The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

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How Closely Should Beckett’s Intentions Be Followed?

Cans
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 scale of what is “acceptable” is particularly subtle—even obscurely so. “People say that the Beckett Estate is very tyrannical, insisting that the [stage] directions are followed exactly. But there’s always room for little differences here and there, for little interpretations. But the words mustn’t change. The stage directions mustn’t change.”

The result of this approach was evident in both the Gate’s Godot and Calder’s Endgame: scrupulously faithful productions, performed with passion and insight by committed casts, but dominated by imagery so familiar that all surprise was absent.

Perversely, it seems to me, familiarity has made these plays more inaccessible: their visual motifs are so well known beforehand that they are more easily dismissed. Godot is “the one where nothing happens”; Endgame is “the one with the old pair in the bins”; Happy Days is “the one about the woman buried in the sand.” Like conceptual art, the point becomes the idea, not engagement with the work.

That's a powerful point: what interest would Beckett's heirs have in promoting his plays as cliches? And why such worry? After everything that's been done to stage and manipulate other classic UK theatrical works, the likes of Wilde and Shakespeare haven't been perverted. In any event, leave it to the audience to decide what works and what doesn't.

More from Conversational Reading:

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2 comments to How Closely Should Beckett’s Intentions Be Followed?

  • Scott, it’s not Beckett’s intentions we’re talking about – it’s his *instructions*. And rather than ask if they should “followed”, ask how Beckett’s instructions be *respected*. Choice of words is central – and no-one was more sensitive to words than Beckett. I’d rather watch his “cliches” than have his work swamped by careless luvvies.
    Also, the article is in Prospect Magazine – home of tepid, conversative dross since 1995.

  • And it’s precisely because of “everything that’s been done to stage and manipulate other classic. . .theatrical works” that Beckett insisted it be *his* vision that predominates stagings of his plays, not the goofy vision of some third-rate director with “ideas.” Thanks ought to be given to Beckett for sparing us from the “re-stagings” of those who are his intellectual and aesthetic inferiors to an infinite degree.

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