Bloomsbury have sent out the first publicity pack for Kenneth Tynan's diaries, edited by John Lahr, which are to be published in October. Among the slogans ('Think Alan Clark meets Alan Bennett' - no, don't) and the paraphernalia (a padlock and key) is a pamphlet of highlights. A good many of the selected entries concern spanking, and a good many others are anecdotes about Hemingway, Dietrich, Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Miles Davis, Gregory Peck, but it's not all like that. On 16 November 1973, Tynan read a 'peevish and neurotic attack by John Osborne on Larry, the NT and (especially) me . . . He calls me a "disastrous influence" and an example of "intellectual spivvery" (a typical late Osborne phrase - vaguely venomous, unsupported by evidence)'. On 6 November 1975 he 'learned that Harold Pinter was incensed when I said on TV a few weeks ago that the English theatre was preoccupied with the minor emotional crises of the urban middle class, and never opened its eyes to analyse society as a whole or the world outside England'. Tynan had summed up the plot of No Man's Land as 'a rich middle-class writer has a wary confrontation with a poor middle-class writer. Pinter's comment was that it would be easy to write of Hamlet and Coriolanus in similarly glib sentences. But of course it wouldn't . . . In both plays, whole societies are under scrutiny, not just individual temperaments.' You couldn't level that sort of criticism at Pinter these days; in reply he'd only have to wave the petition of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, on which his name appears fourth.
LRB 9 August 2001 | PDF Download