Friday, October 14, 2005

Next year I suppose he'll get the Peace Prize: Pinter wins Nobel for literature

First off, I must confess that I like his early plays--or at least I did when I saw them, many moons ago. "The Birthday Party" was especially fine, as I recall, and I enjoyed the original Broadway production of "The Homecoming" as a teenager.

So, even though Pinter has turned into a raving leftist political hater of formidable intensity and moonbattery, his Nobel prize for literature doesn't seem beyond the pale, although I suspect he wouldn't have gotten it if his politics hadn't dovetailed so very nicely with the Nobel committee's mission of sticking it to Bush, Blair, and Company.

I'm not the only one who suspects that this is the case; Pinter, to his credit, admits as much:

In an interview with Reuters Television yesterday, Pinter wondered whether his increased visibility on the political front may have played a part in the choice: ''I've been writing plays for about 50 years. But I am also very politically engaged and I am not at all sure to what extent that factor had anything to do with this award."

I encountered his politics about a year ago through one of those ubiquitous forwards a relative had approvingly sent. The content was hateful and mindless; I have no interest in reproducing it here or linking to it, but Pinter has a website that's easy enough to locate, if you care to browse there.

Pinter says he's now given up writing plays (quit while you're ahead?):

''I think the world has had enough of my plays." He plans, instead, to concentrate on poetry.

Curious, I took a look at his poetry and found that it is mindbogglingly and stupendously bad; only a moment of reading it and I'd had more than enough of his poetry. Since his unique poetry cannot be adequately described and can only be experienced, I've changed my mind and this time I will provide a link, just to let you see what this Literature Nobel prizewinner and winner of the Wilfred Owen prize for poetry (a sad reflection of the current state of poetry in the world) is up to these days.

But back, mercifully, to his plays. If Pinter can be said to have had a mastery, it certainly was not of plot, but of language and dialogue of a peculiar and haunting kind, with its own strange and mysterious humor. Pinter elevated the pause to a fine art:

I think we all learned the power of the pause from Harold," said Tina Packer, artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox. ''They're almost more important than the words because they focus your attention that you're in a theatrical space."

In ''The Life and Work of Harold Pinter," drama critic Michael Billington relates a story in which he asked Pinter when he first became aware of the power of the pause. ''He told me, with a slight twinkle, that it was from seeing Jack Benny . . . at the London Palladium in 1952."

Ah, Jack Benny! I wish I'd known that when I was attending Pinter's plays all those years ago; I don't think they'll ever seem the same again.

The one bright spot on the Nobel horizon, for me, is contained in the following Nobelian homage to geographic literary diversity. Can you locate it?

Nine of the last dozen winners of the literature prize have been from Europe, and a writer from the Arab or Asian world was expected to win this year. Along with Pamuk and Oz, writers rumored to be under consideration were the Syrian poet Adonis, Algerian writer Assia Djebar, and South Korean poet Ko Un. Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare, Swedish poet Tomhas Transtromer, American novelists Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and Don DeLillo, Czech novelist Milan Kundera, and Belgian writer Hugh Claus have also been mentioned as possible Nobelists.

Milan Kundera. Now, there would be a Nobelist worthy of the honor. Well, a neocon can dream, can't she?


At 1:45 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Jack Benny was the author of what became known as "the funniest silence in radio history." (A mugger acosted Benny with "Your money or your life!" The radio audience was so familiar with Benny's pathological miser persona that they laughed at the mental torment they knew he must be enduring. Finally, after a long silence, Benny asked for more time: "I'm thinking it over!")

"Seinfeld" was a TV remake of the Jack Benny radio show. (A stand-up comedian starring as a stand-up comedian under his own name. A regular crew of neurotics, all men except one beautiful women. Repeat a joke three times. Etc. etc.) Except the Benny show was more self-referential (it was set behind the scenes of the Jack Benny show. A typical episode would start with Benny saying, "I want Humphrey Bogart to guest star on the next show," and end with a broken and almost weeping Bogart agreeing to appear on the Benny show just to get Jack to stop bugging him). It also had a virtual character (the guitarist Remly, whose voice was never heard because he was always sleeping off a drunk).

All this in the 1930s. Yet Benny never got a Nobel.

At 2:02 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:20 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Sean Pelette said...

Pinter makes a genuinely good effort at displacing Vogon poetry from the rank of third worst poetry in the universe.

At 2:28 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we go again.
Only question is: does he deserve it for the plays (Betrayal, Birthday Party, Homecoming...) he produced from the late 1950s into the 1970s? Probably, especially if measured against such giants as Spitteler (1919), Canetti (1981) or the Austrian S&M fan last year.His "poetry" is abysmal agitprop.
Another larger question is why so many artists (good or bad) and intellectuals (real or pseudo) are against this Iraq war. Not all are inspired by knee-jerk or dumb Anti-Americanism. Do they not understand the threat from Islamofascism? Maybe some really do, but don't think Bush and Co. picked Iraq for reasons of their own. Is it not possible to oppose this war without being Anti-American? I think so, but you couldn't tell from a visit to LGF, or Frontpage, or NRO.
Remember, from in the good old days of Vietnam, the cry "America, Love it or Leave It?" Well, a Marine friend who got blown up there told me :"When I was serving there, I hated the anti-war protesters, like the Chicago 7. If I had known then what I know now, I might have joined them."
It is not necessary to leave America because you don't love this war. At least, for the sake of our country, I hope not.Maybe there's truth in the criticism, even if such truth is not discernible in the rants of Pinter. There are lots of other sources, some thoughtful and troubled, but hateful.

At 2:32 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


last line, "but not hateful."

At 2:41 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Sissy Willis said...

. . .

At 4:30 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Pinter is but one aspect of the detritus and flotsam in the long, enduring wake of the derivative Left's long march through the institutions.

Also, OT (excepting the caliphate of the Left is in some measure in a de facto alliance with the longed for caliphate of the Islamofascists):

This letter from al-Zawahiri, a couple of the key quotes:

"More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media ..."

"The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam — and how they ran and left their agents — is noteworthy. ... We must be ready starting now."

Zawahiri's letter in full (small pdf).

h/t: WindsOfChange

At 5:15 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Michael B--I read that letter; an amazing document. The man is certainly not stupid--it seems he's well aware of the role of the left and the media in past events such as Vietnam.

At 5:27 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If she hasn't already, I would love for Neo-Neocon to post on why artists tend to be so left-drifting. I have my own theories on the topic, but I suspect that hers would be more enlightening. Many artists think that they drift left because they care more, but I think there must be more to it than that. "Dancing in the Ring" I'm sure fits in somewhere, but I doubt that explains it all, either.

Just a humble request (that may have already been granted for all I know--I'm new here).

At 6:31 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Oh, Bunnies, you know. You intuitively know, but hoping that some person clever with words can articulate it.

I was a 1971-75 Theater major. I can smell it at 50 meters.

At 7:02 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may be right, Mr. Idiot. I guess to an extent I just want confirmation. Or perhaps I have a deep-seated need for revenge because of the studies I've read accusing me of an "innate comfort with inequality."

I find it funny how artists consider themselves to be so individualistic and original but then have the exact same political beliefs on everything.

I consider myself to be somewhat artistic, but if would be so nice to find other artists who don't make me laugh. They make me laugh even when I think they're really good at what they do.

For now, I'l just remain proud that I went to a poetry reading in Chigago and refrained from laughter the entire time; it was one of the greatest challenges I've ever faced.

Poetry used to mean Chaucer and Shakespeare, now it's about wailing and associating the Pres and VP's names with genitalia. I guess I'm just too shallow to get it.

At 7:19 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, a good portion of contemporary poetry is not much above the stuff written over unrinals in men's rooms. Not much like T.S. Eliot. But there still are "real" poets around--try Wilbur, Ashbury, Merrill or Donald Hall. But I'm not optimistic. As in other areas of our culture, the lowest common denominator--read: junk--will win out.
Back to to Yeats, then, laddies and lassies.

At 10:20 PM, October 14, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Bunnies, I recommend reading New Criterion, either online or on dead tree. It is an art and culture magazine of quite different orientation.

Your next project is to not laugh at a poetry reading while going with someone else who also knows it's tripe. Much harder, but I wish you luck.

At 11:04 PM, October 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would contrast Pinter's comments on Iraq -- why else did he get the Nobel Prize for Literature at this time (or Jimmy Carter the "Peace Prize?") -- with this editorial (link) on Iraq from the Bangkok Post (via Roger L Simon's website)
The Bangkok Post gets it, the New York Times is lost.

At 7:18 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger SteveR said...

Well, actually, I think Pinter *deserves* the Nobel literature prize soley for inspiring my favorite Seinfeld episode, "The Betrayal," - the one that ran backwards.

Actually, I've never seen Pinter's "Betrayal", nor any other Pinter play, nor am I now inclined to do so.

But Pinter's contribution to Seinfeldian humor should justify the Prize.

BTW, I didn't realize until someone told me afterwards that the Seinfeld episode got the backwards-running idea from a Pinter play. Then, over the years, as I've watched that episode several times in reruns, I've picked up more Pinteresque references, i.e., Elain's Indian ex-boyfriend's name was Pinter, and the name of the episode itself. Just thinking about it makes me laugh.

Oh well, after all, this year is (once again) the Year of the Inappropriate Nobel Prize Recipients, isn't it. I mean, how funny is it that ElBaradei and the IAEA wins the Peace prize, after both N.K. and Iraq were bomb-making right under their noses.... One might say, in a post-Katerinesque manner, "Mo', you're doin' a heck of a job!"

Best regards,

At 10:11 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

For some reason I'm a lot more interested (Yes a lot is two words) in the composition and stories of the judging panel that gives out these "Nobel Prizes" rather than the stories of the recipients themselves.

Go figure...

At 10:33 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Deadman said...

Pinter's poetry isn't exactly what I would call the result of literary genius, either. More the ranting of an agry old leftist who is divorced from reality.

It's a shame.

At 11:38 AM, October 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an actor the problem with Pinter's plays is that one cannot act 'pauses'. Try acting his work day after day, week and week, year after years, his contrived dialogue creates a mechanicalized engine which needs alcohol just to drive the play to the end, he is dead boring. Film actors can get away with all sorts of contrived writing because of the camera, of endless angles and re-takes, and of editing but man, having to act 'pauses' live on stage over and over and over again is a killer.

I, too, question why so many artists, ie writers, painters, actors, are left-leaning towards the road to serfdom when that ideology is the very thing which destroys creative expression.

I have devoted the past decade to theater and acting here in NYC but now I see that I exist in a state of complete frustration (downright disgust) with the vicious groupthink mentality which prevails in the artistic community. I can no longer identify with what is now hollow theater controlled by self-absorbed vulgar artists. Perhaps the artist has been for so long idolized by the audience they now believe themselves superior to the audience and feel obliged to ridicule and mock with vulgar insanity those they can emotionally manipulate. Most actors are so hungry for stardom they will abandon any sense of humanity in order to achieve such worthless notoriety, they'll just follow along no matter how revolting is the message, the cause or belief.

After my own self-reflection into what I was involved with I had no choice but to leave that scene. I haven't abandoned my innate desire to create, I abandoned those who tried to maintain absolute control over creativity.

At 11:50 AM, October 15, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

Well, re the Zawahiri letter again, an update wherein some are doubting its authenticity, at least in terms of its author being Zawahiri.

Though too, via Michael Barone's blog, the indications noted above are reconfirmed, re the MSM here and re the emerging Iraqi army here.

At 9:37 AM, October 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America's God.

Right on.

Annual American military budget = $400 billion.

At 10:43 AM, October 16, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Annual American subsidy of European defense,

4% of U.S. GDP.


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