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Who to Be

Colm Tóibín: Beckett’s Letters, 6 August 2009

The Letters of Samuel Beckett 1929-40 
edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 782 pp., £30, February 2009, 978 0 521 86793 1
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... In his essay on the painter Jack Yeats, which he sent to Beckett in 1938, Thomas McGreevy wrote: ‘During the 20-odd years preceding 1916, Jack Yeats filled a need that had become immediate in Ireland for the first time in 300 years, the need of the people to feel that their own life was being expressed in art.’* Beckett was in Paris when he read the essay ...

Beast and Frog

John Bayley, 4 November 1993

Dr Johnson & Mr Savage 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 260 pp., £19.99, October 1993, 0 340 52974 1
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Samuel Johnson 
by Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 116 pp., £4.99, April 1993, 0 19 287593 0
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... something we can see but not experience: living is necessarily independent of it. In his study of Samuel Beckett, Christopher Ricks says that we desire both oblivion and eternity; but except in the insidiously artificial world of writers like Beckett, who make death a cliché within the life of language, neither of ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: What Writers Wear, 27 July 2017

... Susann’s ambition as a schoolgirl ‘was to own a mink coat’, and in the early 1970s Samuel Beckett used a ‘now classic leather Gucci hobo holdall as his day-to-day man bag’. Beckett, Newman suggests, would have been an ideal model for Comme des Garçons and with that thought in mind a photograph of ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... what my last words will be, written, the others do not endure, but vanish, into thin air.’ Beckett’s Dying Words is not a study of Beckett’s dying words if he said any, or of Malone’s. It is about words spoken or written in the vicinity of death, responsive to a conviction of their own death – a death ...

Diary

James Lasdun: Salad Days, 9 February 2006

... the agent for Irish tweeds in Trieste, Thomas Mann musing that he would have made a good banker, Samuel Beckett contemplating a career as a pilot. ‘I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot,’ Beckett wrote to Thomas MacGreevy at the age of ...

Beckett’s Buttonhook

Robert Taubman, 21 October 1982

Ill seen ill said 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 59 pp., £4.95, August 1982, 0 7145 3895 7
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Mantissa 
by John Fowles.
Cape, 192 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 9780224029384
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Sounding the terriotory 
by Laurel Goldman.
Faber, 307 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 9780571119622
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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant 
by Anne Tyler.
Chatto, 303 pp., £7.50, September 1982, 0 7011 2648 5
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... Beckett our contemporary – readers and audiences undoubtedly respond to him as a contemporary – is all the same very much a creature of the Twenties. He is the last great Modernist. His plays make use of Twenties techniques: hypnotic spotlights, loudspeakers, expressionistic props and highly-organised speech rhythms ...

Under-the-Table-Talk

Christopher Tayler: Beckett’s Letters, 19 March 2015

Letters of Samuel Beckett1957-65 
by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 771 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 0 521 86795 5
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... after two weeks the producers pulled the plug. The broadcast found a more receptive listener in Samuel Beckett, who wasn’t only in favour of an art of last gasps but had recently been brooding on radio drama as a pure play of sound and silence. ‘Merveilleux, merveilleux,’ he wrote the same day in a note to Duras, whom he didn’t know. Two days ...

At the Hayward

Brian Dillon: ‘Invisible’, 2 August 2012

... concept of the ‘infra-thin’, like mist on glass, or the warmth of a seat just vacated. Samuel Beckett wrote in The Unnameable: ‘It is all very well to keep silence, but one has also to consider the kind of silence one keeps.’ They are all, it turns out, a little different, and none of them pure or (as Susan Sontag put it) raw. Among the ...

Short Cuts

J. Jason Mitchell: The Libyan Coastguard, 16 March 2017

... to the window. I had never been that close to a wild bird before. When the Irish patrol vessel Samuel Beckett arrived in darkness to take the dead man from our boat, there was no ritual, only a haphazard transfer by stretcher as the winds picked up. We passed over a single slip of paper with the only information we knew of him. Just the date and time ...

Do, Not, Love, Make, Beds

David Wheatley: Irish literary magazines, 3 June 2004

Irish Literary Magazines: An Outline History and Descriptive Bibliography 
Irish Academic, 318 pp., £35, January 2003, 0 7165 2751 0Show More
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... way, and in 1834 it published perhaps the single most influential Irish book review ever written, Samuel Ferguson’s attack on Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy. The review, which was spread over four issues, criticised primitive cultural nationalism and formed a platform for the soon to emerge Irish Revival. All through the 19th century, Irish magazines ...

On Needing to Be Looked After

Tim Parks: Beckett’s Letters, 1 December 2011

The Letters of Samuel Beckett: 1941-56 
edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 791 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 521 86794 8
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... At the turning point of this second volume of Beckett’s letters, which is also the turning point of his professional life, the moment when, after so many years of ‘retyping … for rejection’, his best work is finally to be published with enthusiasm by editors determined to let the world know what they have discovered, the author’s partner, Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil, writes to Jérôme Lindon at Editions de Minuit to advise that Beckett does not wish his novel to be entered for the Prix des Critiques ...

Diary

Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... are writing as though it mattered, as though they meant it, as though they meant it to matter ... Samuel Beckett (of course), John Berger, Christine Brooke-Rose, Brigid Brophy, Anthony Burgess, Alan Burns, Angela Carter, Eva Figes, Giles Gordon, Wilson Harris, Rayner Heppenstall, even hasty, muddled Robert Nye, Ann Quin, Penelope Shuttle, Alan Sillitoe ...

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley, 18 May 2000

To Ireland, I 
by Paul Muldoon.
Oxford, 150 pp., £19.99, March 2000, 0 19 818475 1
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Bandanna 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.99, February 1999, 0 571 19762 0
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The Birds 
translated by Paul Muldoon, by Richard Martin.
Gallery Press, 80 pp., £13.95, July 1999, 1 85235 245 0
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Reading Paul Muldoon 
by Clair Wills.
Bloodaxe, 222 pp., £10.95, October 1998, 1 85224 348 1
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... Macbeth is short enough, but noting the inordinate length of many of Shakespeare’s other plays Samuel Ferguson offered the public a volume of Shakespearian Breviates in 1882, cutting each play down to two hours. ‘Perhaps nothing the man has done reveals quite so much of his egotism and his self-assurance,’ Arthur Deering wrote in Sir ...

At MoMA

Hal Foster: Bruce Nauman, 20 December 2018

... this formulation isn’t as dire as ‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on,’ Nauman does share with Samuel Beckett (another early influence) a wicked sense of stark humour. In his short film Square Dance (1967-68) Nauman steps around a rectangle taped on his studio floor in a deadpan manner that both parodies the modernist obsession with this geometric ...

Double Act

Adam Smyth: ‘A Humument’, 11 October 2012

A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel 
by Tom Phillips.
Thames and Hudson, 392 pp., £14.95, May 2012, 978 0 500 29043 9
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... Ethics’ – frequently recalls other masters of strange, urgent sentences: Monty Python; Samuel Beckett; Chris Morris in Blue Jam; and perhaps most vividly of all, Vivian Stanshall in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. In fact, A Humument is a novel of quotation: not only in the sense that all of its words were written first by Mallock (although ...

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