Thursday, December 25, 2008

Harold Pinter

It will be said that it was only to be expected, but Harold Pinter's death is an occasion for mourning no matter what is said. Having studied The Birthday Party when I was all of eighteen years old, I remember Pinter as being one of the very few writers who made an impression on me at the time. There is something to be said about a writer who can touch you when you are down. I'm reminded of something Michael Ondaatje writes about in The English Patient: 'There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace.' It's easy to critique writing when one is secure in one's pursuits, but a writer who can make sense to you when the rest of the world doesn't is someone who remains in your mind. Maybe it was because Stanley's life didn't make sense (like mine at the time) that I was drawn to the play.

Today I thought a lot about Anthony Minghella's family. The tragedy of his death is something that still leaves me reeling, nine months later. Christmas was a happy day, a happy season, but the recognition that there are others for whom there is nothing happy about this day is also a constant reality. My grandmother died ten years ago on Christmas day, and it was a long time before I could think of Christmas as Christmas. Minghella and Pinter are both writers who do not betray a reader's sensibilities. In a time when all one can seem to expect most of the time is betrayal of various kinds, it is strengthening to know the works of such generous, talented people. The world would be less bright if not for their ideas and their ability to be candles in the dark.

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