“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, March 23, 2006

an amphibian on dry land

The London Times did a nice thing a week ago that I missed – they published several articles to celebrate Beckett, on his centenary. LI particularly liked Roy Foster’s appreciation, which ends with a very nice anecdote:

“Reading or listening to Beckett, it is the beauty and eloquence of the language that conquers, as much as the radically melancholic vision, shot with humour though it is. In 1978 my father-in-law, a doctor from much the same sort of comfortable Dublin background as Beckett's, but far from a playgoer or novel reader, noticed me reading Deirdre Bair's biography. Noting the Dublin name ("Beckett with two t's is always Irish"), he mentioned that Frank Beckett, who ran the family business, had been a close friend through the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club, and that "his brother, the playwright, now very well known" always came over for the summer championships. "We used to have dinner together every year."

My jaw dropping at this unexpected side of his social life, I asked what he was like. "The brother?" asked my father-in-law, surprised. "Well, to tell you the truth, he never had much to say for himself." Beckett would have liked the story; but it could not have been further from the truth.”

What LI loves about Beckett is the way he pushes the rule: the bleaker, the funnier. One of our own obsessions since dear old college days is the way that one rule in life never seems to be questioned: that the serious and the non-serious are completely separate categories. Or as Mark Twain said, in his rules for funerals: “don’t laugh.” This is common sense, but LI… always laughs. Our taste tends towards the lurid and the bitter because we think of art as seriousness taken non-seriously. (and aesthetics, or the philosophy of art, is non-seriousness taken seriously -- remember, it all starts with that prating pietist, Kant, trying to stuff the genie back in the bottle). Our own little aesthetic hierarchy starts with the fact that Lear, in the end, remembers “my poor fool is hang’d.” The fool – which could be Cordelia as well – was both lucky and unlucky in that last act – for after all, one of the bits in his repertoire was to make sexual puns out of legal punishments, and a hanging fool was, of course, the kind of thing he'd zip up. Beckett's work shows just how funny this is, or could be made to be from the fool’s point of view, if he were still around, like Molloy, to enjoy his own hanging.

We liked this graf from Foster’s piece too:

“Nor was he ever anything but highly sociable. Old Irish friends continually descended on him in Paris, and he was endlessly ready to accommodate them, lend or give them money, and go drinking with them (though Brendan Behan presented too much of a challenge).

This made his genuinely reclusive French wife, Suzanne, despair: "Sam makes friends like a dog makes turds." And though visits to Dublin made him feel, he said, like an amphibian on dry land, nonetheless he returned -for sporting fixtures, or to see his family. As with Joyce, there were aspects of Irishness that never left him. The famously cutting response to an interviewer should be remembered. "Vous etes anglais, M. Beckett" -"Au contraire."”

No comments: