was. No idea, said Bacon, I thought you knew him. Not me, said Pinter, I thought he was a friend of yours.

    MEG. Was it nice?
    STANLEY. What?
    MEG. The fried bread.
    STANLEY. Succulent.
    MEG. You shouldn't say that word.
    STANLEY. What word?
    MEG. That word you said.
    STANLEY. What, succulent--?
    MEG. Don't say it!

    -- From The Birthday Party

  13. #13
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blp View Post
    It's a hard act to follow and I don't think it's been adequately followed yet. Younger writers for theater have either gone kind of po-mo and fantastical, returned to realism or got stuck in sub-Pinterisms on the order of Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill and Jez Butterworth, the little clutch of writers who hit it big briefly in the nineties. Kane was the only one who might have had staying power, though I disliked her work, but she killed herself. The other two have faded away, mainly, I think, because they didn't have voices of their own, just a shallow ability to mimic the Pinter manner, with none of the tension, oddness and surprise of his work.
    I take it you don't think much of Tom Stoppard, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, or Peter Shaffer?
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
    Feed the Hungry!

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    I take it you don't think much of Tom Stoppard, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, or Peter Shaffer?
    At a glance, that looks a pretty big assumption, but maybe it's based on a misunderstanding. It's true that I don't think much of Kushner and it's so long since I've seen Equus that it wouldn't be fair to say comment on Shaffer, though I remember it favourably. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf seems pretty much as good to me as anything in Pinter. Stoppard's a clever writer, but really really not to my taste. I dunno. Pinter, with a lot of pointers from Beckett admittedly, created a poetics, a new mode of language. I don't think any of the others have his strength of voice.

    But all of these people, except for Kushner, are pretty much the same generation as Pinter. They weren't trying to follow his act. I meant to refer to younger writers. Kushner was exactly who I had in mind when I was talking about po-mo fantastical writing.
    Last edited by blp; 12-27-2008 at 01:33 PM.

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Here's a Guardian piece on this, with a slew of tributes from other playwrights:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/20...espeare-gambon
    From the above:

    David Edgar said Pinter would be remembered for his "brilliant" dialogue and uncompromising politics, as well as for works which illustrate "the power of metaphor - quite strong, still shocking metaphor" in a society that had come to view drama in increasingly literal terms.
    I like the attack on increasing literalism, but it seems wrong to me to suggest that metaphor is the only alternative or that that was what Pinter employed.

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