by W. Stephen Gilbert ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 10, 1998
A thoughtful study of the work of Dennis Potter, arguably the finest writer ever to come out of television. The gifted British writer is probably best known to American audiences for Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective, strikingly original miniseries combining darkly perceptive psychological drama with lip-synched popular songs of the '30s and '40s. But these shows were just a fraction of the remarkable work accomplished by Potter in his troubled life. As painted by Gilbert, Potter was an unhappy, often bitter man, whose lifelong battle with psoriatic arthopathy, an agonizing skin disease, was portrayed literally in The Singing Detective and figuratively in the isolation and suffering of many of his characters. Gilbert, a television producer as well as journalist, gives a vivid picture of the British television and film worlds Potter moved in but is less successful in portraying his personal world. Indeed, Potter's private life all but vanishes after chapters on his childhood in the Forest of Dean (which would be dissected in several of his plays) and his ascendancy to a form of stardom at Oxford through his writing and speaking. From this point, Gilbert primarily relates the life as it directly connects to the plays. Gilbert's commentaries on those plays, however, are vivid and insightful. Admiring, but never fawning, he links the recurring themes and ideas of Potter's work and dissects the successes and failures with equal perception. One only regrets that the book, published in England in 1995, has not been updated for its American publication to include analyses of those plays produced after Potter's death. More ""Work"" than ""Life,"" Gilbert's book will provide much enlightenment for Potter devotees, but the definitive biography of this gifted artist is still to be written.
Pub Date: Aug. 10, 1998
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998
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