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The Life and Work of Dennis Potter Hardcover – October 1, 1998

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British dramatist Dennis Potter (1935-1994) is best known in the U.S. for the movie Pennies from Heaven and his television series The Singing Detective, both dreamlike accounts of romantic characters caught in a complex of irony and frustration. Gilbert, a TV producer and journalist, follows the playwright's life from his childhood in the Forest of Dean, on England's Welsh border, through his Oxford days to the BBC and ITV, Britain's independent channel, which together produced more than two dozen Potter teleplays before the dramatist's death from cancer. Though tortured by psoriatic arthropathy?a painful, hereditary arthritis combined with psoriasis?Potter wrote prolifically, turning out numerous reviews, articles and two novels, in addition to his teledramas. Gilbert points out Potter's idiosyncrasies?the use of musical dialogue, characters who address the audience directly, fascination with bodily functions and a self-admitted difficulty in portraying women?but does not propose any overall theory as to what motivated Potter. Disappointingly, this fact-jammed work is more a dense, annotated chronology of Potter's work than a biography. Gilbert was handicapped, however, by the refusal of Potter's estate to cooperate with him. Other than for Potter's mother and sister, no family members and only a few friends agreed to be interviewed. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Potter may only be known in the United States as the screenwriter for the Steve Martin vehicle Pennies from Heaven, but in Britain he is credited with changing television writing. In this biography, originally published in Britain as Fight Kick and Bite (Hodder & Stoughton, 1995), Gilbert, a journalist, critic, and television producer, analyzes all of Potter's work in the context of his life, including the teleplays Alice (based on an incident in the life of Charles L. Dodgson) and Potter's "masterpiece," The Singing Detective (making connections between Potter's character, Michael Gambon, and his creator's debilitating skin disease). At the same time, Gilbert provides a social history of the medium of television in Great Britain. This meticulously researched work is highly recommended for academic libraries and television collections.?Lisa N. Johnston, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879518731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879518738
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,522,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Last year Humphrey Carpenter published his official biography of Dennis Potter. Roughly 500 pages long Carpenter's book was a disappointing mixture of synopsis of Potters' plays, edited quotes from interviews Potter made to other journalists and interviews with people who have known Potter. Carpenter decides early on that the key fact to Potters' life was his sexual abuse, and the rest of his life is viewed from this angle. His remarks on Cold Lazarus are only concerned with a few, strange sexual remarks.
I mention this because it makes such a contrast to Gilvert's book. At times it is clumsy, wooden overwritten and a bit unfocused, and yes, a lot of it doesn't hold together but it is distinguished by a genuine, though healthily critical approach to his life.Gilbert understands Poters' importance as both a literary figure and a creative figure and writes passionately about both. Potter was a brilliant, difficult man and although he has not yet got the brilliant, difficult review he deserves, Gilbert's goes a long way to understanding the man and his extraordinary writing.
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