Sunday, October 08, 2006
There's s sad story on The UK Daily Pundit about Harold Pinter. He seems to have mistaken a flood stricken Bangladeshi girl for an American and said, 'Do you know who I am sonny? Well? Do you? Do you know how many times I've saved this stinking reeking filthy whorehouse of a world of ours from Americans like you? Well? Do you?' Harold and I used to have an amiable enough acquaintanceship until a recent encounter at a party. I had interviewed him and my piece was, for the most part, glowing, though I made the obvious point that his politics were not quite grown-up. This is not because of his actual opinions, but because of the way he holds them - as unarguable truths to which anybody who does not assent is evil and deserving of violent assault. We spoke warmly until he remembered my aside and then said savagely, 'I ought to kick you in the balls.' I considered encouraging him on the basis that, once the agony had abated, I could get a piece or even a post out of it. I have now done so, but without the agony. Meanwhile, there is this about T.S.Eliot's anti-semitism. All the arguments about this matter are in the comments. Do I like Pinter's work less because of his dismal politics? Would I dislike Eliot's poetry more if he was shown to be anti-semitic? No and no. The man who wrote the standard work on this - T.S.Eliot and Prejudice - is Christopher Ricks. When, after the war, Eliot cleared Wyndham Lewis of any fascist leanings, Ricks could not resist writing that this amounted to a very rare case of the pot calling the kettle white, at which Eliot consulted his lawyers. I had dinner with Ricks in Boston. The head waiter was doing the usual high queeny reading of the 'specials' when the great critic interrupted him. 'That's three times you've used the word 'exotic',' he said, 'what exactly do you mean by it?' Queeny waiter collapsed and we never did hear of the other 'specials'. Ricks, you will gather, is a funny guy. I am aware all of this is very tenuously connected, though there is a thread. I am trying to create a new literary form out of the blog post - random and impressionistic rather than precise. I think I may be on to something. Or I may have gone mad. It is sunday.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 11:20 am