Friday, December 30, 2011

Life with Harold

Must You Go?: My Life With Harold Pinter
Must You Go?: My Life With 
Harold Pinter 

"What happened was this: we both felt awful at breakfast, Harold from coughing without intermission all night, me from listening to him.  I went up to the Eyrie and assembled notes re the Gunpowder Plot.  Then I chatted to a friend about Dublin.  About eleven thirty, Linda came in and said the odd words: 'Could you clear the line?  Harold has something urgent he wants to tell you.'  Somewhat crustily I did so.  Now it was Harold who was engaged: I thought he might clear his line.  Finally he buzzed me: 'I seem to have won the Nobel Prize.'"
Seldom have I read a book so filled with literary references. They are on every page and, while Antonia Fraser's memoir of her life with Harold Pinter is lightweight, it is intellectually charged with interesting bits of flotsam and jetsam from the literary world of a couple who were immersed in literary lives and lights.
It was while at a social gathering in 1975 that Ms. Fraser walked up to Pinter, before leaving, to say that she liked his play, “The Birthday Party.” The two barely knew each other. He looked back at her with what she calls “amazing, extremely bright black eyes” and said, “Must you go?” He called her his destiny and wrote her love poems, some of them later collected in a volume called “Six Poems for A” (2007). She loved his bristling mind, his “awesome baritone” and the way his “black curly hair and pointed ears” made him look “like a satyr.” They remained happily together (marrying in 1980) for 33 years, through his Nobel Prize in 2005 and until his death from cancer, at 78, in December 2008.
There are many anecdotes that intrigue the reader in this delightful memoir. One of my favorite moments follows:
"Dinner with tom and Miriam Stoppard. The latter tackles Harold about the swearing in No Man's Land: 'This must be something in you, Harold, waiting to get out.' Harold: 'But I don't plan my characters' lives.' Then to Tom: 'Don't you find they take over sometimes?' Tom: 'No.'"
It seems that their life is filled with such moments and, when the literary references wane, there are the political highlights that bring alive the times (a span of three decades) with intrusions of bits about the IRA or left and right-wing political goings-on.
Pinter’s life force — he was mostly anything, it seems, but Pinteresque — comes through clearly here. Ms. Fraser details his love for cricket, tennis and bridge. He threw himself around recklessly on dance floors and swam “with a great splashing like a dog retrieving a ball.” The result is a wonderful read for anyone interested in the life of the epitome of a literary couple.

Must You Go? by Antonia Fraser. Doubleday, New York. 2010.


Parrish Lantern said...

sounds like a fascinating insight into a revered and yet mysterious individual & also didn't know about the poetry, so that's new to me.
Best Wishes for the coming year & continued success with your blog.

James said...

Thanks for your encouragement and your own excellent site that I enjoy reading.