From a nice essay on Beckett in the Boston Review:
This thought coalesced into a conviction. Thereafter, Beckett, who so valued control over his work and the paring down of language to its essence, chose French as his primary writing medium because he was afraid his wild Irish English would run away with him, as it had with his mentor, Joyce. The ironic result was a great writer in two languages who was a true master of only one. The contrast was pointed out by Beckett’s fellow exile Vladimir Nabokov, American novelist and Russian aristocrat, who admired . . . continue reading, and add your comments
New review of a really intriguing new book at The Quarterly Conversation. Published by Dzanc Books, it’s called Kamby Bolongo Mean River and it sounds part-New York Trilogy, part-Beckett, and part Wittgenstein. Here’s a taste:
In Kamby Bolongo Mean River our protagonist is confined in an observation cell containing only a bed and a telephone. Behind the two-way glass, white coated doctors observe the incarcerated narrator as he chooses to answer or not answer incoming calls. The sudden ringing of the phone occasionally terrorizes the man whose frequent masturbation spells may or . . . continue reading, and add your comments
John Lahr has a nice piece in The New Yorker on the current Broadway performance of Waiting for Godot:
As Pozzo, the sadistic master who controls Lucky with a whip and a long rope, John Goodman is a huge, startling figure. He plays the tyrant with the ferocity and impetuousness of a big baby who wants an audience. “Is everybody looking at me?” Pozzo says, jerking the rope to raise Lucky’s head. “Will you look at me, pig!” In the first act, Goodman is all British tweeds and bombast; in the second act, he reappears, still . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Via the Literary Saloon, interesting article in Prospect on how rigid rules of staging Beckett's plays are threatening to ossify them:
Calder’s efforts to make these plays available to audiences have an almost missionary zeal. Yet he is anything but democratic about their interpretation; he speaks with scorn of those who do “perverse things” with them. “If you try to set Endgame on the Moon [as one American company apparently did], or in some such different environment, the play just loses all its meaning.” There is room for manoeuvre, he insists, but his . . . continue reading, and add your comments
We get Dwight Garner to write about Beckett's letters, and the British get . . . Gabriel Josipovici. That's not fair.
Luckily, we have the Internet to bridge the trans-Atlantic gap. The TLS:
And though many of these letters have been in the public domain for years (some of the letters to Tom McGreevy, for example, already quoted by Deirdre Bair in her Samuel Beckett of 1978), the effect of reading them all together is completely different from reading extracts embedded in . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Stephen posts a great excerpt:
To drill one hole after another into [language] until that which lurks behind, be it something or nothing, starts seeping through – I cannot imagine a higher goal for today's writer. Or is literature alone to be left behind on that old, foul road long ago abandoned by music and painting? Is there something paralysingly sacred contained within the unnature of the word that does not belong to the elements of the other arts? Is there any reason why that terrifyingly arbitrary materiality of the word surface should not be dissolved, as . . . continue reading, and add your comments
While reading Watt I came upon this YouTube of Samuel Beckett reading from Watt. The performance embodies a couple things I think Beckett is trying to do with the book, and, as such, I think it better conveys a sense of these things than I might have by spitting a few paragraphs of verbiage at you here. I’ll simply mention that what I got from this clip was the euphony of the nonsense language and the act of separating words from any meaning.
To speak of my reading of Watt, I got the sense throughout that the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I don’t know what he’s saying, but I like how he says it.
If you’d like to see what I mean, the book is Watt, the page is 58:
Thanks be to God, an opinion in which in tones that haunt me still my poor old mother would acquiesce, sighing, saying, Amen. Or is there a coming that is not a coming to, a going that is not a going from, a shadow that is not the shadow of purpose, or not? For what is this shadow of the going in which we come, this shadow of the . . . continue reading, and add your comments
More coverage for the big Beckett centenary edition from Grove Press.
Americans have for the most part read Samuel Beckett in a motley collection of very thin books. The average educated person typically owns the paperback of "Waiting for Godot" plus a select handful of the numerous other 50-to-60-page volumes, set in large type, that Grove Press issued over the years in a tireless effort to squeeze every penny from its star author, with his famous penchant for brevity. Those who have rationalized the cheese-slice books as apt vessels for Beckett's rigorous art of . . . continue reading, and add your comments
The New York Sun has some info on Grove's forthcoming boxed set of virtually all of Beckett's works.
Grove Press, Beckett's original American publisher, has produced the most suitable tribute for so fastidious and ornery an author. The Grove Centenary Edition of his works, edited by Paul Auster in four handsome volumes ($24 each), contains almost all the extraordinary prose, poetry, and drama Beckett produced over half a century. Volume One (496 pages), with a superb introduction by Colm Toibin, offers the early novels ("Murphy" and "Watt"), written in English, followed by "Mercier and . . . continue reading, and add your comments