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REVIEWS Steven H. Gale, ed. Harold Pinter: Critical Approaches. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1986. Pp. 232. $28.50. Steven H. Gale, author of the smooth Butter's Going Up: A Critical Analysis of Harold Pinter's Work (1977) and compiler of the invaluable, though more prosaically titled Harold Pinter: An Annotated Bibliography (1978), has now edited an interesting collection of essays on Pinter's drama. Harold Pinter: Critical Approaches opens with a helpful "Chronology of Pinter's Writing and First Performances" and a brief Introduction , and closes with "A Chronological Index" to Gale's previously published bibliography. (On the theory of better late than never: the index was originally intended as a supplement to the bibliography's alphabetical format, but was deleted at the last minute by its publishers.) Sandwiched in between is the meat of the collection: sixteen new essays celebrating the remarkable career of "the major playwright writing in English today" (p. 17). Gale's assessment of Pinter's status is a deliberately bold one, although he'll get no argument from me (always excepting , of course, the bilingual Samuel Beckett—but then, Pinter himself would be the first to acknowledge Beckett's theatrical preeminence). What strikes one immediately about the collection is its admirable range. The essays cover almost the entire breadth of Pinter's three decades of playwriting, from his initial one-acter The Room (1957) to the recent A Kind of Alaska (1982). (Pinter's latest play, One for the Road [1984]—a haunting drama about victims and "victors" caught up in the deadly round dance of torture practiced by repressive regimes, a play much more overtly political than Pinter's previous work and thus perhaps indicating a significant shift in his dramaturgy—was unfortunately produced after this collection had already been compiled.) A further aspect of the collection's range is Gale's choice of contributors. There is a nice balance between "the old guard" of Pinter criticism (seven of the contributors have written books on Pinter) and "the new wave": beginning or established scholars with little or no previous Pinter publication. .Surprisingly, it is this new wave that generally makes the biggest splash. Two of the strongest essays in the collection are by relative newcomers to Pinter studies: William F. Dohmen's "Time after Time: Pinter Plays with Disjunctive Chronologies," which astutely documents Pinter's playing with time in his dramas ("The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there," runs the opening line of L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between, a novel Pinter adapted for the screen), and Christopher C. Hudgins's "Intended Audience Response, The Homecoming, and the 'Ironic Mode of Identification'," which examines the relationship between stage and auditorium in a Pinter play. As David Hare, one of the most celebrated playwrights in contemporary British theater has long acknowledged , such an interplay is crucial to the theatrical experience: "A play is not actors, a play is not text; a play is what happens between the 266 Reviews267 stage and the audience." Although I disagree with Hudgins's conclusion that by identifying with the "negative" behavior of Pinter's characters we can "potentially . . . free ourselves from at least some of [that behaviour ]" in our own lives (p. 115)—Pinter is not, it seems to me, a "healer" in this sense—the essay is still provocative and perceptive. And a third essay by a relative Pinter novice, Scott Giantvalley's "Toying with The Dwarfs: The Textual Problems with Pinter's 'Corrections'," while not always as lively or enlightening as one might wish, is nevertheless important in demonstrating that textual scholarship—a much neglected area of theater criticism—can be a potentially fruitful tool in illuminating Pinter's drama. The essays by experienced (and frequently renowned) Pinter scholars, on the other hand, are often the weakest and most disappointing of the collection—often, but by no means always. Martin Esslin's "Harold Pinter's Work for Radio," for example, is an excellent analysis of Pinter's skill in creating texts written "to come out of the dark" (to borrow Samuel Beckett's telling description of radio drama). "Pinter/Proust/ Pinter," by Thomas P. Adler, perceptively examines Pinter's 1973...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 266-267
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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