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Made for TV

Jenny Diski, 14 December 1995

Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis PotterA Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... The death of Dennis Potter may have been authored by God, but it was adapted for television by Potter himself. It began after a brief report in the Guardian suggested that Potter’s terminal cancer related to his lifelong addiction to nicotine ...

You know who

Jasper Rees, 4 August 1994

Jim Henson – The Works: The Art, the Magic, the Imagination 
by Christopher Finch.
Aurum, 251 pp., £20, April 1994, 1 85410 296 6
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... the cinematic meditation on the life of the real Alice directed by Gavin Millar and scripted by Dennis Potter, Henson was the obvious choice to supply the puppets for the sequences set in Wonderland. Later, Henson realised his longstanding ambition to present a series of Greek myths in puppet form. Robert Graves might not have approved, but if it ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Mary Whitehouse’s Letters, 20 December 2012

... of a rant against a ranter.Whitehouse was an inevitable but not a necessary irritant, although Dennis Potter claimed to approve the usefulness of the constraints she wanted to impose, especially on him. I see, but stubbornly refuse to be very much moved by, Thompson’s thesis that Whitehouse was a kind of performance artist; a woman, strictured by ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... their oinkers joggling. It’s the fashion.’ Oinkers are, in my view, clunkers. The situation of Dennis Potter’s Ticket to Ride (like the title) has a slightly used feel to it. A man comes to consciousness on an Inter-City train. He has no memory, and no clues to his identity on his person. ‘I? Who is I?’ he asks himself. On arrival at Paddington ...

Vile Bodies

Rosemary Dinnage, 18 September 1980

Prostitutes: Our Life 
edited by Claude Jaget, translated by Anna Furse, Suize Fleming and Ruth Hall.
Falling Wall Press, 221 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 0 905046 12 9
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... you desperately want to run away; but you can’t any more’) and cherish plans for getting out. Dennis Potter, in his television serial Pennies from Heaven, very clearly got across a sense of drastic change in the girl once she had gone on the game; shocking not in a moralistic sense, but because she had acquired a kind of new, brittle facade that ...

Come along, Alcibiades

John Bayley, 25 January 1996

Terence Rattigan: A Biography 
by Geoffrey Wansell.
Fourth Estate, 428 pp., £20, October 1995, 1 85702 201 7
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... and not to be left behind. The new men occasionally threw him a crumb of patronage. The young Dennis Potter called Rattigan’s television play Heart to Heart a piece with a ‘sense of occasion and a weight of impact’, while another critic, possibly with tongue a little in cheek, said it might have ‘sprung white-hot from John Osborne’s ...

Land of Pure Delight

Dinah Birch: Anglicising the Holy Land, 20 April 2006

The Holy Land in English Culture 1799-1917: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism 
by Eitan Bar-Yosef.
Oxford, 319 pp., £50, October 2005, 0 19 926116 4
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... of Genesareth, but Thames’. In general, however, nonconformity remained the most fertile source. Dennis Potter, who had experienced a potent version in the mining communities of the Forest of Dean, translated its assumptions into something more threatening, closer to Christian’s trials in The Pilgrim’s Progress. The scenes where he grew up ‘were ...
Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man 
by Ann Wroe.
Cape, 381 pp., £17.99, March 1999, 0 224 05942 4
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... and sees no reason not to make this plain. She freely refers not only to classical authors but to Dennis Potter, Dostoevsky, Bulgakov and Tolstoy (how relevant is it that he was disappointed by the reception of The Kreutzer Sonata?) Underneath all this padding there is a view of Pilate, but it is hard to see it clearly in the confusion of ...


David Edgar: The Angry Brigade, 16 December 2004

The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case 
by Gordon Carr.
ChristieBooks, 168 pp., £34, July 2003, 1 873976 21 6
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Granny Made Me an Anarchist 
by Stuart Christie.
Scribner, 423 pp., £10.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5918 1
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... members. Various documentary compilations were produced by left-wing publishing houses. A play by Dennis Potter, which he intended to call ‘The Angrier Brigade’, was commissioned by the BBC but abandoned due to a recurrence of the author’s psoriasis. A book by Tom Vague, published in 1997, was dismissed by one of the convicted Angry Brigaders as ...

Where’s the omelette?

Tom Nairn: Patrick Wright, 23 October 2008

Iron Curtain: From Stage to Cold War 
by Patrick Wright.
Oxford, 488 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 19 923150 8
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... seem to have been very effective. In The Village that Died for England (1995) Wright quoted Dennis Potter on patriotism: ‘The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouth they’ve been in.’ A philological story like this must carry us from one mouth to another, showing that meaning is an end-product: a tongue that speaks through ...
England’s dreaming: The Sex Pistols and Punk Rock 
by Jon Savage.
Faber, 602 pp., £17.50, October 1991, 0 571 13975 2
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... a Pistols camp follower, later to become a bass-player in his own right, puts it: You know that Dennis Potter play where the grown-ups are playing kids, Blue Remembered Hills? It was like that. When you put emotional cripples together, you get something very powerful. It can be good or bad, and it can be directed either way. It had to burn out, it was ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... it would certainly have put my back up; as it was, it just filled me with foreboding. Of course, Dennis Potter did the same but he was more skilful at it than Lindsay. So after the pretentious pre-publicity the howls of outrage that greeted The Old Crowd were predictable, though Lindsay wasn’t at all contrite, blaming affronted national pride: ‘The ...

Darling, are you mad?

Jenny Diski: Ghost-writing for Naim Attallah, 4 November 2004

by Jennie Erdal.
Canongate, 270 pp., £14.99, November 2004, 1 84195 562 0
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... developed psoriasis (and doesn’t omit a mention of the disease’s literary credentials through Dennis Potter), her mother had died, and she had found a new love, soon to become a new husband. The Attallah house in the Dordogne was designated the place to write fiction. The novel was to be very beautiful, she was instructed, and romantic: ‘It has to ...


Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... Literary Diary which records the birthdays of various contemporary literary figures. Here is Dennis Potter on 17 May, Michael Frayn on 8 September, Edna O’Brien on 15 December, and so naturally I turn to my own birthday. May 9 is blank except for the note: ‘The first British self-service launderette is opened on Queensway, London 1949.’4 ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen, 22 June 2006

Doctor Who 
BBC1Show More
Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... a writer could do more with a Dalek would be to unite him with Basil Fawlty. Except that the dying Dennis Potter went further, maybe, when he called John Birt, the BBC’s then director-general, ‘a croak-voiced Dalek’ in 1993. Much expectation surrounded Doctor Who’s return last year, into an industry that has changed vastly since he went away. Mark ...

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