1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 128, 129 and 130: Three Plays by Harold Pinter

So, in 2005 Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for literature, and I’ve been meaning to read something by him for years, wanting to see what all the hype was about.  I mean, a Nobel Prize?  There is only one given out a year, so this guy has got to be good, right?  Well I finally found a copy of his work for sale.  It was a first edition in sub-par shape and it set me back $45!  Here is what I found:

128: The Birthday Party


Six characters populate this play, which takes place in one room.  A married couple in their sixties, who let out rooms to boarders, a boarder/pianist named Stanley who has been in the home for some time, two new boarders who only stay for the night: Mccann and Goldberg, and Lulu, a girl in her twenties whose relationship to the boarding house is ambiguous.  Actually, much of the play it ambiguous.  There is a birthday party for Stanley, but Stanley insists that it is not his birthday.  Mccann and Goldberg seem to have sprung from thin air to take up a room in this boarding house which, according to its only boarder, is NOT a boarding house!  Mccann and Goldberg… are they there for a reason?  Is this just chance?  Are they there for Stanley?  They put Stanley through the ringer, and interrogate him with seemingly random questions, but they are put forth with such rapidity that they must certainly have been rehearsed.  Mccann and Goldberg end up taking Stanley along with them when they leave the morning following their arrival, and Petey, the landlord advises Stanley: “…don’t let them tell you what to do!” and when his wife arrives home he misleads her to believe that Stanley is still upstairs sleeping. WTF!  There are more questions than answers here.  Are Mccann and Goldberg the establishment?  Are they trying to coerce conformity?  But they are so immoral?  Are they Americans barging into a third-world country and telling them how they should be living?  I’ll leave this up to the theorists!


129: The Room


This tells the story of a Mr. and Mrs. Hudd.  Bert and Rose respectively.  They rent a place from the landlord, Mr. Kidd, and whilst Bert is out driving Rose meets a young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sands, who are looking for the landlord in hopes of renting a place.  Once they are gone Mr. Kidd returns and tells Rose that a man wants to see her.  The play directions note that this man is blind and Black.  I assume that white is the default ‘colour’ since the directions make no note of the skin colour of the other players (such a racist as Pinter is).  Rose claims not to know Riley, and Riley refers to her a Sal and asks her to come home, saying that her father wants her to come home.  Bert returns from his drive, finally speaks his first words of the play, notices the blind Black man sitting in the living room and proceeds cuts the man off to shout out the word “Lice!” and then knocks him over and kicks his head into the against the stove until the blind “Negro” is motionless, presumably dead.  The end! WTF!!!!!!  Lice?  Negro?  Blind?  Father?  Clearly Rose has a past she has run away from, and her husband, who curiously enough is ten years younger than Rose, knows well enough about it and thinks it is worth kicking a blind negro to death over.  Most of this narrative seems to have taken place years before the play starts, and the conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Sands seems to have been not much more than filler for the climactic shouts of “Lice!” and the ensuing kicking of a blind man’s head.  Again, more questions than answers.


130: The Dumb Waiter


Two hit men occupy a basement dwelling and are awaiting orders.  One leaves, the orders come in, and when he returns, falls into his partner’s arms, presumably dying.  From what?  I don’t know.  The dumb waiter? It drops down and comes up with a menu and the two hit men have no money to pay (and seem oblvious to the goings ons up stairs from them), and so try to barter with whatever they happen to have about their room.  I there a café upstairs?  Is it new?  Has it been there a while?  Why are these hit men locked up in this room?  Why do they have no gar to lit a kettle?  Surely hit men must make enough money to rent a half-way decent room, certainly one with gar enough to put the kettle on.  And what the hell were these to men doing for food before the dumb waiter started dropping down?  Absurd?  Yes, again, there are more questions than answers.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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