Published by Faber and Faber, in paperback (January 2007)
ISBN: 978-0-571-23219-2 (9-780571-232192)
UK RRP 9.99
Review: Rod Dungate, 4 December 2006

Passion, passionate views, not to be missed if you are concerned with society today
What gets you, grabs you, holds you and won’t let you go about this collection of lectures and other writings, is the power of David Hare’s thinking. He makes no excuse of his views, makes no real effort to be equal-handed; here is a man who gives you his views with a great passion – he gives us the responsibility of absorbing what he says and making up our own minds. Hare is a man who jumped down from any political fence years ago – if indeed he ever sat upon one, which I firmly doubt.

David Hare is one of our most long-standing political playwrights – analysing, or rather dissecting, a range of issues which effect our daily lives. In days when we are pressurised to make everything accessible to everybody, he argues here: ‘The ingredient which makes all plays is metaphor . . . Plays are indeed a world, and the trick of playwriting is to create density. Thickness is what you’re after, solidity, substance . . . ‘ You couldn’t want a better argument for the (continuing) existence of plays – not easy plays, but meaningful plays.

There is an anger in this writing which gives the lectures immediacy, a vibrancy which is compelling. He is frequently on the attack, and the writing is often sharpest at these moments. My own favourite – ‘For my own part, when I think of Coward, I have to stick pins in my palms to remember not to despise him.’ After some 40 years of political engagement, you could be excused for thinking a man might begin to tire; many of us might, but Hare clearly doesn’t.

Perhaps the most powerful section, though, is Hare’s lecture in Westminster Abbey, 1996. In front of a religious body of people he questions the existence of God. This is not new territory – in Racing Demons he explores the working of the Church. Religion, like it or not, is a powerful force in the world, and Hare’s lecture, in tone and content, clearly acknowledge this. But he still, characteristically, pulls no punches. He follows an argument of the Church’s failure to engage with the real world – the Church being more interested in its own survival. ‘When these same Cardinals tell gay men that they are in sin when they wear condoms, you are aware that a Church which funked the greatest moral crisis of the century, the extermination of the Jews, is now funking another, the spread of the new plague – and for exactly the same reasons.’

Hare explains that he welcomes opportunities to give lectures since it offers opportunities to expand, uninterrupted, a coherent argument. He also explains that he writes his lectures, word by word, and reads them. This is most illuminating; the writing here is honed, polished; yet you can hear the writer speaking – even when the piece wasn’t commissioned as a lecture. There is a sense of the writer speaking directly into your ear.

A dense read, you won’t agree with everything, but you’ll be really pleased David Hare’s said it.

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2006-12-04 16:14:51

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