Sunday, June 5th, 2011
My experiences this past week or so with reading Beckett's Comment C'est were leading me to wonder where the distinction lies between poetry and novel -- in his introduction Richard Seaver refers to Beckett's work as a novel, but very soon after I started reading it I had the thought, this is not a novel, it's a long poem. What did I mean by saying that?
A key difficulty I have with long poems (not considering epic narrative verse here) is not being able to put them down and then pick them back up in the middle -- every time I pick up Comment C'est I commence on the first page, because there is not any story line for me to keep track of or characters (besides Beckett himself) or any of the sort of progression and development that I expect to see in a novel. This keeps me from getting anywhere with the book (beyond loving the opening pages anyways), because it is much too long to read all of in a single sitting.
In a sort of funny coincidence, I was having a similar problem with the much shorter long poem Canto de guerra de las cosas, by Joachín Pasos -- as I wrote below, it is simply too much imagery for me to absorb all at once... Likely a successful reading strategy for the Beckett piece would involve focusing on little bits of it at a time, not on trying prematurely to integrate the pieces together.
When I hit on that question -- what do I mean by calling the Beckett poetry "rather than" fiction -- my initial response was along the lines of, well, no plot, no characters, no development, the meat of the piece is its language and the imagery called forth. But, well, language and imagery are of primary importance in many of my favorite novels, ones that I categorize as fiction with no questions. Narrative quality is a key point -- Comment C'est is not a narrative in any sense that I can see. But there are poems (again disregarding epic) that tell stories, and that I don't hesitate to call poetry or confuse with fiction... I think where this is headed is that there is a wide space between the two categories, that individual works can be in one category but have attributes of the other. And somehow I always just seem to know instinctively which category the work I am reading belongs in.
Thursday, June second, 2011
so here it is you open it the book we're talking of the book you slide your eyes across the words across his words across Beckett's
no luck I see disjointed images my ear perks up
slide across the page his stream of consciousness his nasty nasty filthy flow he's talking to myself he's talking shame and talking darkness lack of ease and I I can't encompass it remember it from one page to the next
I say it as I hear it he says says Sam and when he says it your ears perk up eidetic narrative you think in your consciousness it could be only maybe not that might not be what he meant not at all
that's all it wasn't a dream that nor a memory I haven't been given memories this time it was an image the kind I see sometimes see in the mud part one sometimes saw
so trace his image in the filthy filthy mud and let his nasty words caress your ear and eyes and consciousness and think you're getting it then turn the page
something wrong there
nothing clicks you're frantic drooling imbecile it's still part one no Pim part one I mean to say before the flood perhaps before the storm before some character named Pim has entered we don't know him yet nor why we're waiting for him but abide abide and let Sam's words roll on
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
Ellen sent me a link to this beautiful poem, written by her old teacher Raymond Federman at the very end of his life, in the spring time:
I thank Robert Archambeau of Samizdat blog for sharing this poem, and Ellen for sending it to me.
A Matter of Enthusiasm
I am rereading Malone Dies
just to mock death a little
and boost my cancerous spirit.
I shall soon be quite dead at last
Malone tells us at the beginning
of his story.
What a superb opening
what a fabulous sentence.
With such a sentence
Malone announces his death
and at the same time delays it.
In fact all of Malone's story
is but an adjournment.
Malone even manages
to defer his death
until the end of eternity.
soon is such a vague word.
How much time is soon?
How does one measure soon?
Normal people say
I'll be dead in ten years
or I'll be dead before I'm eighty
or I'll be dead by the end of this week
Quite dead at last
Unlike Malone prone in bed
scribbling the story of his death
with his little pencil stub
normal standing people
like to be precise
concerning their death.
Oh how they would love
to know in advance
the exact date and time
of their death.
How relieved they would be
to know exactly when
they would depart from
the great cunt of existence
in Malone's own words
to plunge into the great lie
of the afterlife.
How happy they would be
if when they emerge into life
the good doctor
or the one responsible
for having expelled them
would tell them you will die at 15:30
on December 22, 1989.
Could Sam have written
I shall soon be quite dead at last
had he known in advance
when he would change tense?
because as Malone tells us
a bit further in his story
I shall die tepid
Does that mean on the contrary
of those idiots on this bitch of an earth
who explode themselves with fervor
to reach the illusion of paradise
while taking with them other mortals
that Malone's lack of enthusiasm
towards his own death is a clever way
of delaying the act of dying?
A lack of enthusiasm for something
is always a way of postponing
the terms of that something.
The soon of Malone mocks
the permanence of death
and his lack of enthusiasm
ridicules the expression at last.
And so before he reaches the end
of the first page of his story
Malone has already succeeded
in postponing his death to
Saint John the Baptist's Day
and even the Fourteenth of July.
Malone even believes he might be able
to resist until the
not to speak of the Assumption
which certainly throws some doubt
as to what really happened
on that mythical day
or what will happen to Malone
if he manages to hang on until then.
In fact Malone defies his own death
by giving himself
birth into death
as he explains at the end of his story.
All is ready. Except me. I am being
given, if I may venture the expression,
birth to into death, such is my impression.
The feet are clear already,
of the great cunt of existence.
Favorable presentation I trust.
My head will be the last to die.
Haul in your hands. I can't.
The render rents, My story ended
I'll be living yet. Promising lag.
That is the end of me. I shall say I no more.
Nothing more to add this evening.
Malone said it all for me.
I can go to sleep calmly now.
Good night everybody.
Friday, May first, 2009
The NY Times reviews the Roundabout Theater's production of Waiting for Godot today. It sounds great, and makes me happy I'm going to see it in a few weeks. Lots of cool photos at the link (under "Multimedia"); I especially like this picture:
(Unrelatedly, happy May Day, everyone! Solidarity!)
Gogo, Pozzo, Didi -- Didi's expression is just fantastic.
I just noticed a pretty cool, subtle optical illusion. This photo was clearly taken by a camera in front of the stage, on approximately the same level as John Goodman's midriff. But if you look at it the right way, it's easy to convince yourself that the camera was in the air, looking down at the trio at a fairly sharp angle. Try it out, see what you think. (Works best if you are only looking at the upper ¾ of the photo.)
Monday, April 27th, 2009
(Searching for an image to illustrate this post with; but all the stills from Viridiana that are out there on the web seem to be of the title character, or of the Last Supper scene... Aha! found a picture of Don Jaime.) I met up with Christine this evening to watch Viridiana at the Film Forum; it was really nice to see it again after a couple of years, and yet I find much of what I was thinking about it was in regards to its shortcomings as a story -- this is probably symptomatic of a rebound from being madly in love with it and unable to admit any problems with it...
Anyway, I don't really want to write about the shortcomings just now besides to say that the visually brilliant second half of the movie did not seem to me very interesting on a human level, and that the ending was wretched; what I wanted to talk about was how strongly I identified with Don Jaime, and how disconcerting that was. For me the moment that really makes this movie worth it is the moment when Don Jaime suddenly realizes that he has gone too far, overstepped the limits of Viridiana's patience and that she is never going to think of him as a human being any more -- his pathetic pleading with her is all-too real.
Friday, September 12th, 2008
Samuel Beckett's Film (1965), featuring Buster Keaton as O, has been uploaded to YouTube by user richardhead. It is too long for a single video but I've created a playlist so you can watch the whole thing sequentially. Beckett called his production "an interesting failure"; Times critic Dilys Powell called it "a load of old bosh." Katherine Waugh and Fergus Daly wrote a celebration of Film's 30th anniversary for the Spring 1995 issue of Film West, "Ireland's film quarterly."
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Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.