There’s really nothing like Harold Pinter to make you feel like you’re not doing much with your brain.
This is not to say I am the biggest Pinter fan of all time. Personally, I enjoy a little more entertainment in my entertainment (though I must admit, I heartily enjoyed the production of Old Times now happening at Strawdog Theatre. Sexy and funny and it helps when the cast is cute.)
Bu, oh, watch that Nobel lecture he gave. Although he was accepting the prize for LITERATURE, he gave the most eloquent speech on past WWII American foreign policy that one could hope to hear. He was playing to an audience that had honored him for just this reason, but his mastery of the finer points of recent history was daunting. His plays are these marvels of economy, disciplined and rich and suspenseful, and in his spare time he has honed a sharp mind for politics and social justice.
I value eloquence these days, especially the spoken kind. In my heart of hearts I fear that 6 years of graduate school has ruined me for ever expressing myself with simplicity and clarity, in such a way that I might profoundly affect the hearer. I have a job now for which I am supposed to do just that, for 18 years olds that have a thousand things more interesting than me to think about, and it keeps me up a night, worrying that I’ll never have an ounce the grace and legibility that would allow me to affect the listeners.
I’m not quite sure how you learn it. I suspect it has something to do with carefully constructed and rehearsed lectures, but as much as I think I am preparing, I never sound quite right to myself. The more I talk, the more sense slips through my words, and once I realize that, it’s hard to get my thoughts back on the train. Or wagon. Even my metaphors become tortured. I mispronounce things, too.
I hope it does one good to simply listen to a voice like Pinter’s. Economical writing and speaking might get imprinted on the brain, I tell myself. How do you do more with less? How do you think more but in the right ways? How do you look someone straight in the eye and say just what you mean?