Friday, January 11, 2013

`The Heart Beats, and What a Beat'

Elberry comments on Thursday’s post with a choice selection from Beckett’s Molloy: 

“And I should be sorry to give a wrong idea of my health which, if it was not exactly rude, to the extent of my bursting with it, was at bottom of an incredible robustness. For otherwise how could I have reached the enormous age I have reached. Thanks to moral qualities? Hygienic habits? Fresh air? Starvation? Lack of sleep? Solitude? Persecution? The long silent screams (dangerous to scream)? The daily longing for the earth to swallow me up? Come come. Fate is rancorous, but not to that extent.” 

I thanked Elberry for his contribution and he replied: 

“i feel that if you read enough Beckett, every day, you could probably cite some sterling & gruesome passage for every occasion and it would seem eerily relevant. Beckett contains all occasions and persons." 

For a writer often misunderstood as a nihilist, Beckett is remarkably wise, amusing and consoling. He’s eloquent, memorable and quotable. His best work constitutes an eccentric species of wisdom literature. Seasoned readers have assembled an advisory council of such writers – Montaigne, Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and the other Sam, Johnson. Of the last, consider this passage from his review of Soame Jenyns’ A Free Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil: 

“Many of the books which now crowd the world, may be justly suspected to be written for the sake of some invisible order of beings, for surely they are of no use to any of the corporeal inhabitants of the world. Of the productions of the last bounteous year, how many can be said to serve any purpose of use or pleasure! The only end of writing is to enable the readers better to enjoy life, or better to endure it; and how will either of those be put more in our power, by him who tells us, that we are puppets, of which some creature, not much wiser than ourselves, manages the wires!” 

Beckett meets both of Johnson’s criteria for writing – enjoyment and endurance (especially as enjoyment encourages endurance, and vice versa) -- Elberry probably would concur: 

“i'd forgotten how funny Molloy is. i remembered it, from 2007, as difficult but occasionally humorous. i must have adjusted to it, as it now seems joyously easy and almost permanently amusing. Compared to the sequels, it is pretty light reading.” 

Read the sentences following the passage Elberry passed along:

“Look at Mammy. What rid me of her, in the end? I sometimes wonder. Perhaps they buried her alive, it wouldn’t surprise me. Ah the old bitch, a nice dose she gave me, she and her lousy unconquerable genes. Bristling with boils ever since I was a brat, a fat lot of good that ever did me. The heart beats, and what a beat. That my ureters – no, not a word on that subject.”

1 comment:

Roger Boylan said...

The older I get, the funnier Beckett gets.