Thursday, December 25, 2008


R.I.P. Harold Pinter, master of mundane menace and domestic dread, one of the most singularly distinctive writers of the last century.
The playwright Tom Stoppard said that before Mr. Pinter, “One thing plays had in common: you were supposed to believe what people said up there. If somebody comes in and says, ‘Tea or coffee?’ and the answer is ‘Tea,’ you are entitled to assume that somebody is offered a choice of two drinks, and the second person has stated a preference.” With Mr. Pinter there are alternatives, “such as the man preferred coffee but the other person wished him to have tea,” Mr. Stoppard said, “or that he preferred the stuff you make from coffee beans under the impression that it was called tea.”
I have read and admired a number of his plays, but equally significant to me is his influence on some of my favorite writers. Sure, Pinter can be easily parodied--like Raymond Carver, like anyone with a singular and instantly recognizable style--but I can't imagine DFW's pause-laden stories "Brief Interviews With Hideous Men" or the disturbing, ominous "Far Away" by Caryl Churchill existing without him.

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