Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pause and Applause for Harold Pinter

Today, Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and it really made me happy to see it. The 75-year-old is still writing, still vibrant and, from what I've read, seems overwhelmed. It is so well deserved and is a great selection.


But, it seems he has opinions about the War in Iraq and some people feel that this award is simply the Nobel Committee snubbing Bush. It comes on the heels of the Nobel Peace Prize going to Mohammed El Baradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency, who worked to bring weapons inspectors back into Iraq in an effort to prevent the Gulf War. Put these two awards together, and some on the right think that this year's prizes are just a big antiwar statement.

I want to leave politics and even El Baradei aside right now, though. Trying to politicize Pinter's award is an insult to Pinter and to his fans. I doubt that even other writers who should win this prize some day (I nominate Philip Roth) would begrudge this award. Pinter created a new language, one that writers like David Mamet have relied upon, and he is especially gifted at finding the surrealism in every day life and he can make me laugh and cringe at the same time. It's not just that he's good. A lot of writers are good. It's not just that he's fantastic. I have shelves full of the fantastic. He made the art of writing better. That's what this prize is supposed to celebrate. He created plays and screenplays and novels and poems that are good enough that, if you're trying to write after him, and you encounter him, you feel like you have to deal with him.

Hell, the word "Pinteresque" even has meaning.

This was the right award. It's right up there with Ernest Hemingway winning. Pinter made the art he practiced different for the practitioners who have followed.

It ticks me off to see George Bush and Iraq and his political views mentioned in every story about this.

This should be a moment for those of us to care to say thanks to Pinter and to feel good ourselves to know that creativity, honestly given, can, indeed, be recognized. We all know that politics, fashion and circumstance are at play in any awards event. In the documentary Wild Man Blues Woody Allen takes no joy from receiving a lifetime achievement award because the organization hadn't given it to Fellini. I see Woody's point. These things aren't perfect.

They'll never be perfect.

But they can be right.

Congratulations, Harold Pinter. More than that, thanks for giving me so much to think about, enjoy and struggle with. It's the twisted world that Pinter writes about that could reduce his staggering achievements to a feud between aesthetes and George W. Bush. I hope, at least, that he gets a well deserved chuckle out of that observation.


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