Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Exclusive track - Ed Sheeran Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

on 30 January 2008
Michael Billington clearly idolises Harold Pinter - and at the end of his marvellous book so did I. To the view that Pinter is the finest writer in the English language of the post-war era I would already have subscribed - but having read this remarkable analysis of his life as well as his works I am now in no doubt that his importance goes beyond even that. For Pinter has a consistency and integrity which combined with his scintillating intelligence, is very rare. From the impoverished eighteen-year-old refusing National Service to the grand old man of the Arts with a Nobel Prize he has not wavered. He believes in the truth at all times, is a stalwart fighter against hypocrisy and lies and has never deviated from the confidence always to say what he believes to be right. Pinter's Art promotes his principles often in so subtle a way that you cannot be offended - but his political views are so muscular and uncompromising that they may give offence - and we are all the better for that!
0Comment| 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 3 July 2001
Michael Billington, theatre critic for The Guardian for as long as anyone can remember, was well-placed to set Pinter in a left-wing, theatrical context far removed from the absurdist, psychoanalytical tack taken by critics such as Martin Esslin. Pinter himself offered full co-operation with the writing of this book, and consequently it is full of fascinating, previously unknown information. Hitherto extremely reticent - not to say defensive - about what inspired his work, here Pinter revealed how many of his great plays evolved from incidents in his life and, in the case of his 1978 play Betrayal, divulged information sizzling enough to make the front page of at least one Sunday newspaper. Always a thoughtful writer, Billington's suspicion of the vague or grandoise makes for clarity of argument and helps to demystify somewhat this most mysterious of writers. The faults of the book are the unsophisticated, clod-hopping prose and the fact that his understandable admiration for Pinter is wholly unleavened by critical detachment. Nevertheless, this is an essential text for anyone studying Pinter's work.
0Comment| 28 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 23 June 2011
Absolutely love this book! Written with careful attention and scrupulous research it is also a great read, carrying the reader along and never dragging. I really appreciated the level of detail and the engaging style - it;s a long book but never dry. I never felt like putting it down. I really enjoy Billington's insights into Pinter's works, particularly things like films and TV productions which I was born too late to see. He creates a real affinity between the reader and subject early on by bringing to life Pinter's childhood/youth. Definitely one to read as an introduction to Pinter's works.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 15 August 2015
Pinter was certainly worthy of an official biography, but having it written by your biggest fan is always going to be a mistake. The only thing missing is a declaration of love from Billington to Pinter. The analysis of many of Pinter's play and screenplays is rather good, and the book is worth it for that reason, but Billington's fawning - and his over-use of the word 'art' - makes things just a little too sugary, but it's just bearable.

What is disgraceful about this biography is the character assassination done on the late Vivien Merchant. Billington chooses to suggest to us that Pinter's adultery in the 1960s with Joan Bakewell, and his adultery with Antonia Fraser in the 1970s, were due to vague marital problems, and that those problems had their root in Merchant's resentment of her husband's success after 'The Caretaker' was written. While Merchant and Pinter were both actors, she was the more famous. The play changed the dynamic and she didn't like it, Billington tells us.

Pinter had adulterous affairs for years and years, and eventually left his wife for Fraser. When this happened, Merchant spoke to the press and the story ran for a while. This is Billington on that very topic:

"What kept the story alive were Vivien's indiscretions and her refusal to accept the role of the mutely suffering wife. Everyone else, to their credit, maintained a stoical silence."

Billington doesn't seen to care that wrong-doers usually keep their mouths shut; in addition, might Pinter's indiscretions have had some causal relationship to the story and the scandal? In complaining that talking to the press was not to her credit, Billington is in-denial of the nature of the female.

Billington's attitude to Vivien Merchant gets worse. Consider this on the occassion of Pinter's second wedding:

"The scene was set. The guests were invited. A marquee was erected on the lawn of the house in Campden Hill Square where Pinter and Antonia had lived for three years. But at the very last moment Vivien refused to sign the relevant divorce papers so the marriage took place two weeks after the reception: a small vindictive triumph for the disgruntled Vivien.
While wrestling with the agonies of divorce, Pinter had also been struggling with the seemingly intractable problem of turning John Fowles's 'The French Lieutenant's Woman....."

Notice the cold, indifferent change of subject to Pinter's "agonies."

After reading that, I checked to see if Billington was married, so clueless does he seem to be about the nature of the female human. He seems to either not know or not care that a lady, when her husband leaves her for another woman, can sometimes feel a pang of displeasure and a sharp need to deal with that sensation. And why does he not assume Vivien Merchant's behaviour might have been connected to her own agonies? After her divorce, it took Vivien Merchant two years to drink herself to death.

Notice also, the little (and non-amusing) allusions to playwriting and acting...."refused to accept the role"....."the scene was set." Rather smug and annoying, I think.

Let me be clear: I don't care if everything was Merchant's fault. He should not have written about her this way.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 9 February 2013
An extremely, insightful, sensitive and personable view of a masterful playwright, poet and political activist. Well worth every penny I paid?
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 26 January 2014
It's obvious that the author is a big Pinter fan, but that's okay because so am I.
There is insight aplenty here, together with analytical passages of great and valuable depth.
The playwright as a man also comes across well; Pinter was not a man to suffer fools gladly, if at all.
But then again, who is?
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 11 December 2015
A wonderfully intelligent reading of one of the great theatrical careers accompanied by such insightful interpretations of some of the greatest and deepest plays in western literature
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 24 August 2011
absolutly fantastic, i learn so much about Pinter the writer but also about he's writing strategie, his technical writing. Why and how he chose a certain subject. About he's inpiration and his texts, subtext, al the layers.. a very good book, if you like Pinters plays you need to read this book.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 8 January 2016
good customer service. good product
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 8 October 2015
If your best friend or best critic wrote about you why shouldn't it be one sided on certain topics? Pinter's Hackney years are so interesting and gives us a feel for this extraordinary man. I grew up in Hackney 20 years after Pinter (in the 'posh part' according to Billington) and it all sounds so authentic. I knew older people with the same sort of personality to Pinter, although obviously without his literary talent. Hackney Downs was a great school in his day and I went to School opposite his parents house. Hackney and the east end was a vibrant changing area with a wide range of people. Rich or Poor, Working class or Educated, Flashy (Prince Monalooloo) (sp?) or humble.The only thing I cant yet understand is the symbolism of Clapton Pond. Yes it is the only piece of water for miles and it used to have a Cafe and I used to sail boats there but......And the nearby toilet building still stands as an example of faux Elizabethan architecture (now closed). And what would Pinter have written if he had met the Krays who lived nearby? Did Pinter ever go back and walk these same streets? Also read Antonia Fraser's 'Must you go?' for a very interesting look at the older Pinter.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)