Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Who Started It?

Driving out of London the other day, we happened on a radio station that was broadcasting a recording of TS Eliot reading The Waste Land. As we inched our way up the Edgware Road, we heard this bit:

"When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said -
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself,
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said.
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can't.
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be all right, but I've never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don't want children?
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot"

I don't know why I've never noticed before, but isn't this very Pinteresque? And, if it is, doesn't that mean that it is in fact Eliotesque and Pinter was just a pale imitation?


  1. I remember this passage very clearly as my father had an old LP recording of Eliot's The Wasteland which I used to play to myself. I have to be honest and say that at the time it struck me as a bit 'naff', particularly as my grandmother was similar to the sort of person being depicted there, but I like it more now. And it makes a welcome change from Eliot's constant references to figures of classical mythology. I still can't do Pinter, though, sorry.

  2. "and Pinter was just a pale imitation"

    I know,de mortuis nil nisi bonum, but wasn't he in so much?

  3. I prefer The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

  4. Gadjo - this bit seems very Pinteresque too:
    "My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
    "Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
    "What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
    "I never know what you are thinking. Think."

    I think we are in rats' alley
    Where the dead men lost their bones.

    "What is that noise?"
    The wind under the door.
    "What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?"
    Nothing again nothing.
    "You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
    I don't rush out to see Pinter, but the one thing that always strikes me about him is the way that, after you've seen one of his plays, you become aware of your own banality every time you open your mouth.
    Recusant - it wasn't that I admired Pinter before (although, as I said to Gadjo above, his work does have some quality that makes you briefly more self-conscious), it was more that I thought he was a pale imitation of Samuel Beckett (minus the jokes) rather than of Eliot
    Nurse - it's the medical references that appeal to you, I imagine: "Like a patient etherised upon a table" (are you still using ether at the Gimcrack?)