Minor Pinter reaction update

by Chris Bertram on October 18, 2005

I’m pleased to see that reactionary gadfly Peter Briffa, a playwright himself, has a better appreciation of Harold Pinter’s merits than most of his co-thinkers. (Actually, I doubt Peter has any co-thinkers, but you know what I mean.) The Pinter-reaction prize for unintentional self-reference goes to Christopher Hitchens, who is quoted by Oliver Kamm as writing:

Let us also hope for a long silence to descend upon the thuggish bigmouth who has strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage for far too long.

Indeed, Christopher, indeed.

{ 19 comments }

1

Brendan 10.18.05 at 7:28 am

It’s a shame isn’t it? Hitchens’ own Nobel Prize for….whatever it is he does, has gotten lost in the post again . When will the blind literary world of comformist sheep recognise that in fact it is the ‘Hitch’ who is the greatest prose stylist of this or any other generation?

Who can forget his brilliant line: ‘Well, ha ha ha, and yah, boo.’ which single handedly destroyed the ‘peace movement’.

Or his comical aside (ironically posing as a bloodthirsty genocidal maniac!!) ‘”[…] the death toll is not nearly high enough […] too many [jihadists] have escaped.” ‘(about Fallujah).

Compare this with the ramblings of other unworthy winners like Faulkner and Gunter Grass, and it is clear that Hitchens is better than all of them, put together and that he should immediately win the Nobel prizes for Literature AND Peace, and probably for physics and chemistry as well.

2

Daniel 10.18.05 at 7:40 am

I have never been a great fan of Pinter’s plays; I am easily bored and find them annoyingly opaque. But his poetry is fantastic. Anyone who can’t get a chuckle out of

“There’s no escape
The big pricks are out
They’ll fuck everything in sight
Watch your back”

is a humourless bastard, and anyone who is genuinely unable to recognise it as a fine piece of language (as opposed to pretending not to appreciate it because they don’t like Pinter’s politics) really ought not to bother with Shakespeare as they’re not going to understand that either.

3

Matt Weiner 10.18.05 at 8:09 am

Isn’t that a rather shabby thing to say about someone who has cancer?

4

chris y 10.18.05 at 8:13 am

Isn’t that a rather shabby thing to say about someone who has cancer?

well, yes, but you’re talking about Hitchens here, so what do you expect?

5

Philip Larkin 10.18.05 at 8:44 am

Hitchens said it first about a 75 year old, setting a low threshold for shabbiness. Read it again:

Let us also hope for a long silence to descend upon the thuggish bigmouth who has strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage for far too long.

He’s inciting us all to hope Pinter dies. There’s no hate speech- or anti-terrorism clause for transatlantic spats between white dudes; else Hitchens could be imprisoned for that.

6

Henry 10.18.05 at 9:00 am

bq. When will the blind literary world of comformist sheep recognise that in fact it is the ‘Hitch’ who is the greatest prose stylist of this or any other generation?

In fairness to him, he used to be a very good prose stylist when he wanted to be – some of his reviewing is first rate. Always had the nasty streak though. I suspect that it’s not only the drink that’s crippling his writing, but the transparent lack of faith – he must realise that he’s argued himself into a corner that he shouldn’t be in. He came into a restaurant where I was eating yesterday evening; as best as I could tell, he looked to be stumbling a little.

7

abb1 10.18.05 at 9:30 am

Hmm, what is he doing in the paid part of the WSJ? I thought they were supposed to use their opinionjournal.com for ideological crap. Do people now pay to read Hitchens’ opinions?

Well, maybe he’ll get some AEI prize some day, certainly they can spend a few mils for an award to the most useful idiot supporting the current war-to-end-all-wars effort.

8

Robin 10.18.05 at 9:34 am

Actually, if you look at the Hitchens-Galloway debate, you can see in those moments where Hitch warns the crowd that they are on television, are being watched, and therefore must be careful. . . you can see the spirit of Andrei Zhdanov. By embracing this new partinost’ in literature, he’s just continuing to channel that spirit. Orwell would’ve been proud . . . had he been a stooge for Stalin.

9

Scott Eric Kaufman 10.18.05 at 11:43 am

His poetry is the very definition of terrible…not that I know what that is, mind you, but I have some idea:

The rhyme scheme? Terrible. The rhythm? Uninterestingly inconsistent. The propagandistic intent? Brazenly transparent. Combine aesthetic inaudicity with patent proselytical intent and what you have resembles neither art nor skillful propaganda so much as an adolescent discharge of undigested emotion. Does this constitute evaluative criticism? It certainly does. I find it interesting that the ear for language Pinter possessed in the ’50s and ’60s has turned tin since his retirement. I had always considered that particular skill permanently acquired. Pinter proved me wrong. Whatever it is about his political commitments that has caused his ear such atrophy interests me intellectually, but it doesn’t validate his latter-day ejecta aesthetically. It gives them the gravitas due all talent squandered, but it doesn’t compel me to read a whit more than I absolutely have to.

You can admire his politics (minus Milošević), but it’s difficult to defend that poetry on anything resembling aesthetic grounds. (More at that link up there.)

10

Dan Hardie 10.18.05 at 11:46 am

‘He came into a restaurant where I was eating yesterday evening; as best as I could tell, he looked to be stumbling a little.’

Thank God, rumours of his demise were exaggerated: Mr Pooter lives! It’s the careful ‘as best as I could tell’ that gives him away- only Pooter could maintain his composure, albeit with a struggle, in the presence of such wickedness. Stumbling, Sir- stumbling!

11

Daniel 10.18.05 at 12:10 pm

Sheer nonsense. As I say “The big pricks are out/They’ll fuck everything in sight” is brilliant poetry (and a rather good, multiply-meaning joke). If you can’t see that it’s a fantastic use of language; bawdy and powerful at the same time, then it’s your own ear that’s gone a bit tinny.

12

Matt Weiner 10.18.05 at 2:32 pm

In re 5, comment 3 was intended to accuse C. Hitchens of shabbiness, not C. Bertram. As far as I know Hitchens does not have cancer.

Just wanted to be clear.

13

Kenny Easwaran 10.18.05 at 3:26 pm

Hmm, maybe I’ve just been reading too much about definite descriptions lately, but this seems to point out something like a presupposition failure in Hitchens’ use of “the thuggish bigmouth who…”

14

Phyllis 10.18.05 at 6:01 pm

A master class in snark. I salute all of you.

15

Tom T. 10.18.05 at 6:50 pm

Wait…so who has cancer?

16

snuh 10.18.05 at 11:53 pm

pinter has had cancer since 2002. thankfully the “long silence” that hitchens fervently wishes for has yet to commence.

or perhaps hitchens is trying to slyly reference pinter’s plays [which have lots of long silences], and he sorta didn’t notice how his comment could be read as hoping for pinter’s death. or, perhaps hitchens is a dick. it’s wide open.

17

Michael B 10.19.05 at 8:51 pm

Yet the basic problem is snark is virtually all that’s been displayed here, and a notably common snark it is; arrogating Larkin’s name manages to crawl lower still. And this, the solo happy note herein, is inadvertently self-referential; the perfect mirror image:

“There’s no escape
The big pricks are out
They’ll fuck everything in sight
Watch your back”

Recently wrote the following of the self-enamored Brian Leiter:

Leiter personifies, and thus throws into sharp relief, that loquacious, articulate, self-promoting and abstracted intelligence of the presumptive and sneering left. Capable within a limited range, he arrogates across a much broader range. To help bolster those arrogations he readily resorts to displays of contempt – which reflects but one weakness he manifests with his blowfish and big-bad-wolf tactics.

All this is not at all untypical from this intellectually stunted, yet resolutely self-admiring leftish quarter of academe.

Written of Leiter, but applicable to Leiter-esque, self-reverential self-referents herein – and transparently so.

But what more substantively tells the lie to the Left’s self-reverential qualities – and what simultaneously justifies Hitchens’s tone and contempt – is that even in the face of Rwanda or the Sudan the Left fails to muster an EU or coalition command force to repel the murder, mayhem and genocidal intent. Perhaps, as with Rwanda, Hollywood will produce an aesthetically pleasing film, allowing the Left their repose in theatres and waxing, never waning, with impotent, self-enamored, moralistic pretensions; solipcists all, their self-regard abundantly on display.

18

abb1 10.20.05 at 3:47 am

…while the Neo-Right easily succeeds in mustering coalition command force to perpetrate the murder, mayhem and genocidal intent. Yes, definitely something to feel superior about.

19

Michael B 10.22.05 at 11:18 am

That aspects of politics have, in large measure, radically and decisively devolved into an egoistic sense of “feeling superior” is a substantial part of what was being countered. That this politics as reified egoism also results in a self-blindered apathy, even as regards situations like Rwanda and the Sudan (both southern Sudan since the mid-80s and Darfur, in the west, more recently) is an additional part of what was being commented on.

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