Samuel Beckett Shall Not Steal My Fianceé

I’ll have difficulty outdoing myself as a boyfriend ever since I took Kiersten to see Waiting For Godot on Broadway last summer. Popping the question didn’t do it, I don’t think, not quite.

The point is My Intended adores Samuel Beckett. Ever since she took a seminar course on his fiction and drama, she’s had it bad. Almost to the point where, if she’s talking at great length, she has to resist the urge to sprinkle in “quaquaquaqua” midsentence.

I’m genuinely curious about Beckett’s work, and St. Patrick’s Day seemed like a fitting time for me to begin reading him. (And as I quickly discovered, the experience is noticeably improved with a glass or two of St. Brendan’s on the rocks.)

This is also coming off Joshua Ferris’ stu-friggin-pendous The Unnamed, which draws inspiration from Beckett, and The Unnamable happens to be one of that guy’s favorite all-time novels (as it is with Kiersten; I’m not much of a schemer, but I do know that I must prevent her and Joshua Ferris from ever meeting if I’m going to keep that little rock on her finger.)

Starting off with The Unnamable is like doing a cannonball into the deep end. Not only is it the final book of a trilogy, but its opacity makes Waiting For Godot seem like an episode of Full House. If Book-a-Minute ever “ultra condensed” The Unnamable, here’s what it would look like:

NARRATOR: ?

READER: ?

The End

I’ll have more to say on that book next time, but for now, here’s a few things I learned about Mr. Beckett.

He’s most widely associated with living in James Joyce’s shadow. But while Joyce seems intent on convincing the world of his own genius, Beckett rather likes to assume he knows nothing whatsoever–which makes for very different literature.

When you’re feeling depressed, you need to make Beckett your friend. Not only was most of his life worse than yours (ever been covered in boils and rashes and stabbed by a panhandler? Maybe not at the same time…), but his attitude can be summed up with his famous quote, “There’s nothing funnier than unhappiness.”

If you’re familiar with Waiting for Godot, then you know that Beckett’s all about minimizing: reducing his subjects to their most basic parts. This isn’t to simplify things, but instead to complicate them.

Take setting, like a 19th century drawing room, with sofa, a chaise lounge, several lamps, and a piano: only so many things can conceivably happen in there (and Ibsen and Shaw had those mostly covered). But say you blast all that and have just a tree. And a rock. If you can think of that place as having fewer limitations, then you’ll understand why Beckett’s a minimalist.

Samuel Beckett says Fuck it, let’s start over–now, what do we apes really know?

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5 thoughts on “Samuel Beckett Shall Not Steal My Fianceé

  1. So, I tried Waiting for Godot, because it was somewhere on my bookshelf and you wrote this and I get stuck sometimes as a reader and I thought, “Why not?”

    I…’m not good at “modern” literature, or literature that’s trying to do something more than just be words on a page that tell a good story and maybe there’s an entailed property and probably a viscount. It’s at times like these that I think, “Not such a smart idea, dropping out of college, is it, Mr Likes-to-Read-Until-it’s-Difficult?”

    So maybe you’ll help me, because I’m not very smart until you involve the Married Women’s Property Act or the lesser known novels of Wilkie Collins. What should one get from reading Beckett, besides an inferiority complex? (“Didn’t you already have one of those?” Zach asked. “It…felt I was holding it back,” I explained.) And maybe Your Lovely Bride can throw in two or three cents’ worth of what changed about her and her way of reading after the Beckett seminar.

    Fretfully yours,

    Mike

    P.S.: I looked at the picture of your potential rival, Joshua Ferris, and thought, “Well, maybe Doug should be a little concerned because I’d totally ‘How you doin’?’ that guy,” until I realized that Ferris might be pulling a Franzen. But then I looked at other pictures of Ferris and I think the only way I can save your marriage is if I seduce Ferris myself and render him unmarketable. So — I’m off.

  2. everyone’s significant other, always secretly belongs to someone else and not us.

  3. @Mike: Kiersten says she certainly has some things to impart, so keep an eye out here.

    @Kimberly: He’s definitely worth a try. I find it’s best to clear your head of traditional expectations, like plot and that sort of thing, and you’re more likely to have a fun and profound experience with Beckett.

    @Nate: Now that’s a pretty bleak, Hemingway-esque look at human relationships, isn’t it? One that I must tell you has at least one exception, for all my exaggerated fretting. And even if it didn’t, one “rival” is dead (I had nothing to do with it, I was five) and the other is now the target of Mike’s machinations, so I’d like my chances.

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