The recent news that Martin Amis has accepted an appointment as a professor of creative writing at
There is also the question of what Martin Amis could conceivably do as a tutor apart from give master classes in being Martin Amis. I am aware that it is the convention these days to have practitioner/teachers in the arts but don’t you have to have at least a passing interest in the work of others and wouldn’t a modicum of empathy with tyros be kind of helpful? I’m also wondering if in the context of a multicultural learning environment, it might be a drawback to be a hysterical neo-con Islamophobe. Just a thought. Perhaps I’m biased as only yesterday I finished reading London Fields. It’s not the best backache book in the world I have to say, in fact I suspect it abetted the problem.
One person I would love to have had as a teacher is Hackney’s own Harold Pinter. Much more therapeutic for my ailing rear elevation than Amis, was the rich serving of the prince of menace available on More 4 last night. The first instalment was a mercifully uninterrupted rendering of the master’s most recent play Celebration (2002). How actors must love to do Pinter. An illustrious cast, headed by Michael Gambon, seemed singularly and collectively possessed by the destructive power of their tableau. A joy.
Just as gripping was the triple-headed discussion between Pinter, his long time friend/collaborator and
I first fell in love with Pinter when we studied The Caretaker at university. I did a degree majoring in English literature and journalism with tantalising modules of drama and classics to supplement (or pad out as they used to say). I could argue that this is the perfect degree for a writer as you are delivered the best of literature by people who aren’t famous so you don’t feel obliged to stare at them for the whole time rather than take in what they say and, at least in my day studying journalism, you also learned to touch type. Journalists needed it once. I could do that but actually I’m busy talking about Pinter so you will excuse me while I take myself aside and tell myself to shut the fuck up, I trust. Thank you.
Henry Woolf suggested that the novelty of Pinter’s writing is his understanding that conversations are not just an exchange of information but strategic manoeuvres for emotional territory. Absolutely true but I’d argue that he wasn’t the first cab off that particular rank and that Beckett certainly was all over it and probably many before him. For me the power of Pinter is rooted in something I, as a foreigner, understand very well. As a working class Jew, Pinter was always an outsider. What he so successfully exploits is the subtext of English intercourse. He simply has his characters express what they really think rather than what they would be obliged to say given their position and predicament. In the modern world, there is probably no equivalent societal convergence that still provides this opportunity.
I also love Pinter because, despite his society marriage (to the admittedly adorable Lady Antonia Fraser whose Kings and Queens of
‘There's a very low anger that resides in any respectable, intelligent person in this society about what goes on, and how impotent we seem to be to correct what goes on, and how we give power to people who don't deserve to possess power because they abuse it, and manipulate it, and treat people with contempt, and treat international law with contempt.’
even when they don’t need to, you know they really mean it.
Harold – you are the king of the urban jungle and I salute you.