In a sense, Joyce was Beckett's Don Quixote, and Beckett was his Sancho Panza. Joyce aspired to the One; Beckett encapsulated the fragmented many. But as each author accomplished his task, it was in the service of the other. Ultimately, Beckett's landscapes would resound with articulate silence, and his empty spaces would collect within themselves the richness of multiple shadows-a physicist would say the negative particles-of all that exists in absence, as in the white patches of an Abstract Expressionist painting. Becket would evoke, on his canvasses of vast innuendo and through the interstices of conscious and unconscious thought, the richness that Joyce had made explicit in words and intricate structure.
Artemis: "Right, brothers. Onward. Imagine yourself seated at a cafe in Montmartre." Myles: "In Paris." Artemis: "Yes, Paris. And try as you will, you cannot attract the waiter's attention. What do you do?" Beckett: "Umm...tell Butler to jump-jump-jump on his head?" Myles: "I agree with simple-toon." Artemis: "No! You simply raise one finger and say clearly 'ici, garcon.'" Beckett: "Itchy what?
Artemis: "Right, brothers. Onward. Imagine yourself seated at a cafe in Montmartre." Myles: "In Paris." Artemis: "Yes, Paris. And try as you will, you cannot attract the waiter's attention. What do you do?" Beckett: "Umm... tell Butler to jump-jump-jump on his head?" Myles: "I agree with simple-toon." Artemis: "No! You simply raise one finger and say clearly 'ici, garcon.'" Beckett: "Itchy what?
Thank you, ' I said, turning around a little so I could talk to him. 'You're a good friend.' 'I know, ' he said, as he tightened his hold around me. I leaned back against his chest, resting against him. 'Beckett, I-, ' I started to say, but he stopped me. 'Shh, ' he said. 'You don't need to say anything. Just watch the fireworks.
Waiting for Godot was not allowed. Neither was Henry Miller. The Soviets condemned them both. Miller would have been used as an example of decadence, being a very good analyst of how terrible and monstrous American culture was. That they liked, but they wouldn't publish him. I guess it must have been the sex. With Beckett, it must have been the hopelessness.
Ben Marcus has created an innovative and unflinching portrait of the turmoil of the human condition, providing the reader a most rare gift: something truly new. Notable American Women contains strains of Donald Antrim and Samuel Beckett but is beholden to neither; it is a brave, original book.
Like his admirer Samuel Beckett, Johnson locates his voices among conditions of such deprivation that even the most miserable memories are gilded by comparison: this paradox fuels equal parts of comedy and pathos. Never sentimental, at once corrosive and elegiac, House Mother Normal is a remarkable achievement.
In Kamby Bolongo Mean River damage and delusion walk hand in hand, and everything we think we know is gradually called into question. Reading like a cross between Samuel Beckett's 'The Calmative' and Gordon Lish's Dear Mr. Capote, Robert Lopez's new novel gets under your skin and latches on.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s devoted Beckett readers greeted each successively shorter volume from the master with a mixture of awe and apprehensiveness; it was like watching a great mathematician wielding an infinitesimal calculus, his equations approaching nearer and still nearer to the null point.
Gertrude Stein, all courage and will, is a soldier of minimalism. Her work, unlike the resonating silences in the art of Samuel Beckett, embodies in its loquacity and verbosity the curious paradox of the minimalist form. This art of the nuance in repetition and placement she shares with the orchestral compositions of Philip Glass.
It might be useful here to say a word about Beckett, as a link between the two stages, and as illustrating the shift towards schism. He wrote for transition, an apocalyptic magazine (renovation out of decadence, a Joachite indication in the title), and has often shown a flair for apocalyptic variations, the funniest of which is the frustrated millennialism of the Lynch family in Watt, and the most telling, perhaps, the conclusion of Comment c'est. He is the perverse theologian of a world which has suffered a Fall, experienced an Incarnation which changes all relations of past, present, and future, but which will not be redeemed. Time is an endless transition from one condition of misery to another, 'a passion without form or stations, ' to be ended by no parousia. It is a world crying out for forms and stations, and for apocalypse; all it gets is vain temporality, mad, multiform antithetical influx. It would be wrong to think that the negatives of Beckett are a denial of the paradigm in favour of reality in all its poverty. In Proust, whom Beckett so admires, the order, the forms of the passion, all derive from the last book; they are positive. In Beckett, the signs of order and form are more or less continuously presented, but always with a sign of cancellation; they are resources not to be believed in, cheques which will bounce. Order, the Christian paradigm, he suggests, is no longer usable except as an irony; that is why the Rooneys collapse in laughter when they read on the Wayside Pulpit that the Lord will uphold all that fall. But of course it is this order, however ironized, this continuously transmitted idea of order, that makes Beckett's point, and provides his books with the structural and linguistic features which enable us to make sense of them. In his progress he has presumed upon our familiarity with his habits of language and structure to make the relation between the occulted forms and the narrative surface more and more tenuous; in Comment c'est he mimes a virtually schismatic breakdown of this relation, and of his language. This is perfectly possible to reach a point along this line where nothing whatever is communicated, but of course Beckett has not reached it by a long way; and whatever preserves intelligibility is what prevents schism. This is, I think, a point to be remembered whenever one considers extremely novel, avant-garde writing. Schism is meaningless without reference to some prior condition; the absolutely New is simply unintelligible, even as novelty. It may, of course, be asked: unintelligible to whom? -the inference being that a minority public, perhaps very small-members of a circle in a square world-do understand the terms in which the new thing speaks. And certainly the minority public is a recognized feature of modern literature, and certainly conditions are such that there may be many small minorities instead of one large one; and certainly this is in itself schismatic. The history of European literature, from the time the imagination's Latin first made an accommodation with the lingua franca, is in part the history of the education of a public-cultivated but not necessarily learned, as Auerbach says, made up of what he calls la cour et la ville. That this public should break up into specialized schools, and their language grow scholastic, would only be surprising if one thought that the existence of excellent mechanical means of communication implied excellent communications, and we know it does not, McLuhan's 'the medium is the message' notwithstanding. But it is still true that novelty of itself implies the existence of what is not novel, a past. The smaller the circle, and the more ambitious its schemes of renovation, the less useful, on the whole, its past will be. And the shorter. I will return to these points in a moment.
You got used to running things on your own." "What could he do about it when he's in Iraq and the car breaks down in Kansas?" Beckett gave her a long, quiet look. "I'm not in Iraq." "No, and it has to be said, I'm not in Kansas anymore." She lifted her hands, then let them fall. "It's not that I've forgotten how to be a couple, but that my experience in being part of one is different from yours. Maybe from most people's. And I've been on my own a long time." "Now you're not. I'm not fighting a war, and I'm right here." Needed to be here, he realized, with her.
Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot,' billed as 'the laugh sensation of two continents,' made its American debut at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, in Miami, Florida, in 1956. My father, Bert Lahr, was playing Estragon, one of the two bowler-hatted tramps who pass the time in a lunar landscape as they wait in vain for the arrival of a Mr. Godot.
When the animal becomes human, the effect is pleasingly benign and we laugh outloud, "Okay come clean now. This isn't really about hunting, is it?" But when the human becomes animal, the effect is disgusting, and if we laugh at all, then it is what Beckett calls the "mirthless laugh", which laughs at that which is unhappy.
We possess the Canon because we are mortal and also rather belated. There is only so much time, and time must have a stop, while there is more to read than there ever was before. From the Yahwist and Homer to Freud, Kafka, and Beckett is a journey of nearly three millennia. Since that voyage goes past harbors as infinite as Dante, Chaucer, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy, all of whom amply compensate a lifetime's rereadings, we are in the pragmatic dilemma of excluding something else each time we read or reread extensively.
The Amen is only as good as the attitude. If you are trying to finish up quickly so you can check your cell phone messages, you are missing the chance to spend quiet moments with the giver of life and the eternal, which means you may reap continued feelings of life racing along without you. So as Samuel Beckett admonished us to fail again, and fail better, we try to pray again, and pray better, for slightly longer and with slightly more honesty, breathing more, deeper, and with more attention.
Outside of the dreary rubbish that is churned out by god knows how many hacks of varying degrees of talent, the novel is, it seems to me, a very special and rarefied kind of literary form, and was, for a brief moment only, wide-ranging in its sociocultural influence. For the most part, it has always been an acquired taste and it asks a good deal from its audience. Our great contemporary problem is in separating that which is really serious from that which is either frivolously and fashionably "radical" and that which is a kind of literary analogy to the Letterman show. It's not that there is pop culture around, it's that so few people can see the difference between it and high culture, if you will. Morton Feldman is not Stephen Sondheim. The latter is a wonderful what-he-is, but he is not what-he-is-not. To pretend that he is is to insult Feldman and embarrass Sondheim, to enact a process of homogenization that is something like pretending that David Mamet, say, breathes the same air as Samuel Beckett. People used to understand that there is, at any given time, a handful of superb writers or painters or whatever-and then there are all the rest. Nothing wrong with that. But it now makes people very uncomfortable, very edgy, as if the very idea of a Matisse or a Charles Ives or a Thelonious Monk is an affront to the notion of "ain't everything just great!" We have the spectacle of perfectly nice, respectable, harmless writers, etc., being accorded the status of important artists... Essentially the serious novelist should do what s/he can do and simply forgo the idea of a substantial audience.
You've a perfect right to call me as impractical as a dormouse, and to feel I'm out of touch with life. But this is the point where we simply can't see eye to eye. We've nothing whatever in common. Don't you see... it's not an accident that's drawn me from Blake to Whitehead, it's a certain line of thought which is fundamental to my whole approach. You see, there's something about them both... They trusted the universe. You say I don't know what the modern world's like, but that's obviously untrue. Anyone who's spent a week in London knows just what it's like... if you mean neurosis and boredom and the rest of it. And I do read a modern novel occasionally, in spite of what you say. I've read Joyce and Sartre and Beckett and the rest, and every atom in me rejects what they say. They strike me as liars and fools. I don't think they're dishonest so much as hopelessly tired and defeated." Lewis had lit his pipe. He did it as if Reade were speaking to someone else. Now he said, smiling faintly, "I don't think we're discussing modern literature." Reade had an impulse to call the debater's trick, but he repressed it. Instead he said quietly, "We're discussing modern life, and you brought up the subject. And I'm trying to explain why I don't think that murders and wars prove your point. I'm writing about Whitehead because his fundamental intuition of the universe is the same as my own. I believe like Whitehead that the universe is a single organism that somehow takes account of us. I don't believe that modern man is a stranded fragment of life in an empty universe. I've an instinct that tells me that there's a purpose, and that I can understand that purpose more deeply by trusting my instinct. I can't believe the world is meaningless. I don't expect life to explode in my face at any moment. When I walk back to my cottage, I don't feel like a meaningless fragment of life walking over a lot of dead hills. I feel a part of the landscape, as if it's somehow aware of me, and friendly.