So: Beckett. Based solely on his work, you can’t deny he gives the impression of being a curious creature. (And, based on a story I’ve heard about him, namely, giving a paper at a conference about a completely made-up poet and the movement surrounding said figure, and eliciting scholarly confirmations of his “findings,” makes me appreciate what was an apparently bold sense of mischief aimed, in this instance, at uncovering academic bullshit.)
Last night, I finished the man’s Stories and Texts for Nothing, and I’m still wondering how the whole thing came about in his head. What sort of person puts such addictively strange stuff out there, and believes it’ll find public acceptance? While devouring the book, I wasn’t entirely sure I really got it, or whether there was an “it” to get– but I do know that I couldn’t put the thing down. And the fact that the style of these stories and vignettes pushes the reader through these fictional worlds at at least a fast walking pace, and that I just surrendered and let myself be whisked through street scenes and bare rooms without stopping to pause, probably meant I lost any larger meaning that might have been hiding behind all the characters’ (not the author’s!) paralyzed and paralytic bluster.
With the exception of Endgame (which I adore), this sense of “huh?” is more or less representative of everything I’ve read by Beckett, even if that feeling of being, not rushed, exactly, but kept moving, is new to me. And I’m wondering if I love Endgame so much, and so much more than any of the author’s other works, because it’s the only one of his pieces I’ve seen staged. Would Waiting for Godot have had more of a personally positive impact had I seen it performed, instead of reading the play on my own?
In college, a friend and I had a way of rating cultural products about which we weren’t all that excited, but that also weren’t terrible enough to waste our time criticizing: “It’s better than Beckett.” The phrase, in addition to being generally underinformed about the guy’s work, was more than anything else, really, a reaction against the nineteen-year-olds who’d chosen to undertake their journey of self-discovery via the path of literary imperiousness. Sick early on of affected boys and their haughty airs used to hide a mess of insecurity and late adolescent gangliness, we decided it was acceptable to sacrifice our own potential appreciation of their idols if it would just make these dateless nerds shut up.
Well– knowing a little bit better these days how to deal with pomposity when it crosses my path (and having abandoned academia has meant said encounters occur much less frequently), I’m more willing to deal with this particular man of letters on his own terms, whatever the hell that might mean. If it includes more nights of staying up too late because I can’t stop reading his creations, that may just be enough for me.