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The Birthday Party & The Room Paperback – January 20, 1994

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Pinter won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Revised edition (January 20, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802151140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802151148
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have seen "The Birthday Party" three times in three different productions and love the writing so much i had to have it. Pinter is one of those few playwrights who reward re-reading as well as re-viewing. The characters leap off the page. Like many of this master's plays it is a magnificent blend of the comic and the somber. For those who have not been able to catch the play on the stage or screen, if you enjoy modern drama you will most certainly enjoy this play. As for "The Room" is an apprentice piece - not at all bad, but Pinter had not fully come into his own at the time he wrote it. If you enjoy "The Birthday Party" be certain to also purchase his masterpiece "The Homecoming". Happy reading.
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The Birthday Party is one of Harold Pinter's earliest and most difficult plays. It depicts the banal and inane ways in which its characters, everyday lower middle class folks, keep the otherwise pointless connections among each other active. In spite of the obvious annoyance of the interlocutors, especially Petey and Stanley, Meg maintains her mock cheerful and inquisitive banter, ignoring the rudely dismissive responses of the others. She serves them because that is her role as wife for Petey and cook/housekeeper for Stanley, presumably a boarder. Given the sexual division of labor in the world as we commonly find it, the objects of her attention and concern are conventionally ungrateful, demanding, and sarcastic. A family of sorts, playing commonplace familial roles in routine and deeply unsatisfying ways, none less boring, unimaginative, or brutally prescriptive than those played by the obviously put upon Meg, to whom the men's assessment really matters.

When Petey announces that they may be having two additional boarders, it's taken matter-of-factly, as if we had known all along that Meg and Petey's home was a largely uninhabited rooming house. In general, letting out rooms is evidence of a need for additional income and hardly a basis for a claim of higher status and social prestige. However, Meg is up to the challenge of redefining their circumstances by repeatedly insisting that their house "is on the list." The nature of the list is unspecified, but Meg's repeatedly made claim seems most sensibly taken as a list of the best, most respectable boarding houses in the area.
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Format: Paperback
"The Room" (1957) was Harold Pinter's first play, a one act piece, and it demonstrates some of the Absurdist features we grew to know so well: the seemingly aimless conversation, the sense of menace, dread, and terror, real violence or lurking violence, the Pinterian pauses, the feeling that we are in alien territory dealing with characters who don't seem to be in control of their destinies.
Of course none of us is in control of his or her destiny, but in this play Rose doesn't know if the room is still hers, who her landlord is, and who are the strange people who enter the room and seem to be attempting to control her life. Is Mr. Kidd the landlord? If he is, he doesn't know how many floors the house has. Rose asks him questions; he evades answering them or doesn't comprehend.
The stranger Riley calls her Sal, and says she is wanted at home. She's puzzled; we're puzzled, and that's part of what Pinter is saying--we live in an existential world in which we operate and wait for we know not what.
Pinter took his cue from Samuel Beckett and brought his audience into new territory where the norms of behavior were altered, into a world of questions without answers. But Pinter the artist was able to create an alternative world in which his plots intrigue us, his dialogue has its own beauty and majesty, and his characters fascinate us.
Pinter changed the audience's expectations, shook them out of their usual theater-going habits and made them think. He made them anxious, antsy with his skittish people in his edgy plays. Rose says, "Who did bring me into the world?" Why, Pinter did, of course.
Rose Hudd talks endlessly in the beginning, and her husband Bert says nothing. It's cold and damp, and he has to take the van out.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book keeps you entertained but is thoroughly confusing because the reader doesn't know what is real, unreal, serves a purpose or not. It's focused on this birthday party held for a man who is living under this couple's boarding house. Two unknown men come and basically drive Stanley mad.
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Format: Paperback
The last line in the second play here, "The Room," features a character saying "Can't see. I can't see. I can't see." I felt the same way.

The two plays represent a kind of starting point for Harold Pinter, being his first published plays. These established the template for his "comedies of menace," and in fact come across on the page as variations on a theme. In the three-act "The Birthday Party" (1958), we meet a man living in a boarding house confronted by two shadowy characters who seem to know him. In the one-act "The Room" (1957), it is a woman in an apartment who is similarly confronted, by several figures who seem to want her room.

If you are one familiar with Pinter and value his plays for having a kind of elliptical, categorization-defying quality, these would seem solid choices to read. But if you are like me, an outsider to Pinter's world, you will find these hard going. Characters come and go randomly, saying odd things. Acts have a tendency to meander for a while before reaching a kind of intense pitch and sudden end. There's humor, but of a distinctly uncomfortable kind that suggests if you aren't laughing, it's maybe because the laugh's on you.

Characters were a key problem for me. If one is to care about anything that is happening in "The Birthday Party," you need to care a bit about the figure at its center, the hapless layabout Stanley. But he resolutely refuses to connect with anyone. The play's message of hopelessness begins with him, before we even meet the two shady characters who have serious, unexplained business with him. Are they mobsters from Stanley's prior life? Or are they supposed to represent a kind of malevolent Establishment, as some Pinter critics claim?

Give Pinter credit for not being direct in his answers.
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