Jump to page content
The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

Recent Posts

Twitter @alibrown18

New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Daily Diary: Harold Pinter, Psycho, The Waste Land

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

News this morning of more snow chaos brought to the South West of England, juxtaposed with an earthquake in Haiti. The two things - vans stuck in drifts, bodies buried under rubble - hardly seem equivalent; so it is editorially sensible that, in comparison to last week when the snow dominated the headlines and hours of bulletins and smothered terror attacks and the economic crisis into silence, the earthquake is top story, whilst the snow drifts to number three. Interceding between the two, it appears Google now plans to pull out of its operations in China, realising that it is futile to offer a search engine onto the world, when an autocratic regime is determined to prevent it from focusing sharply.

On the bus to Stockton for a library meeting, I read Michael Billington's account of the relationship between Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser in the Guardian Review. Seems Pinter was not so interminably temper-prone as people make out, and both Fraser and Billington recall occasions when he demonstrated his sensitive side - including strewing their new house with flowers.

Making first trip to the library in ages, I pick up the London Review of Books, to read two articles which were not available freely online. Jenny Diski condemns a rather pointless academic/populist book about the Psycho shower scene. More interestingly, in the process she reminisces about the days when movies played in a continuous loop, so that one could come in midway through and then leave once one has come round to a recognised scene (as she notes, the experience predates 1960s postmodernism by a few years). Psycho is groundbreaking, she says, because it is the first film which needed to be watched from its intended start to finish (which is important, given that the main character and star draw of the film, Janet Leigh, dies mid-way through, and would therefore leave viewers who come in after an hour somewhat disappointed). Apparently, cinemas showing Psycho had cardboard cutouts of Hitchcock erected in the foyer, with a voice bubble explaining that no one, but no one, was to be let in after the film started, "not even the President of the United States...not even the Queen of England, God bless her." The thought of the Queen rudely knocking over Hitchcock's cardboard bouncer in order to catch a glimpse of Janet Leigh's nipple is an amusing image.

Diski is right that the shower scene has a special status. Like a myth, it is a scene everyone knows about and can visualise unconsciously, without ever having to have watched the whole. At this point, I note Psycho ought to be pushed to the top of my "films to be watched" list.

I also read Alan Bennett's New Year diary. Among others, his well-observed anecdote about people observing the 11 o'clock Armistice remembrance, and not only falling quiet but remaining "fixed in whatever attitude (handing over money, examining a vase) the silence caught them" seems destined for a minor scene in a future play.

More academically, I pick up F.B. Pinion's book on T.S. Eliot, and begin to read the chapter on The Waste Land. It starts promisingly: "What is peculiar about The Waste Land is the collocation of images and scenes in a manner calculated to evoke feelings and accordant ideas, without overt statements of meaning," which is obvious, but put much better than I could have done myself. Then I come across I.A. Richards' rather more pithy way of saying the same thing, in that it is like music in this respect, "a music of ideas." Having opened by saying that its images cannot be pinned to particular meanings, Pinion goes on to do just that, listing meanings and references in a dull, detailed, dictatorial way. I give up.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Posted by Alistair at 7:10 pm


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

The content of this website is Copyright © 2009 using a Creative Commons Licence. One term of this copyright policy is that Plagiarism is theft. If using information from this website in your own work, please ensure that you use the correct citation.

Valid XHTML 1.0. Level A conformance icon, W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. | Labelled with ICRA.