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Jenny Diski: Fragrant Antonia Fraser

25 February 2010
... their friends and relatives. It’s called vanity publishing, but it’s not very different from Antonia Fraser, say, going through her own diaries written daily during her 33-year relationship with HaroldPinter, and editing them with a few linking comments into a book published by Weidenfeld (£20). Obviously, there’s the matter of fame. Her publisher will not have charged Fraser a fee to have her ...

Nice Guy

Michael Wood

14 November 1996
The Life and Work of Harold​ Pinter 
by Michael Billington.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 571 17103 6
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... Rehearsing his part in a production of The Birthday Party at Scarborough, the young Alan Ayckbourn asked HaroldPinter for a little more information about the fictional character. Pinter said: ‘Mind your own fucking business. Concentrate on what’s there.’ It’s a good answer, and Ayckbourn no doubt took it kindly and got the point. But it bothers Michael Billington, who can ...
11 October 1990
The Dwarfs 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 183 pp., £11.99, October 1990, 0 571 14446 2
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The Comfort of Strangers, and Other Screenplays 
by Harold Pinter.
Faber, 226 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14419 5
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The Circus Animals 
by James Plunkett.
Hutchinson, 305 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 173530 0
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The South 
by Colm Tóibín.
Serpent’s Tail, 238 pp., £7.99, May 1990, 1 85242 170 3
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... Ever since 1958, when his play The Birthday Party opened in London, HaroldPinter has been admired by the judicious for the witty realism of his dialogue and the engrossing mystery of his omissions – particularly his omission of motive, his blank refusal to explain why: why his ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Telly

9 August 2001
... me a “disastrous influence” and an example of “intellectual spivvery” (a typical late Osborne phrase – vaguely venomous, unsupported by evidence)’. On 6 November 1975 he ‘learned that HaroldPinter was incensed when I said on TV a few weeks ago that the English theatre was preoccupied with the minor emotional crises of the urban middle class, and never opened its eyes to analyse society ...

Instant Depths

Michael Wood

7 July 1994
The Cryptogram 
by David Mamet.
The Ambassador's Theatre
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A Whore’s Profession: Notes and Essays 
by David Mamet.
Faber, 412 pp., £12.99, June 1994, 0 571 17076 5
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... The earlier plays of David Mamet seemed to spring from a meeting between Arthur Miller and HaroldPinter, as if the characters from The Caretaker or The Homecoming had caught the American anxieties of Death of a Salesman. Pinter is also never far from the later plays, and he directed Oleanna in London ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: On the Bus

28 April 2011
... HaroldPinter once remarked that a writer who stops taking buses is likely to lose touch with the people’s speech. I can’t say whether this was true or not in Pinter’s case, though I was with him once in the Café Anglais when he took exception to the waiter’s way of speaking. PINTER: I’ll have the fish toast with the parmesan custard. WAITER: No problem ...

My Wife

Jonathan Coe

21 December 1989
Soho Square II 
edited by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 287 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 7475 0506 3
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... close-knit family – bury their differences and gather noisily around the dinner table. Crusty old patriarchs and rebellious daughters sit in amicable adjacency, Candia McWilliam pulls crackers with HaroldPinter, and the whole atmosphere (though no one would like to admit it) is rather jolly. Such anthologies have the paradoxical task of assembling a selection of supposedly distinctive voices and then ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Servant’

9 May 2013
The Servant 
directed by Joseph Losey.
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... which of the characters? As regards these questions we are as much in the dark as ever, even with an elegant new Blu-Ray print to look at. This enduring darkness is the combined achievement of Losey, HaroldPinter and Dirk Bogarde, but it can’t have been certain from the start that the combination would work, because each of the three specialises in a different, potentially conflicting act. Losey is ...
5 September 1985
The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams 
by Donald Spoto.
Bodley Head, 409 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 370 30847 6
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Tennessee Williams on File 
by Catherine Arnott.
Methuen, 80 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 413 58550 6
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... Poverty, disease and disability we encounter in abundance, but as the occasion for either morbidity or schmaltz. The slow but sure revival of interest in Tennessee Williams – this summer HaroldPinter directing Sweet Bird of Youth, and brilliantly – suggests a general awareness that there may currently be a hole where our theatre’s heart should be. That declaration of intent comes, not in one ...


Nina Bawden

2 February 1984
At the Jazz Band Ball: A Memory of the 1950s 
by Philip Oakes.
Deutsch, 251 pp., £8.95, November 1983, 0 233 97591 8
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... Oakes’s interest in jazz continued after his demobilisation. Back in London, he was drawn into what seemed an endless riotous party in which other merrymakers were George Melly, Bernard Levin, HaroldPinter, Alan Brien and the joyfully randy Mick Mulligan of the Magnolia Jazz Band. The account of the pranks they get up to is amusing only in patches – other people’s drunken excesses tend to be ...
22 May 1986
The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... confession provides generous evidence. The Swedish author Eyvind Johnson confessed to inexact, falsified, poeticised ‘memories of memories’ when he wrote about his youth. A generation later, HaroldPinter, strolling down Memory Lane, identified a past ‘you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend to remember’. At the collective level, the past is ...


Robert Fisk: Salman Rushdie and Other Demons

16 March 1989
... Ayatollah can return to the big screen in the battle against world evil? The real issue, therefore, is not free speech or European support for Mrs Thatcher’s tardy stand. It has nothing to do with HaroldPinter or Norman Mailer or any of Rushdie’s most fervent readers. It has not much to do with Mr Rushdie, although he might be forgiven for thinking otherwise. For the reality is this: that the man ...

An Easy Lay

James Davidson: Greek tragedy

30 September 1999
Performance Culture and Athenian Democracy 
edited by Simon Goldhill and Robin Osborne.
Cambridge, 417 pp., £45, June 1997, 0 521 64247 7
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The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy 
edited by P.E. Easterling.
Cambridge, 410 pp., £14.95, October 1997, 0 521 42351 1
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Tragedy in Athens: Performance Space and Theatrical Meaning 
by David Wiles.
Cambridge, 130 pp., £13.95, August 1999, 0 521 66615 5
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... watching the play’s first performance in Athens in the Theatre of Dionysus in late March 2430 years ago, demands an imaginative effort much greater than would be required if you had plumped for a Pinter or an Ibsen or a David Hare. When we hear, for instance, that Aeschylus’ rival Phrynichus was particularly noted for his choreographies, or learn from Peter Wilson in Performance Culture and ...


C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies

27 April 2000
... self staring at me for one and a half hours.’ The chapter ends with sad reflections on what lay ahead for those present. Hugh Fraser ‘died of a broken heart’ when Lady Antonia left him for HaroldPinter. Pat died of cancer. Jebb ‘committed suicide with a mixture of vodka and pills’. Of himself Theroux says: ‘I left my wife, I lost my family.’ And what of Malcolm and Robin? ‘No news ...
25 October 1979
... volatility, too, with possibly just a dash of Caliban’s balefulness). Since his startling debut in 1964, when he was only 23 and his brilliant book The Speakers attracted the admiration of HaroldPinter, William Burroughs, Anthony Burgess, V.S. Pritchett and more, he has gradually achieved the status of super-wizard in a community of nomads, pilgrims and seekers after truth. For two years he ...

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