Books: Spoken Word

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THIS IS a startlingly interesting and varied collection. Harold Pinter's plays are famous, but I for one had not come across either his writings on literature, his short stories or his poetry. The selections, all read by Pinter himself, bring into the foreground a man who is an austere hidden puppeteer in his writing for theatre. The most breathtaking piece is his note on Shakespeare, a simple list of words and qualities that sum up the genius of the man quite wonderfully. The most moving is his tribute to the schoolmaster who brought literature to life for him. Speeches and poems add insights into his early life; finally some violent polemics reveal his almost pathological hatred of the United States.

A Star Called Henry

Read by Roddy Doyle

Random House, 6hrs, pounds 12.99

RODDY DOYLE is endlessly versatile. The Woman Who Walked Through Doors was an intimate portrait of a woman's mind; A Star Called Henry is a historical novel that handles its characters quite differently, but no less touchingly. Henry Smart is born into a seemingly hopeless environment - a squalid Irish doss-house, with a mother half-demented from the loss of so many of her children and a one-legged father who is the bouncer for a brothel. From this unprepossessing start, Doyle succeeds not only in telling a tale which lucidly explains what was going on in Ireland at the opening of the century but also in creating a cast of unforgettable characters, some fictional, some real. I can't wait for the next book in what is announced as a trilogy.

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