Letters to the Editor

(December 18, 2006)


[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Also, please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject on which you are commenting. Thank you.]

Enjoy our letters? Keep them coming and, please, support our work.

Harold Pinter, a Foreign Policy Expert? See Charles Marowitz's The Coronation of Harold Pinter

To the Editor:

Charles Marowitz's "The Coronation of Harold Pinter" is more than passionate reading. As personal testimony of conversations with Pinter and the role of Encore Magazine, it's an important document in the history of English speaking theatre. However, one issue raised is left up in the air. Marowitz suggests that Pinter's tardy blossoming into a geopolitical sage has something to do with the proper function of "literature." The writer supposedly "extrapolates insights" into "ordinary people" on to the larger stage of world events.

But this passage from visionary personal experience to the realities of international relations is a very uncertain operation. It didn't work for great writers like Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Ezra Pound, for instance. Sartre's plumbing of Antoine Roquentin's soul doesn't mean that his writing on Maoist China isn't any less embarrassing to read today. Neither does the process succeed for pop stars instructing us on Africa, or Hollywood celebrities who have found a panacea for Tibet.

Generally we approve such opinions when they agree with our own views. Thus we applaud Pinter's attacks on the Bush administration -- who wouldn't? But his blanket anti-Americanism can sound like a barroom rant -- or rather like a Colonel Blimpish voice from the saloon bar of a classier public house. (Are our two English speaking societies really that different?) The demise of the 19th century masters of the universe and their replacement by "the Yanks" has not yet stopped rankling in some byways of the British psyche. Nor has Pinter ever been completely at ease with American competition in writing and theatre.

Marowitz started his article with an incisive, not to say brilliant comparison of Pinter to Beckett. He could well have finished it by noting how the Irishman grasped the limits of the extrapolation game. Vladimir and Estragon, Hamm and Clov, or Winnie, for all her talk, are not versed in foreign policy. Neither is Harold Pinter.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy, - December 4, 2006

Charles Marowitz responds:

I thank fellow contributor Peter Byrne for his comments on my recent piece on Harold Pinter.

The assumption that artists, particularly playwrights, are in some way out of bounds when commenting on contemporary political affairs suggests a dichotomy of perception which I do not think exists. One doesn't have to be a specialist on foreign policy to recognize that the American incursion into Iraq was both misconceived and disastrous. That is as apparent to Harold Pinter as it is to Peter Byrne. And what some might characterize as "blanket anti-Americanism," "a barroom rant," or "a Colonel Blimpish voice from the saloon bar of a classier public house" others might describe as "passionate, heartfelt protest that issues from an overpowering sense of political outrage." Playwrights such as Maxim Gorky, Bertolt Brecht, Friedrich Durrenmatt, Max Frisch and, more recently, Michael Frayn (in works such as "Copenhagen" and "Democracy") have legitimately applied their political insights to their dramatic skills.

One can certainly fault Sartre for his advocacy of Maoist rhetoric and, at the same time, credit him for valid political insights in "Les Mouches," "Les Mains Sales" and "Les Séquestrés d'Altona." In my own view, every great play -- politically explicit or not -- extrapolates personal insights to the larger world beyond and it is the acuity with which playwrights like Pinter depict human relations that (occasionally) re-enforces their social critiques.


The Opposite of Milton's Satan: Gerard Donnelly Smith's Lucifer's Lament


"Lucifer's Lament" by Gerard Donnelly Smith is quite an audacious effort. It takes on the greatest English epic poet and uses his powerful characterization of Satan to say almost the opposite of what Milton's Satan says. As a former teacher of Milton, I could barely read Smith's version -- the contradictions with the original were so powerful -- and yet everything Smith's Lucifer says is true. It's a complex, powerful, and challenging poem!

Bob Wrubel
Sausalito, California, USA - December 11, 2006


Give 'em Hell, yourself, Alouette! See Letters, December 4, 2006

Dear Editor, please forward to Ms. Arouet:

Dear Alouette,

You chide Gilles for his tilting at windmills and beg him to abandon his fool's errand and flee to higher and safer ground. In order to persuade him, you cite our depraved American people and their intransigent culture of greed. You present us as craven beyond redemption. And probably, you are right. But if you know your Cervantes, and wish to hold with your metaphor, you will know also that your plea must fall on deaf ears. It is, after all, not Quixote's comic aspect that has made him such an enduring and endearing figure in our collective imagination, but, rather, his uncompromising dedication to the higher principles underlying his comic actions. It is his unfaltering determination to play the role he has written for himself that allows him to shake off his setbacks and the mockery of his critics. Your Knight Errant is not a calculator of odds. It is not visions of toppled windmills or the prospects of conquest that drive him. It is the tilting, itself, that lends meaning to his existence.

As I once told the former publisher of the Anderson Valley Advertiser [ed. Bruce Anderson], even if you can't, in the long run, defeat the power of big money, it's still always worth the effort to toss a handful of sand between their sheets whenever you can. And why must you go on playing Dulcinea, watching from the fragrant bower? The resistance needs your wit and your attitude, Alouette. Join us on the field and give 'em some hell yourself! It will feed your soul.


Sancho Panza
AKA, Michael DeLang
Rockford, Illinois, USA - December 7, 2006

[ed. Ms. Arouet must be skiing on the slopes of the Alpe d'Huez for her winter holidays...we've not heard back from her.]


Senator Barbara Boxer (D., CA) Interacts with Co-editor Jan Baughman

Dear Friend:

Thank you for signing my petition to President Bush to change course in Iraq. I recently delivered more than 55,000 total signatures to the White House. Those signatures came from people like you who are frustrated with the President's stubborn refusal to recognize that his Iraq policy has failed.

Even with the report from the Iraq Study Group, which calls the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating," the President seems unwilling or unable to reconsider his "stay the course" strategy of the past four years. Just as they did during the midterm elections, the American people are demanding an end to our failed policy in Iraq. I thank you for being part of that effort and signing my petition to the President. Be assured that I am doing everything I can to get our troops redeployed out of Iraq.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator
San Francisco, California, USA - December 13, 2006

Jan Baughman replied:

Dear Senator Boxer,

Thank you for your efforts toward a new Iraq policy, which should be immediate withdrawal of troops, funding for reparation of the destruction we wreaked on the country (and not through no-bid contracts for US firms), and closure of US military bases in Iraq.

I would like to ask that rather than perpetuating the discussion of "Bush's failed policy" you frame our war on Iraq for what it was -- a plan to destabilize the country and further US control of oil. Without having an honest debate about the motives for this war, we cannot achieve a reasonable solution. Rather, we will find ourselves left with partial troop withdrawal; permanent US bases; and privatization of Iraq's oil. In that context, Bush's policy will not have failed in the least, nor will we have succeeded in changing the course.


Jan Baughman
San Francisco, California, USA - December 14, 2006


Whistling and Blowing: Interview with Chuck Spinney

Dear Editor,

This week's show should be of interest -- I talk with Chuck Spinney, a legendary Pentagon whistle-blower. Back in 1983 he made the cover of Time, and when he retired in 2002 Bill Moyers interviewed him. If anybody understands the Pentagon budget process, and the relationship between the budget and policy priorities, it's Chuck.

We talk about Iraq, about the budget, about military matters generally, and we find time for a few of Chuck's bureaucratic war stories, which I found both enlightening and hilarious.

I hope you have time to listen, and/or to recommend this to a friend.

The podcast entry is here:


Best Regards,

George Kenney
Electric Politics
Bethesda, Maryland, USA - December 15, 2006


For over a decade we've brought you uninterrupted ad-free advocacy work free of charge.
But while our publication is free to you, we are long on friends and short on cash.
We need you, our readers, to help us financially. Please send a donation now. Thank you.


We appreciate and welcome your comments. Please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject you are commenting on at the beginning of your e-mail. Also, ***PLEASE,*** sign your e-mail with your name ***AND*** add your city, state, country, address, and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country. Send your comments to the Editor. (Letters may be shortened and edited)
Previous || Letters to the Editor || Next

Published December 18, 2006
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]
Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915