Page extent: 488
ISBN: 9781783192038
Binding: PaperBack

The Art of Invective: Selected Non-Fiction 1953–1994

Dennis Potter, Ian Greaves, John Williams, David Rolinson

PaperBack (12 May 2015)

Dennis Potter (1935-94) was Britain’s leading television dramatist for almost thirty years and remains an inspiration to today’s programme makers as a result of such ground-breaking work as Pennies from Heaven, Blue Remembered Hills and The Singing Detective. But he also engaged with his audience through reviews, journalism, interviews, broadcasts and speeches. The Art of Invective, the first collection of its kind, brings together some of his finest non-fiction work.

Published to mark 80 years since Potter’s birth, this book includes his merciless television columns, penetrating literary criticism and angry writings on class and politics, as well as his sketches for Sixties satire shows including That Was the Week That Was. From Frost-Nixon to Coronation Street, David Hare to Doctor Who, Orwell to Emu, this collection shows Potter’s distinctive voice at its entertaining, thought-provoking and uncompromising best.

Additional Information

ISBN13 9781783192038
Binding PaperBack
Page Extent 488


'Every page of this book is constellated with sentences and phrases of, variously, humour, cleverness, warmth, indignation and savagery. It is one of the very finest collections of ‘occasional’ (but far from ephemeral) writing I have read: what counts is not the medium, not the genre, but the mind. The scholarship of the editors is impeccable.' Jonathan Meades, Literary Review

‘As the British Film Institute celebrates the life and work of ‘the writer who redefined TV drama’, Oberon Books, with perfect timing, offers this collection of Potter’s critical abuse in journalism and interviews at its most constructively eloquent. The Art of Invective essentially complements Humphrey Carpenter’s magisterial biography and all those DVDs of the plays that can still galvanise what Potter called ‘the palace of varieties in the corner of the room’. He believed that television, with its vast, all-inclusive audience, was a potentially powerful means of promulgating true democracy... stingingly vitriolic invective... merciless pungency.’ The Spectator

'If he’d worked in the theatre he’d have been the Shaw of our day. He would have been that substantial. It remains a scandal that because you worked in television, you are somehow downgraded. You don't belong in that high category of high art. Well, Dennis does if anybody does.' Trevor Griffiths

The Art of Invective is an extraordinary feat of scholarship, entertainment and revelation. This is Dennis Potter the polemicist, reviewer, scourge of cant and evasion, religious-sceptical, compassionate, angry and original. The sheerquantity of his prose output is daunting, and even the most ephemeral repostsare classy and thoughtful.’ Kenith Trodd

‘The voice of Dennis Potter’s prose is one that might have charmed, punished and inspired the chapel congregations of his childhood. It rings clear in this rich collection of essays, journalism, sketches and interviews – whether he’s analysing the politics of The Professionals, narrating the Aberfan disaster or considering the sources of his own art. Much occasional prose tends to fade – the material in this collection is as fresh and readable as the day Potter’s pen hit the page.’ Matthew Sweet

'[As] this collection testifies, Dennis Potter is a writer who likes to start an argument. And it is a tribute to his qualities as a screenwriter and critic that we continue to argue with him still…' Peter Bowker (from his foreword)

'[Potter] did The Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven and Lipstick on Your Collar and Karaoke and Cold Lazarus and Blackeyes, all this great stuff. That was your TV auteur right there, and there’s still never been any TV like it. The Singing Detective is not for everybody, but it’s still the best thing ever done on television. Before we had a notion of a show-runner, that’s the guy who wrote a different mini-series every couple years. That was somebody making art as ambitious as any art being done but using this popular fallen medium of TV.' Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective

'These days his 30 years of plays for the box seem strikingly dated. Not so much for their graininess or their failure to represent women as characters in their own right but in the climate of today’s unimaginative program­ming, something as innovative as Potter’s work would surely face short shrift. Its political content would be worrying to TV executives; its political form would be suicidal. But the strongest message of a new volume of the playwright’s non-fiction is that, for Potter, it always was about politics. The book mainly consists of newspaper columns which evidently received a strong billing in their day. But whether it is his reportage from the wreckage of Aberfan or his condemnation of the state of TV programming on religion, this aspect of Potter’s output is largely forgotten. The editors’ prescient selection of articles expose the injustice of this neglect. “Why, oh why, is Labour so apologetic for its statement of radicalism?” Potter asks in a letter to the Mirror in 1959 – but his complaints over “the stale framework of Great Power idiocies – H-bombs and all” could have been aired just as easily last year.' The Camden Review


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