Friday, October 14, 2005

Another playwright ...

Harold Pinter has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. I can't say I've ever been much of a fan myself. Pinter's work has always struck me as a leaden amalgam of the pretentious and the boring. Since there are accolades galore, let's, for variety's sake, take a look at the the dissenters. Here's Roger Kimball. And here's J. Bottum.
But to be fair, here, from the right, is also a defense.
What is most annoying about this award is that the Swedes continue to ignore the first-rate in their midst, namely, Torgny Lindgren. As for American writers who deserve it, I'll stick with Elmore Leonard.


  1. My own feelings about the Nobel Lit run more along the lines of what someone -- was it Paul Theroux? -- said several years ago: That the committee deliberations about awarding the prize begin and end with, "Isn't it time for an Albanian?"

  2. I think I may have heard the name Harold Pinter once or twice before he won the Nobel, but didn't really know who he was. Frankly, I still don't care. The Literature prize never really does anything for me. It's like Melville said, they just pick the most obscure author they possibly can just to show how smart and multicultural they all are.

  3. Agreedon Leonard, although he would have to wait in line behind Updike in my book.

    Rick Moran

  4. Frank, I have not read many of Pinter's works ... so I would be the last to call myself an authority.

    But I did have an opportunity to perform Pinter in the 1970s, when we presented "Dumb Waiter" on the stage at Dallas High School (a couple hours' drive north of you there, in Philly).

    I still remember the dialogue that began with that performance, and engaged so many of our fellow students for the week or two that followed. There was something provocative and thought-provoking going on, up on that stage ... and, no, it was NOT my performance! :-)

    But, as I recall that time, more than thirty years ago, I find myself agreeing - in part, at least - with the post by Rick Moran, that you shared from "Rightwing Nuthouse."

  5. I first became acquainted with Pinter when I was in college, between '60 and '64, when he was first starting to become well known over here. I was peripherally involved with the drama club and Pinter was cutting edge. I agree that Pinter's dialogue can be thought-provoking and his discernment of the imprtance of silence is significant. But his gloomy, claustrophobic world has never appealed to me. This may reflect a limitation on my part: While I can appreciate the exhilaration of glorious, defiant defeat -- Leonidas and his Spartans at Thermopylae -- mere defeatism turns me off. I'm just not one to mope about how bad things are; I'd rather get on with making the most of a bad situation.
    As for Updike, again I confess to a blind spot: I viscerally detested Rabbit, Run when I read it in college and was never able to even slightly warm to Rabbit Angstrom thereafter. I used to like Updike's nonfiction prose a lot, but lately it has seemed self-conscious and precious. I chose Leonard because I think the rhythm of his prose and his spot-on dialogue give the reader a sense of what America is really like once you get out of the big cities on either coast -- a sense the Swedish Academy evidently lacks. (BTW, glad I've come to know Rightwing Nuthose; will be visiting regularly.)

  6. I do not know an awful lot about Harold Pinter, but the limited amount of what I have seen and read of his works I have enjoyed/appreciated. So I fall on the side of those who say judge him by his artistic works, not his politics. If one affects the other, so be it; if the art that comes out is praiseworthy, then that's an end on it. I can like Bertolt Brecht, even though he was cheeky, wealthy communist. I can like John Dos Passos both when he was a leftie and a rightie (admittedly more the former, because by the time he turned rightward his artistic powers had waned). As for John Updike . . . yes, he's on my midlist, if not shortlist, for the Nobel. Among his qualities is his defense of his fellow Pennsylvanian, and yet another John -- O'Hara.

  7. I definitely agree that Pinter -- and any other writer or artist -- should be judged artistically on the merits of their work. I think Pinter did some fine work for the screen -- The French Lieutenant's Woman, his adaptation of Betrayal (but not The Pumpkin Eater, redeemed only by James Mason's characteristically stellar performance). As for Brecht, the only professional theater review I ever did was of his last play, an adaptaion of Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer called Trumpets and Drums. God, it was awful. (There's The Threepenny Opera, of course, but Brecht only contributed some lyrics to that, actually). I also think that Brecht's influence on the theater has been perncious -- one reason we get so many cutouts preaching sermonettes instead of characters grappling with life. Nice to know Updike has defended O'Hara. Maybe, one of these days, I'll give John another look. I do think he would have been a better choice than Pinter.