1960, Books, Fiction

The Caretaker (1960) by Harold Pinter

This is my first Pinter and I should mention that I had no idea what I was getting into before I read it. I suspect that it would have made more of an impression on me had I seen it, rather than read it, simply because some of the tone of one of the characters may have been lost on me without an actor reading the lines with the right intonation.

The Caretaker appears to be an attempt to show three generations of Britons grappling (and failing) with modern life: an old transient who cannot keep a job and feels like the world has ganged up on him, a man approaching middle age who has been crippled by a failed medical practice (which, I should note, has not been practiced in decades), and a young man with no respect for previous generations, perhaps rightfully so. None of these men are very good at communicating both what they want and what they truly feel, and they all feel paralyzed by their own inability to communicate/connect. It all feels very Eugene O’Neill.

Maybe that’s not fair: I have seen more O’Neill plays than any other 20th century playwright, but that isn’t saying much because I’ve seen so few, and I haven’t seen any in quite a while. And just because Pinter shares some superficial thematic similarities does not, in fact, make him imitative of O’Neill. You could argue quite rightly that I’m being too dismissive here and not fully recognizing the distinct approaches of both writers. Alas, I read this on a plane, and very quickly, and I couldn’t get O’Neill out of my head – how he might have handled such material.

So maybe I need to give Pinter another chance but, more likely, I need to see his stuff live, where justice can be done to it, rather than me speed-reading it so I can get on to a book I’m more interested in.

Ah well.


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