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1. The Complete Dramatic Works of
2. Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies,
3. The Complete Short Prose of Samuel
4. The Letters of Samuel Beckett:
5. Murphy
6. How It Is
7. Molloy
8. Happy Days
9. Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist
10. The Collected Shorter Plays Beckett
11. Watt
12. Mercier and Camier
13. I Can't Go On, I'll Go On: A Samuel
14. Endgame and Act Without Words
15. Stories and Texts for Nothing
16. Samuel Beckett: A Biography
17. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel
18. Samuel Beckett: Photographs
19. Novels II of Samuel Beckett: Volume
20. Rockabye and Other Short Pieces

1. The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 476 Pages (2006-01)
-- used & new: US$16.87
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0571229158
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Gathers all of Beckett's texts for theatre, from 1955 to 1984. This book includes both the major dramatic works and the short and more compressed texts for the stage, as well for radio. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars 5 stars
This book arrived in a timely manner and in perfect condition. As stated in the description, all of Samuel Beckett's dramatic works are in this collection, and it totals over 400 pages. Highly recommend to fans of the Theater of the Absurd or dark humor.

4-0 out of 5 stars Amazon needs to list the content of the collection
For everyone else wondering I finally found the names of pieces in this collection;

Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Happy Days, All That Fall, Acts Without Words, Krapp's Last Tape, Roughs for the Theatre, Embers, Roughs for the Radio, Words and Music, Cascando, Play, Film, The Old Tune, Come and Go, Eh Joe, Breath, Not I, That Time, Footfalls, Ghost Trio, ... but the clouds ..., A Piece of Monologue, Rockaby, Ohio Impromptu, Quad, Catastrophe, Nacht und Traume, What Where

So hopefully this helps people like me. I can't be sure this is the true list but it is what the manufacturer had listed.

5-0 out of 5 stars 'No Matter,Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better'
I bought this book few years ago, when I was still new to the writings of Samuel Beckett. Today, however I rate Beckett very highly. He has been an inspiration to many. I admire the unique and arcane atmosphere he is able to create with his characters, who frequently appear to be too intimate to one's entity. I also admire theillusion of straightforward storytelling and it's poetic repetition. I feel that he has given to the drama a new dimension and fresh originality.

I often find myself spontaneously re-reading fragments or short paragraphs from this collection. It is a pity that those who appreciate Beckett's twisted perception of humanity are deprived of this volume. ... Read more

2. Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 416 Pages (2009-06-16)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$7.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802144470
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Few works of contemporary literature are so universally acclaimed as central to our understanding of the human experience as Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett’s famous trilogy. Molloy, the first of these masterpieces, appeared in French in 1951. It was followed seven months later by Malone Dies and two years later by The Unnamable. All three have been rendered into English by the author.
Amazon.com Review
Samuel Beckett's brilliance as a dramatist--as the creator of Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape, andthat despairing pas de deux Endgame--has tended toovershadow his gifts as a novelist. Yet he's unmistakably one of the greatfiction writers of our century. As a young man he took dictation(literally) from James Joyce, andabsorbed everything that myopic maestro had to offer when it came toAnglo-Irish prosody. Still, Beckett's instincts would ultimately steer himaway from Joyce's delirious play with high and low diction, toward a moreconcentrated, even compulsive style. His earlier novels, like Murphy or Watt,give us a taste of what was to come. But Beckett truly hit his stride witha trilogy of early-1950s masterpieces: Molloy, Malone Dies, TheUnnamable. Here he dispenses with all the customary props ofcontemporary fiction--including exposition, plot, and increasingly,paragraphs--and turns his attention to consciousness itself. Nobody hasever evoked the pain of existence, or the steady slide toward nonexistence,with such poetic, garrulous accuracy. And once you've attuned yourself tothe epistemological vaudeville of Beckett's prose, he turns out to be thefunniest writer on the planet--ever.

None of the three entries in the trilogy is exactly amenable to summary.It's fair to say, though, that Molloy is the easiest to read, withat least a bare-bones narrative and an abundance of comical set pieces. Inone famous episode, the narrator spends page after page figuring out how tovary the sucking stones he carries in his pockets:

And while I gazed thus at my stones, revolving interminable martingales allequally defective, and crushing handfuls of sand, so that the sand ranthrough my fingers and fell back on the strand, yes, while thus I lulled mymind and part of my body, one day suddenly it dawned on the former, dimly,that I might perhaps achieve my purpose without increasing the number of mypockets, or reducing the number of my stones, but simply by sacrificing theprinciple of trim. The meaning of this illumination, which suddenly beganto sing within me, like a verse of Isaiah, or of Jeremiah, I did notpenetrate at once, and notably the word trim, which I had never met with,in this sense, long remained obscure.
This nutty ratiocination goes on for much, much longer, until the narratorloses patience and throws the stones away. And that's a fair encapsulationof Beckett's philosophy: he argues for the essential pointlessness oflife--the solitary, wretched splendor of human existence--but does so in acomic rather than a tragic register, which ends up softening or evenoverpowering the bleakness of his initial premise. So Malone Diesopens with a typically morbid mood-lifter ("I shall soon be quite dead atlast in spite of it all") and then makes endless comedic hay out ofMalone's failure to keel over. And by the time we hit The Unnamable,we're forced to wonder whether the narrator actually exists: "I, say I.Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on,call that going, call that on." Happily, Beckett worried these samequestions and hypotheses to the end of his career, with increasinglyminimalistic gusto. But he never topped the intensity or linguisticbrilliance of this mind-bending three-part invention. --James Marcus ... Read more

Customer Reviews (36)

5-0 out of 5 stars Heading for desolation row.
This wonderfully desolate and austere trilogy is only going to work for you if you already have some affinity for Beckett's work. If you want to get some idea of where he might have been going with 'Waiting for Godot', this could well be the answer. In some ways, the journey (internal/external) is like 'King Lear' for our times: a bleak and unrelieved search for meaning, purpose, and some sense of closure or conclusion. As you might suspect at the begining, the prospect of success is slight. Why then take the time to plough your way through a trilogy, which depicts characters becoming increasingly enfeebled and incapable, just as the language becomes reduced and impoverished?
Beckett's skill with language, is paradoxically to do more with less: even as the language breaks down, and mirrors the characters' own deterioration, the words are made to work harder, and by some strange alchemy they do, conveying a moving and strangely beautiful desolation from the waste and decay from which they are conjured. I think it's impossible to read this without seeing the parallels in our own atomised and materialistic lives (McCarthy's 'The Road'?), and the knowledge that at some future point we all must find our individual paths down desolation row. Essential reading for all those who value self-awareness, and the search for meaning.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Most Painful Read ever 5 stars !!!
I forced myself to read this book thinking it might help me grow hair on my teeth and it wasn't until the hair on my head went someplace unknowing did I begin to appreciate this book. If Krapp is correct I shall regret this review in the future so hopefully I'll be around to delete it.

5-0 out of 5 stars High Modernism
Beckett's so called trilogy of brief novels is a true masterwork of stream of consciousness prose. Beckett has pushed the boundaries of the novel in this great collection, beginning with Molloy (perhaps his finest work), which recounts the narrative of a man decaying either in an asylum or in jail. The detective who is employed to find him has an increasingly similar experience to the narrator's in this bizarre meditation on the horrifically uncanny aspects of modernity. Beckett has stripped the novel of plot and intelligible characters; we are left with dark landscapes and interior thoughts which are both poetic and tragically moving. The unnameable is the least formally conventional of the three, as the borders of the narrator are blurred with the totality of Beckett's fictional universe. This work is dark and filthy like the best of modern prose. It is a Joycean tract of the unconscious mind. Beckett is also particularly admirable here for translating his own French prose into English. A truly cutting edge artist and visionary writer.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brief thought
Beckett is not for everyone.Obviously.In the first novel of this trilogy there are at least three pages about the narrator sucking on pebbles.Ridiculous, of course.Kind of the point.If you wonder why that should matter, this isn't a book for you.Let me put it this way, if Kenneth Patchen went back in time and had a baby with Hieronymus Bosch and that baby was tutored by Arnold Schoenberg (also with a time machine) and grew up to study how to make time machines in the hope that he might one day exist, he'd eventually write the first ten pages of "Molloy".The only mystery is why he didn't already do that.It's a bit like what Camus would have written after the car crash if they'd given him a pen on his way to hell.But in a good way.After all, hell is only a concept looking for a box that fits.It's aimless, pointless, depressing, etcetera.Whoopee!One of the narrators doesn't even have arms or legs and worries about this sort of thing, kind of.Read it.Or don't.Beckett's dead, what does he care?"[death is] a day like any other day, only shorter."Oh, and the murder scene in "Malone Dies" is one of the best murder scenes ever.

5-0 out of 5 stars the dark brilliance of a literay master

In these three narratives, Beckett has pretty much re-engineered the form of the novel. Characters meld, descriptions fluctuate. All the props of modern fiction are dispensed with. Strangely enough though, it is through these narratives of meaninglessness that meaning is found in the humorous ironies, in the brutal depictions of human life.

Even more fascinating than the "lyrical prose" and the passages of dark humor moving among strange characters in mundane settings, is the artistic mind that lurks behind these composed lines. If you read a biography of Beckett (see my review of DAMNED TO FAME), the episodes of his life are far more fascinating than any work he created. This is not to denigrate his fiction at all, but rather to suggest that much of it can be grasped better by understanding the biographical details of its author.

Reading Samuel Beckett is demanding work, no question. The austere complexity of the writing that ebbs and flows through the grim and comedic episodes, requires a real commitment from the reader. In THREE NOVELS, Molloy is by far the most accessible and coherent - poetic passages shine through the grim visions. Beckett's comedy is most developed in this novel. The Unnameable, however, is a fractured monologue, the mental terrain stark and anonymous. Not light bedtime reading.

With this trilogy, the brilliance of Samuel Beckett shines on, mostly in the darkest of nights. His literary legacy is still reverberating ...


The Cloud Reckoner

Extracts: A Field Guide for Iconoclasts

... Read more

3. The Complete Short Prose of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1989
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 336 Pages (1997-03-13)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$6.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802134904
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett is one of the most profoundly original writers of our century. A tremendously influential poet and dramatist, Beckett spoke of his prose fiction as the "important writing, " the medium in which his ideas were most powerfully distilled. Here, for the first time, his short prose is gathered in a definitive, complete volume by leading Beckett scholar S.E.Amazon.com Review
Although Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) is best-known for hisnovels, such as the Molloy series, and his still frequently-performedplays like Waiting for Godot and Endgame, he is rarelythought of as a writer of short fiction and prose. Yet he wrote shortworks devotedly throughout his life; many critics count variousBeckett short stories as masterpieces of the form, central to anappreciation of the writer's oeuvre. The Complete Short Prose,1929-1989, as the title suggests, collects all of the NobelPrize-winner's shorter works, such as "First Love," and"The Lost Ones." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Beckett erases himself...
This book brings together what is the lesser-known short prose of Samuel Beckett--a surprisingly small output for so long-lived and otherwise so prolific an author. From his first published story to his last gnomic writings, this collection of texts provides a kind of comprehensive chronicle of Beckett's developmental arc as a writer beginning with the surprisingly conventional *Assumption.*

These texts showcase Beckett both at his most human and his most "inhuman." His characteristic slapstick black humor is in full play through about half the book, but from *Texts for Nothing*--which strike me as a stunningly personal testament of depression and isolation just this side of the grave short of suicide--to the final *Stirrings Still* the writing takes on the terse impersonality of stage direction, which I can't help but think would be far more effective--and interesting--taken dramatized ((indeed as many of these texts have been staged)) than they are to read. Obsessively precise descriptions of nameless mute bodies standing, sitting, lying, etc. is interesting experimentally but eventually becomes mind-numbing on the page. These last texts of Beckett, leached and bleached of everything that heretofore one loved about and associated with Beckett, including Beckett himself, leaves one with the eerie sensation of having entered a room whose occupant has long since vanished. What one is watching in effect is Beckett's suicide--or self-erasure--in prose and if one takes the later writing in that context it is both a chilling testament to the human condition and the grimly logical "end game" indicated by all of his earlier work. Man is subtracted little by little until he's simply not there anymore--that seems to be the message of the ever diminishing momentum and presence of personality of Beckett's oeuvre as illustrated in *The Complete Short Prose.* It is, however, with regard to the final texts in this volume, far more rewarding to contemplate these existential suicide notes from a philosophical point of view than it is embodied in the form of prose.

Without question an important and rewarding book, *The Complete Short Prose of Samuel Beckett* is explanation itself why Beckett's short fiction is not as well-known or well-loved as his novels and plays. As a record, though, a sort of autobiography in fiction it can't be beat as a way to understanding the painfully compelling work of the last--and final?--true giant of world literature.

1-0 out of 5 stars Cure for insomnia
I love short stories, in fact I need think we need to read them more often in this harried society...but this collection...

Wow...it is my cure for insomnia. I have been trying to read finish this novel for 2 years now, and have finally come to the realization that I simply will never finish it because- it is my cure for insomnia.

5-0 out of 5 stars A tale of progression
The great thing about this collection, aside from seeing Beckett work his wonders on the short form--something for which he is underappreciated--is seeing him evolve as a writer over the years. I loved the way you could trace his investment, or lack thereof, in plot and the standard niceties of "story" over the course of the book. He is a master, truly, and one should take time to appreciate his shorter and lesser known works. Much joy waits therein.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beckett: Still Relevant
The Complete Short Prose 1929-1989 is one of the great books to appear in the last ten years. I grew up reading parts in anthology and thin Grove Press editions. At last many of these sparse texts parading around as novels have come together under one cover. Stories like "First Love" and "The End" are among Beckett's strongest works, and "Texts for Nothing" are extremely complex and perhaps the most moving monolgues I know, for they often bring tears to my eyes. Beautiful stuff! You need some sort of literary standard other than Dave Eggers or Cormac McCarthy: I'll take Beckett any day!

Beckett had a big influence on European writing, but his influence is almost invisible on American letters. Sometimes you hear about writers being influenced by Kundera, Borges, or Kafka, but Beckett has eluded the art of writing here, with the exception of play writing. That's unfortunate, because his trilogy of novels and much of his short texts are some of the most intense, beautiful writing in the past half-century. Edward Dahlberg often talked about this sort of great writing: "It was to take me many years to realize that one has to be very lucky to write one intelligence sentence."

After reading the definitive introduction by the writer S. E. Gontarski, I am convinced that Beckett is the creator of "Spoken Word." Take that to the bank! In works such as "Fizzles" and "The Lost Ones" Beckett modulates a disembodied voice that is stripped away of all mimesis, yet it is the same interior voice that permeates all his fiction. Haunting, profound, chilling. I can think of no equal to Beckett's prose writing, except maybe Dahlberg himself. Only if today's hack writing was half as good as Beckett and Dahlberg....

People should read The Complete Short Prose and Three Novels like they read the Bible. Do it now! I know why these books are worth reading! As Dahlberg once said, "What need had I of the sour pedants of humid syntax, or of courses in pedagogy, canonized illiteracy. I saw that anybody who had read twelve good books knew more than a doctor of philosophy." Nevermind these fads, these 20 under 40, and so on. Nevermind.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beckett's little-known nonfiction
While Beckett's works certainly contain their share of angst, there is more to his work than that, as this collection reminds us.The last work in this collection is a nonfiction essay that Beckett wrote for Irish radiojust after World War II called "The Capital of the Ruins." Beckett's subject was a field hospital in the French town of St. Lo thatIrish citizens had helped to staff (and where he himself had worked as aninterpreter).While the prose is unmistakably Beckett (particularly theself-deprecating humor--at one point he refers to the essay as a"circumlocution"), the optimism of trying to convince his peoplethat they had helped their fellow human beings survive a terrible war moreeasily is not what we expect from him.Also typical is a wonderfulBiblical allusion to the Book of Isaiah and its great swords-and-plowsharesmetaphor, which he cleverly adapts to modern times.There is a lot ofwonderful fiction in this volume (my favorite is "The Cliff," ashort meditation, possibly on a preserved skull), but the non-fiction isnot to be neglected, and reveals a side of this writer not often seen orconsidered. ... Read more

4. The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940
by Samuel Beckett
Hardcover: 882 Pages (2009-02-23)
list price: US$50.00 -- used & new: US$24.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521867932
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The letters written by Samuel Beckett between 1929 and 1940 provide a vivid and personal view of Western Europe in the 1930s, and mark the gradual emergence of Beckett's unique voice and sensibility. The Cambridge University Press edition of The Letters of Samuel Beckett offers for the first time a comprehensive range of letters of one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century. Selected for their bearing on his work from over 15,000 extant letters, the letters published in this four-volume edition encompass sixty years of Beckett's writing life (1929-1989), and include letters to friends, painters and musicians, as well as to students, publishers, translators, and colleagues in the world of literature and theater. For anyone interested in twentieth-century literature and theater this edition is essential reading, offering not only a record of Beckett's achievements but a powerful literary experience in itself. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Shines great light on Beckett's early life work
The vast majority of these are to one close friend, Thomas McGreevy, who was responsible for introducing SB to Joyce, as well as later to his favorite painter, Jack B. Yeats. The editors note that "Beckett wrote letters primarily in English (65%), and also in French (30%) and German (5%)." (p. xxiii) The introduction and editorial notes are superbly helpful, immediately following each letter, and where the original letter is not in English, there's a complete translation right next to the French or German. The letters that I read didn't give a view of SB naked, but they capture his linguistic playfulness, his scatological bent, as well as the torments of his youthful search for his voice. The reason these letters don't contain the gossip & sex is explained by the editors, who mention that SB constrained the publication of letters to those "only having bearing on my work."

5-0 out of 5 stars Nothing to be done... it's awesome
Outstanding. I only wish they could publish them all. Cannot wait for the other volumes to come out. If you like/love Beckett you should own this.

5-0 out of 5 stars Like a veil
A masterly job of editing Mr. Beckett's early letters. I found the detailed and scholarly notes essential to deciphering the many obscure references and common foreign language terms strewn through these letters to friends, relatives, and publishing acquaintances. (The translation into English of his many German, French and Italian phrases is essential to the enjoyment of reading these letters by those, such as I, shackled by that one language.)

Being not overly familiar with Samuel Beckett's life, I was surprised at the extraordinary depth ofartistic knowledge he possessed beyond literature, into painting, music and foreign languages.

Among the interesting aspects of these letters to me is the scarcity of comment on the political turmoil in 1930s Europe, especially given Mr. Beckett's many travels and stays in Germany and France during that threatening decade... and his fascination with Dr. Samuel Johnson.

I look forward to future volumes.

5-0 out of 5 stars A writer finding his voice
Beckett is intensely concerned with language throughout these letters, and it is fascinating to see him experiment with words and different languages.He is also a serious student of art and music and in a singleletter will riff between a sonata, a poem and a painting.It is fascinating to read his explanations of what he is seeing, what he is trying to do.For example, seldom have I encountered as many obsessive descriptions of how paintings are hung in a gallery.Or venom for careless restorations.

And the efforts to obtain a publisher for his novel Murphy!It is an inventory of UK publishers that turn down the book, including the "private asylum Hogarth."Yet he is a kind correspondent, always concerned with the person to whom he is writing, even if it is his hapless agent.

He spends several months during 1937 visiting museums and galleries in Germany, and he provides an eeriedescription of museums with large numbers of "degenerate" works removed from the galleries, and often available for private viewings in the basement, or in the private home of a Jewish collector.

But these are asides.The main focus of these letters is the struggle of the young Beckett to find his voice in a world that had little interest in what he had to say, and provided little opportunity of earning a living.The publisher of his first book of poems sends him the annual statement of sales, recording 2 copies sold in the previous year.

But he plows on, writing careful, thoughtful, generous letters to a wide group of friends and others, and in those letters we are given the rare opportunity of seeing a great and original mind find a language and a voice.

I did not think much of the obsessive footnotes.The introduction explained the tortuous history of the letters, and along the way the project accumulated way too many scholars.The footnotes are endless, and completely without a human touch.Name, dates, a few words about the person.Endlessly I turned to the footnotes hoping for some explanation of this person's relationship with Beckett,or just some gossip.But no, nothing human, ever. And I would happily have avoided the footnotes except that a vast number of Beckett letter are included solely in the footnotes.

1-0 out of 5 stars Rating the quality of the printing and binding
The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940

This review expresses my profound disappointment with the manufacture of the book.

The letters of Beckett are a joy to read but the publisher has made it as difficult as possible. The book is glued (as most books are today) rather than sewn, which makes it hard to hold open. The paper used is dead white---very hard on the eyes---rather than off-white. The margins, especially the inside margin, are narrow. There are pages and pages of notes (sometimes several consecutive pages) set in not very well printed 8-point type (quite small) with very little space between the lines---very hard to read (and they are essential to read). As to the binding: it is not cloth but colored paper over board, which means that once the jacket disappears, the hinges will quickly bruise.

Time was a Cambridge U.P. would manufacture a decent book, especially with an author as distinguished as this one. Very disappointing. To those who haven't purchased it yet, I would wait for the paperback. It will probably last just as long.

... Read more

5. Murphy
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 288 Pages (1994-01-20)
list price: US$13.50 -- used & new: US$8.42
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802150373
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A 6 CD (6 hr. 18 min.) recording of Samuel Beckett's first novel (his only prior to World War II), published in 1938, recounts the hilarous but tragic life of Murphy in London as he attempts to reconcile the life of the body with the life of the mind. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

1-0 out of 5 stars A Borefest :o(

I really, really tried to like this book. One of my favorite and beloved novelists, Iris Murdoch, adored it, and so I ordered it. Ouch, what a dreadful mistake! It was like reading James Joyce, a complete slog all the way through. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't like being spoon fed, but please, this was absolute TORTURE. Thank goodness I bought this through a seller for $2.00 so I didn't spend too much money on this monstrosity.


5-0 out of 5 stars All out
Apart from umpteen times during my salad days I haven't read this novel in many a long year but I am actually at long last currently on the verge of undertaking yet again the welcome burden of carrying off under me oxter this priceless parcel of ash. "It must have weighed well on four pounds." That's a real figure from very near the end, a quote I suppose, I remember it almost word for word, on account of what happens after in the bar when Cooper takes great offence and the leftovers of Murphy, in a sort of sack at this stage, take flight so to speak. Almost word for word and no error, the darkly funny and superbly written dénouement of chapter 12, Cooper trying to dispose of the incinerated Irish gladiator's mortal remains:

"He was turning into the station, without having met any considerable receptacle for refuse, when a burst of music made him halt and turn. It was the pub across the way, opening for the evening session. The lights sprang up in the saloon, the doors burst open, the jukebox struck up. He crossed the street and stood on the threshold. The floor was palest ochre, the pin-tables shone like silver, the quoits board had a net, the stools the high rungs that he loved, the whiskey was in glass tanks, a slow cascando of pellucid yellows. A man brushed past him into the saloon, one of the millions that had been wanting a drink for the past two hours. Cooper followed slowly and sat down at the bar, for the first time in more than twenty years.

'What are you taking, friend?' said the man. 'The first is mine,' said Cooper, his voice trembling.

Some hours later Cooper took the packet of ash from his pocket, where earlier in the evening he had put it for greater security, and threw it angrily at a man who had given him great offence. It bounced, burst, off the wall on to the floor, where at once it became the object of much dribbling, passing, trapping, shooting, punching, heading and even some recognition from the gentleman's code. By closing time the body, mind and soul of Murphy were freely distributed over the floor of the saloon."

Simply smashing stuff that is--even though for vaguely personal reasons I substituted jukebox for radio--but hold on a minute here, since I haven't exactly started properly yet at the beginning I'll fark right off now and come back when I really am done and done. Early Beckett, wha'? Sure you can't beat nor best this man's writing from any bleeding period.

November 12: The first thing to say I suppose is the very first paragraph of Murphy is justly celebrated. This remarkable opening salvo is generally considered--at least in certain quarters--to be composed of five of the finest first five sentences in the history of scribbling. That at any rate is certainly one of my own convictions. But the odd thing is it's not this opening paragraph on page 1 that bangs a gong now but that sentence on page 2, the one about the pleasure consequent on the body's appeasement, the sentence where the author directly confesses the following about the life of his creation, the moribund Murphy: "And life in his mind gave him pleasure, such pleasure that pleasure was not the word."

Although as utterly gobsmacked as this left me I needn't tell you that when I read on the next page all about Murphy's esteemed mentor Neary and the uses to which he, Neary, put the gift given him of stopping his heart more or less whenever he liked--the rare trick to be used sparingly and only in situations irksome beyond endurance, such "as when he wanted a drink and could not get one, or fell among Gaels and could not escape"--well I hardly need add that I stood straight up in my eight-eyed Doc Martens and laughed till I stopped.

November fifteen: Neary to Murphy:

"'The love that lifts up it eyes,' said Neary, 'being in torments; that craves for the tip of her little finger, dipped in lacquer, to cool its tongue--is foreign to you, Murphy, I take it.'

'Greek,' said Murphy."

I'm not making this up, it's right there on page 5. Hard on the heels too halfway back up the same page of Murphy's equally snappy retort to Neary's desperate call for the merest fifteen minutes with a certain Miss Dwyer:

"'And then?' said Murphy. 'Back to Teneriffe and the apes?'"

Murphy's a smart one alright.

November 22, 2009: Done and done. Done too at last talking about the man Murphy--Hell roast this figment, I shill niver fergit him! Curiously enough though it's Celia this time through that figures particularly. If in all fairness Murphy is the head of this wonderful novel, Celia is its wayward heart, to say nothing of its hips, etc. The chapters properly hers, 2 and 13, are a mournful wonder to re-read, which I've just done while sitting on a bench outside the railings of Centennial Park in the sun, smoking. Celia and her grandfather and the prospect of flying that kite right out of sight. The tired heart. These chapters are well placed too to temper the ghastly merriment of this otherwise achingly funny history of that poorly starred native, Murphy. "All out," cry the park rangers. Krapp impatiently rewinding the tape to listen agog again to his younger self speak of the girl in the punt that day on the lake made a strong impression and one that's somehow faintly prefigured here in the solemn attentions paid to Celia. Murphy's a sharp one alright.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not Beckett Best But....
Murphy lives in a garret with the skylight. Somewhere, lies the radiator. Possibly a patient. Thus begins the tragic conclusion of Beckett's narrative structure similarly to his plays such as Endgame and Waiting for Godot where nothing seems to happen but something has. Unsettling. Disturbing. Colossal. Like the invisible body/hand of gas. That roams from one room of ideas to another room. Beckett's Murphy is a mediation on the movement of invisibility between humans and those concerning his own humans, namely his comrades. As seen on p.250 that summarizes the relationship between Murphy and his life, as symbolizes by Mr. Edon: "The last Mr. Murphy saw of Mr. Endon was Mr. Murphy unseen by Mr. Endon. This was also the last Murphy saw of Murphy." The rest of Murphy's acquaintances, Cooper, Neary, Celia, Wylie, Miss Carridge, Nelly, Miss Dew, and others circle his former living arrangement like the last supper. Where the voices of something deadly echos.

Where nothing happens but one is thoroughly engaged. Murphy is a difficult read, partly obscure words like niobaloo, arrears, post-golgothan, poulaines continue to haunt Beckett's linguistic sceneries. Where sentences are convoluted, but cogent. There is nothing absurd about Beckett's writing or Murphy. Everything moves sensibly around everything else. I consider Beckett a genius for engaging readers on the contemplation and behavior of nothing.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Nothing to lose, therefore nothing to gain"
This novel's often been neglected by comparison with the prose and drama after WWII, but admirers of Flann O'Brien's wit and slapdash satire sprinkled with Joycean erudition and unpredictable characters will find enough to admire. (N.B.: Four stars by comparison with what follows, which in hindsight will allow us better to appreciate what this novel sets in motion for Beckett's rise to mastery over his domain.) Already, the references veer towards obscurity, the vocabulary stretches for the archly observed and the totally original phrase, and while the author, just entering his thirties, already possesses the mordant perspective on life and love, there's a coltish kicking about the familiar realms of flat and asylum, city park and pub, that keep you tethered to a somewhat recognizable setting of Dublin (best not mention Cork) and London.

As with "Watt," the learning's considerable and not always comprehensible to those of us less gifted or leg-pulling than Beckett or Joyce; many critics tend to see the student trying to match his teacher, but I see more a proto-O'Brien voice, enamored with weary cliché and existentialist horror, utter dread and light mockery, character-type send-ups and human foibles. There's a poetic sense of life's fragility amidst the sharpened exchanges of cruelty and cant. "He thought of the four caged owls in Battersea Park, whose joys and sorrows did not begin until dusk." (106) "Is it its back that the moon can never turn to the earth, or its face?" (131) "Each leaf as it fell had an access of new life, a sudden frenzy of freedom at contact with the earth, before it lay down with the others." (150)

Who has not felt like Murphy? "For what was working for a living but a procuring and a pimping for the money-bags, one's lecherous tyrants the money-bags, so that they might breed?" (76) Or, known the backstabbing ridicule we do to each other, as Celia watches him retreat, perhaps from her forever: "His figure so excited the derision of a group of boys playing football in the road that they stopped their game. She watched him multiplied in their burlesque long after her eyes could see him no more." (143)

The novel's plot focuses less on the protagonist than you may expect, and follows mostly those who pursue him from Dublin over to London, all bent on manipulating him while betraying each other. Murphy's "unredeemed split self" gains much attention, and the sixth chapter's depiction of his spherical mind, dark, light, and half-lit, signals Beckett's signature concern for his later works. The mind-body problem haunts everyone here, from kite-loving Mr. Kelly at the Round Pond to one-eyed, hat-wearing Cooper. Outer reality vs. interior sanctuary, as represented in the Magdalene Mental Mercyseat's inmates, attracts Murphy: "here was the race he had long since despaired of finding." (166)

Eventually, he will see nothing, literally. Endon's chess game ended, Murphy will meet his maker in spectacular sense, finding perhaps the freedom within the merging where light meets dark. For those who trail him to his departure, the problems continue, as for us all in our own narratives. Beckett's story for us may bewilder more than entertain, but even in what some dismiss as a rather juvenile effort, the immense questions of mortality, mentality, and human purpose in a crazy world in and out of the asylum prove this to be a rewarding, if off-kilter and nervously narrated, story of one's man's attempt to outrun his demons by rocking in his trusty chair towards his own enigmatic, inexplicable, and unverifiable enlightenment.

2-0 out of 5 stars Postmodern Garbage
I had to read this for class.The plot is all over the place and it is really boring.There is nothing memorable about this book and it is as mundane as watching a squirrel collect nuts for the winter...on second thought, watching a squirrel collect nuts for the winter is like going to Disney World when you are 4 years old compared to reading this book.I had to read this for English 196 and I can't wait to sell this back to the book store even though I got it on ebay...so in essence, selling it to the bookstore....good riddance!!! ... Read more

6. How It Is
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 147 Pages (1994-01-18)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$7.42
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Asin: 0802150667
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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“It is one thing to be informed by Shakespeare that life “is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing”; it is something else to encounter the idea literally presented in a novel by Samuel Beckett. But I am reasonably certain that a sensitive reader who journeys through How It Is will leave the book convinced that Beckett says more that is relevant to experience in our time than Shakespeare does in Macbeth. It should come as no surprise if a decade or so hence How It Is is appraised as a masterpiece of modern literature. This poetic novel is Beckett at his height.” — Webster Schott

“A wonderful book, written in the sparest prose. . . . Beckett is one of the rare creative minds in our times.” — Alan Pryce-Jones

“What is novel is the absolute sureness of design. . . built phrase by phrase into a beautifully and tightly wrought structure — a few dozen expressions permuted with deliberate redundancy accumulate meaning even as they are emptied of it, and offer themselves as points of radiation in a strange web of utter illusion.” — Hugh Kenner
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Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars what it is(n't)
I've always thought Beckett's prose has been the treasure of his oeuvre. Beyond his meticulously structured plays or his mysterious narratives, his prose work stands out as solitary entities. Perhaps that's the best way to put it in describing a "novel" like this. He has created a new being, divested of character and author. At most, it's a meditation on all things known and unknown, directly looking inward, reflecting whatever gloss there is on the mirror of what we are (or think ourselves to be), and then seeing beyond that. And yet, one can barely decipher a line of thought, a passage through which all mortals go, a journey. In our days, it's rare for a simple book to do that. Beckett gives himself the liberty of living in the land of illusion, constructed only by language. In doing so, unveiling the fabric of consciousness to its- i'd hate to say it again- primordial essence (if there is one). For all those who love to ask questions, the stream of questioning is multiplied in this perilous work. Hardly will you reconsider ever having been in a state of internal crisis.

Thank you, Samuel Beckett

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential!
This is final statement about the meaning of life in the 20/21 st centuries: I can't go on; I must go on; I can't go on; I'll go on. You must deal with this, and you can't live without it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Modern Epic Poetry
_How It Is_ is another challenging, far-out epic by Samuel Beckett.Beckett pushes the far outer boundaries of what can be accomplished through literary fiction._How It Is_ brings us to the most remote frontiers of artistic consciousness, pioneering new ground into the furthest reaches of the human mind.Join us for this epic voyage into the mind of a profoundly disturbed genius.

5-0 out of 5 stars Whither the well-wrought novel?
Beckett mastered standing on both sides of the borderline between convention and experiment. How It Is, both immediate in poignancy and resistant to a straight-forward reading, is wonderful testimony to this incredible ability. What is most wonderful about How It Is, and Beckett's late prose works in general, is how the form of the works speak just as loudly as the meanings of the words, if not louder. If anyone is heralding the death of the well-wrought novel, Beckett has demonstrated a controversal but brilliant way forward. We might baulk at its strangeness, but Beckett's is a very generous strangeness, one that requires work on the reader's part but will give the reader a unique experience of what a literary work can do.

4-0 out of 5 stars An eerie, original novel
Once again, that poet of despair Samuel Beckett puts the reader through purgatory--or, in this case, an endless tract of mud, which our narrator muddles through for about 150 pages.Written entirely without punctuation,and sometimes a little obscure as to exactly what is going on, this bookdoes not make for easy reading.It's worth the effort, though.

I almostdidn't get through it myself."Post-modern hocus-pocus," Ithought sourly, as I read the first third.But it becomes oddlycompelling, even poetic.Beckett's severely minimalistic style isfascinating; there's nothing in this book except the eerily dehumanizedvoice of its narrator, a lonely monologue that generates real poignancy. The effect is like hearing a voice from beyond the grave, and it haunts themind like few conventionally written novels do. ... Read more

7. Molloy
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 256 Pages (1994-01-12)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.46
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802151361
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Molloy, the first of the three masterpieces which constitute Samuel Beckett’s famous trilogy, appeared in French in 1951, followed seven months later by Malone Dies (Malone meurt) and two years later by The Unnamable (L’Innommable). Few works of contemporary literature have been so universally acclaimed as central to their time and to our understanding of the human experience.
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Customer Reviews (9)

4-0 out of 5 stars Is it all a lie?!
In some ways, it might be better just to let this novel explain itself, as it's completely meaningless to discuss "plot" or maybe even "purpose." The second half the novel (which may arguably actually be the first part of the novel) begins "It was raining. It was midnight" and ends" It was not midnight. It was not raining." So, as it turns out, the whole storywas probably a lie. Is this important? I can't really make heads or tails of it, to be honest.We follow two men, Molly and Moran, as they struggle with meaninglessness and futility. Of course, since it's Beckett, futility is always hilarious, in sort of a desperate and maddening sort of way. So, while I got a good laugh out of it, I'm not sure what Beckett's ultimate goal was in writing the novel. He did win a Nobel Prize, though, so it must be in there somewhere.

5-0 out of 5 stars All language is an excess of language
December 20th, 2009: Woke up this Sunday morning to twenty-three inches of snow. Talk about yer White Christmas! A blizzard had blun right through the little cluster of hovels I live among so there I was not much later in a woolly hat with a snow shubble in both hands digging out the drive which is surprisingly long and has this wind tunnel action where the amount of drifting snow that accumulates is twice, maybe even three times, the official figure. About two-and-a-half hours of this honest day's labour roused the severest pains in both my upper and lower halves but at the same time, mysteriously, gradually, had me also experiencing this weird expansive inner glow not unlike waking up utterly recruited in body and spirit after a refreshing night's sleep in your favourite new pyjamas. Decidedly invigorating in the end I needn't add and in consequence of my new-found sense of physical well-being I decided to take a little turn about the neighbourhood, to ogle at my ease this winter wonderland and maybe even drop into the library too, which was closed, natch, on account of the bleeding weather. I should mention here that on Friday on the way home from work on the train I had turned at last the last page of Molloy and this first novel in Beckett's great trilogy had been ever since a most pleasant pebble in the shoe of my mind. I had read Molloy once or twice before but never with such a sense of rapt attention as this time and when I finished I was strictly speaking dumbfounded by Beckett's inimitable voice. The first section of the novel, Molloy's monologue, is it seems to me the literature Jacques Moran, the hero of the second section, eventually gives way to. The story here is about nothing so much as that miraculous and heart-breaking estrangement from conventional life that is the timeless lot of any true artist. Jacques Moran comes to resemble Molloy in several incontrovertible particulars not so much because he is turning into Molloy but rather because he is at last in a position to write, to create from his own experiences, the character of Molloy. The first part of Molloy is if you like Moran's subsequent, finished report on the subject of Molloy. Moran's initial report about his own transformations in search of Molloy is very nicely done but his narrative of Molloy proper, the story told ostensibly by Molloy himself, is simply magnificent. The subject of writing seems always to be uppermost in Beckett's writing. Vagabonds were never more than the unlicensed drivers of banged-up vehicles used to transport us to this subject. Talk your ear off too on the way. That's what makes repeatedly breaking your brain against this dense and meticulously crafted prose so stupendously satisfying. Needless to say I was on my way to the library to type this up on the computer so as not to forget it but as I said the dang librarians were off having a snow day. Luckily for me I was reasonably well clad and shod and had secreted about my person a plentiful supply of little homemade cheroots so I decided to intrepidly forge ahead on foot anyway in this frigid landscape, literally clambering over berms of heaped snow as I made my ludicrously slow progress along Jericho Turnpike. At one point I even used the just visible top of a parking meter to hoist myself over a particularly mountainous lump of stacked and packed snow plough snow. I had never I don't think actually ever gone for a leisurely stroll in the snow before, innocently believing perhaps that it might prove to be a bit of a larf in fact, but honestly it was tremendously, even comically, arduous and I felt not unlike Ernest Shackleton as I laboriously trudged onward. When I espied a bench outside St. Hedwig's Roman Catholic Church, I staggered awkwardly towards it and offering up a breathless thanks be to Jesus I joyfully took a load off. Great love in my heart for all benches as such, they're vastly underrated public conveniences in my estimation, and underused too, although that's more often a blessing than not, but this one here, an old-fashioned wooden affair and unoccupied to boot, was indeed most welcome. Firing up a well-earned cheroot I simply had to marvel at the degree of effort required to stagger about in two feet of fresh snow. I turned round on the bench and eyed the steeple: Don't mind if I smoke, do you God? I know I missed mass this morning but will you just look at all this snow. Have you ever tried walking in it when it's this deep? Impossible, especially at the busier junctions, even for you. So there I was on the bench outside this perfectly placed Polish Church, having a little breather, and frankly beginning to enjoy myself immensely. Immediately behind me was a monument to the fallen Polish-American warrior Casimir Pulaski, a notable casualty in 1779 of the Revolutionary War apparently. I think they have a bridge somewhere hereabouts named after him too. The Skyway. Good for him. Back to this bench though, what a satisfying sit down I was having! I attempted after a few more drags on me stogie to take in my immediate environs more generally. The first thing I see is this felly across the road, on the road in fact, lurching madly forward at speed with the aid of a walking stick. Wasn't really dressed for the cold weather either and something about his banjaxed gait made me think again of Jacques Moran. To be honest this bloke's headlong hobble also reminded me of the clod-hopping of Evans the newsagent in Watt--Evans you will remember limped dreadfully and when he got started he moved rapidly, in a series of aborted genuflections. What a day to be abroad! I exhaled happily. Then out of nowhere a well-dressed old lady in a headscarf passed me by going away from the church and then a minute later came back with her dapper little hubby in tow. Are you waiting for a bus? she asked me. I had been stamping my feet in what might have appeared on the outside to be an attack of petulance but which was in actual fact the simple result of inhaling rather too much cheroot smoke in one go. No, I'm taking a little break, I managed to gasp at last. Who knew walking in the snow would be so exhausting, I added, in explanation. Oh, said the old lady and walked on towards the church. Good for you, chuckled the old geezer good naturedly as he followed after his missus. Happy Holidays to you anyway, the old biddy called over her shoulder. Yes, Merry Christmas to you both, I glady and loudly gave back. After a minute I turned and eyed the steeple a second time: Thanks Old Chap, that did my heart the world of good, that did. Me head too. No fooling, perfumed with the incense of a righteous cheroot, this Beckett-inflected epiphany on the bench in front of a sturdy little House of God--in almost two feet of snow no less!--had me thoroughly beguiled. A small enough moment perhaps but I felt myself nevertheless in the grip of an eternal gratitude. Indeed, I was not ashamed a moment later to freely admit that God himself had been my witness and that between me and my maker the memory of what had just transpired will never be erased. Who was it now who once wrote a minimum of memory is indispensible, if one is to live really? Whoever it was never penned a better line.

5-0 out of 5 stars trips into a wall
Where the human will finishes, the absurd begins. It is also the start of the death of humanity. The task of narrating this disintegration is Beckett's purpose in this novel. It is a purposeless task. "The truth is I haven't much will left", says Molloy. How can a novel ever be sustained on that? The disappearrance of mankind leaves the lonely self, a bag of bones, in front of God's mystery. and God's silence.

With their lack of will, it becomes difficult to distinguish one person from another. Consciousness becomes impossible. It has to be filled with stories. Any kind of stories; true, false, meaningful or not. The writer is somebody standing at an observation post. His mother is the breeder of a foul race, humankind, now nearly extinct. Man is now neither man nor beast. And the writer merely observes this and tries to understand. Which is difficult, because things become nameless just as names describe nothing. What to make with words which are not meanings or references but particles of an ever disintegrating reality? "And even my sense of identity was wrapped in a namelessness often hard to penetrate".

The narrator wonders about his reality, both as an author and as a human being. His lack of command over words destroys the world, which becomes unnamable or "foully named". One solution, if one is passionate about truth, is to speak little. Can it be that we are not free, not free to speak? If human life is a burial ground, the narrator, like the author, has chosen to be a mere spectator. The thing to contribute to life is merely our "presence", only. We can study while we are here: anthropology, astronomy, magic... it is just a manner of killing time. If man is alone, then the world may be at an end. Still, all things in it hang together, as if by mystery. And this, instead of proving a solution, only adds to our sense of wonderment. And it can never be spoken, but there it is.

In this state, thinking is asking oneself questions merely for the sake of looking at them. This is the spirit of the "incurious seeker", the one who is finally prepared to learn.

In Part Two we meet Jacques Moran, a private detectivewho is to narrate his own experience of pursuing Molloy. Knowing that he has been chosen to perform a unique task, he becomes anxious. As different from Molloy, the detective seems to be an ordered, rational man. Nevertheless, he is beset by the same kind of questions that rouble Molloy. For instance, he is engaged to accomplish a mission that he cannot fully understand. Like Molloy, he has a problem with the purposefulness of life. But while Molloy has surrendered his will completely to the absurd, Moran's is a rationality which is just about to crack, and his process of psychic disintegration is started as he first gets in touch with the Molloy affair. Life becomes inenarrable. People become multiple. Two Molloys Morgan has to follow: the one inside himself and the one outside. Life becomes a stage of mirrors. Which is the true reflection?

Vagrancy can be described as a state of the mind. It is synonimous with the anguish of absolute freedom. As our lives become "worse" year after year, is it not by force of habit that we persuade ourselves that they improve when they actually decline? Moran never finds Molloy, but he un-finds himself. He un-changes his life. The only way forward seems to be a long way back.

5-0 out of 5 stars Joyce is Smarter, Beckett's Deeper (?)
I recently heard Cornell West, a Princeton professor, say during a talk that he would take Chekov over Beckett any day. "Chekov's deeper--Beckett's smarter," he said. Perhaps true (though I don't really know how he's thinking about it). But I tend to think Beckett is both DEEP and SMART.

So in terms of the "greatest novel of the 20th century," I pick this one. Ulysses is sprawling, difficult, experimental, and obviously more influential than this novel. But when you "don't understand" something in Ulysses, it's probably just because it depends upon an obscure reference--or a combination of words you only half know--or something Joyce is simply withholding from the text. When you "don't understand" something in Beckett, it's because Beckett is MYSTICAL.

One of my favorite passages in this book consists of six straight pages of Molloy's describing how he tries to arrange six pebbles ("sucking stones") in his four pockets so that he can suck them in the same order over and over again (eventually, his "solution" is, if you will allow me to quote from my imperfect memory, "to throw away all of the stones but one, which I soon lost, or gave away, or threw away, or swallowed"). What other writer could pull this off?

If you can read only ONE thing by Beckett, read this--above the plays, above any of the early or late novels.

5-0 out of 5 stars Molloy (Audiobook version)
This is a fabulous dramatic interpretation and realization of Beckett's greatest novel (really two loosely connected monologues). The actors are superbly in character and have the appropriate voices to convey the self-satisfied bewilderment of Molloy and bewildered self-satisfaction of Moran. It's a fitting cliche that this Audiobook brings the novel vividly to life. My only quibble is the recording quality, which is good, but does not attain Naxos' highest standard of transparency. ... Read more

8. Happy Days
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 64 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802130763
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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In 'Happy Days, ' Beckett pursues his relentless search for the meaning of existence, probing the tenuous relationships that bind one person to another, and each to the universe, to time past and time present.
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Customer Reviews (12)

1-0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of metaphorical tea...
So we are supposed to "read in" to the deeper meaning of an elderly woman and her irrational attempts to delude herself about her terminal situation. Ok, I get that part. When the redundance of her babbling stream of consciousness became unbearable, I realized this was just an attempt to get back at his wife for badgering him to do a "happy" play, and we are all just victims of his ironic joke.

What is fascinating to me, is the rationalizing that must take place among Mr. Beckett's admirers. Admiring him for his great works, they must reach deep for some rationalization of their own as to why this is also a great work. This play gives you such a shallow plot, with no real sympathetic character, you can write your own backstory and intent. Yes, it has a few cute moments, but by-and-large if you don't like a stop sign, just pretend it's an ice cream cone - happy me. Brilliant? Ugghh!!!

5-0 out of 5 stars Happy Days
The play is by beckett. I am without words 1, 2 and more
One enduresbut may not enjoy but possibly...

1-0 out of 5 stars play set a new record for walking out
we walked out after 7 minutes. would have been 4 but I didn't want to suggest it immediately. she rambles & rambles. plays with her purse.
big deal

5-0 out of 5 stars Beckett's not for everybody!
I have been a fan of Ruth White ever since I saw her in Lullaby and Let Them Hear You Whisper from the Broadway Archives. They never recorded her performance as Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. First, Beckett is not for everybody. Some people are going to find him difficult, hard, and even boring.Those people who have never read Beckett or studied him thoroughly are going to have a hard time understanding his brilliance. Beckett is the king of minimalism regarding theater and the absurd. Here is a middle aged woman stuck in mound doing a daily routine. We never do learn why she is in such a predicament because it's a Beckett metaphor for our lives being stuck in a mound. It's a literary device. He was brilliant.

3-0 out of 5 stars bitter end
The alarm clock rings and Winnie awakes. It is the beginning of a new day. The scene is a flat landscape with Winnie in the centre. She is embedded up over her waist in the mound. Winnie is happy about every single day. Willie, her husband, lies behind her and he seldom speaks. He is reading the newspaper. Winnie is preoccupied with oneself, putting thinks out of her bag and talking to Willie.
In the second act Winnie is embedded up to the neck in the mound. Her speech is an endless flow of words. She is more melancholy as in the first act. I think Beckett wanted to show the process of getting old and cope with it. They both are two different characters, but they complete in a very special way. Remembering the past and being happy with the present is one of the pleasures of life. Happy days will end, but if not today, it will be another precious day.
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9. Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist
by Anthony Cronin
Paperback: 645 Pages (1999-05-07)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$15.26
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0306808986
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Intensely private, possibly saintly, but perhaps misanthropic, Samuel Beckett was the most legendary and enigmatic of writers. Anthony Cronin's biography is a revelation of this mythical figure as fully human and fallible, while confirming his enormous stature both as a man and a writer. Cronin explores how the sporty schoolboy of solid Protestant bourgeois stock became a prizewinning student at Trinity, flirted with scholarship, and, in Paris, found himself at the center of its literary avant-garde as an intimate friend of James Joyce. But he was a young man who struggled with complexities in his own nature as well as with problems of literary expression. In the small provincial city of Kassel, Germany, the cosmopolitan Beckett experienced a faltering entanglement with his cousin—one of the first in a series of problematic encounters with women. The war years, which he spent as a member of the Resistance and a refugee in the South of France, brought Beckett the self-probings and discoveries that led to the great works. Then, with his sudden and astonishing fame, the balloons of myth began to inflate and a stereotype was born—frozen in exile and enigma, solemnity and sanctity. Anthony Cronin bursts these balloons to see more clearly what lies behind. Without moralizing or psychologizing, without pretensions or piety, he uncovers the real Beckett, the way the life was lived, the way the art was made.
Amazon.com Review
Samuel Beckett has always been something of an enigma. Bornand raised in Ireland, he moved to France as a young man and remainedthere, risking his life during the war in his work with the FrenchResistance. Kind, generous, and often funny in real life, his playsand novels are implacably dark, filled with despair, need, andisolation. In Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, biographerAnthony Cronin limns a deft portrait of the great writer usingBeckett's letters, early fiction, and Cronin's own acquaintance withboth his subject and several of Beckett's friends in Dublin. Takentogether, these sources reveal a multifaceted man.

Beckett passedthrough many phases on his way to greatness: a French teacher atDublin College, a member of the Paris circle that formed around JamesJoyce in the late 1920s, and later an active participant in the FrenchResistance. The years following World War II proved a fertile time inBeckett's creative life, encompassing his transition from theautobiographical to the modernist impersonal--perhaps his greatestworks. Anthony Cronin admirably balances his portrayal of the man andthe artist, rendering the details of Beckett's uneventful life and hisrich imagination in a way that fleshes out the man even as itcelebrates the genius. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars lyrical, personal, smart, informative
I've just finished this biography at last, having dipped in and out over the least couple of years.I'm pretty knowledgeable about Beckett, having read just about everything and having immersed myself in criticism.This book is, by far, the most rewarding I have read.It wears theory lightly, has a reflective tone, relishes its subject and portrays Beckett's life with sympathy, humor, intimacy and lovely, easy to read prose.Along with Beckett Remembering/Remembering Beckett, any reader will gain deep insights into the world of Beckett from Cronin's book.Get this book, and enjoy!Far better than Cohn, Gontarski, Brater, etc, etc, etc.

3-0 out of 5 stars Painful
I have just finished wading through this weighty tome. It is shameful that this author who evidently knew Beckett intimately but did not learn any from him. He makes it clear to us, how Beckett was able to develop a concise reductive approach to his work in which he reduces sentences to a mere phrase.This book need editing dramatically. Cronin waffles for pages and pages about the most tangential issues barely relavent to Beckett's life.On occassion, conjecting as what Beckett may be thinking or not. This goes on for two thirds of his book and then he cuts shortthe most active period of Beckett's life. A moment that Cronin has the most resources availble to him with documents and personnel. Beckett was a master of language this author should read him.

5-0 out of 5 stars Exhaustively researched but never exhausting to read
If you seek to understand how a product of the Irish Protestant middle class a century ago managed at an early age to overthrown any certainty brought about by such an upbringing, Cronin offers surmises to this and hundreds of other puzzles in the reticent Foxrock native's life. For a man who so esteemed silence, the impossibility of words to match our inner experiences and their outer raiments, Cronin's herculean cleaning out of the Augean stables, the poring through every scrap penned by Beckett, results in an extraordinarily thorough but never exhausting account ranging six hundred closely printed pages.

As an adopted Dubliner, and as a working writer for fifty years, Cronin adds here to his earlier successes that ponderedliterary failure, or at least mediocrity, in what passed for bohemian life in the Irish capital of the postwar decade, 1945-55, Dead as Doornails, and in his life of Flann O'Brien/Myles na gCopaleen/Brian O Nolan, No Laughing Matter. Both of these have been reissued recently, and I recommend them to readers curious about how talent can drown its sorrows in too much whisky and its potential in too much talk with too little discipline. While this pair illustrates many anecdotes riotously rendered, the cumulative effect of the two accounts makes for sobering cautionary tales, and how the ghost of Joyce lingered long over last century.

How Beckett managed to extricate himself from the early dominance of Joyce when the two met and depended upon each other however fleetingly in Paris makes for engrossing storytelling. What I noted most of all was how Cronin, through scouring Beckett's records, depicts an author amazingly crippled by maladies mostly psychosomatic, by imagined fears, by phobias befitting indeed his future characters. It takes until 1950 or so for this author, now in his mid-forties, to begin to enter into the period, after `the long siege in the room,' where he could come out of his shell and wrestle with his demons. Having fought, at first for the French Resistance (if his rather circumspect accomplishments fell less than dazzlingly in the Hollywood sense, his danger was no less real and the fate of his comrades no less fatal) and then against his interior desolation, he only then could become, well into middle age, the leader of the avant-garde we know him as, the creator of Godot and Endgame, Krapp and Malone, Molloy and Worm, Winnie and Gogo.

In this brief overview of Cronin's tome, no quotes. But, for anyone needing an excellent précis of what Beckett achieved, chapters 23 and 24 in my estimation serve as a thoughtful and by no means uncritical survey of how Beckett set up scaffolds, erected his plots, and then demolished as much of the structure as the work could stand and still survive.

Of course, his later rather dead-end prose such as How It Is and his tinier plays, or dramaticules, produced as the 1960s and 70s found him caught within the expectations of comedians, scholars, analysts, and audiences, the productions shrank as he seemingly had less to say. As Beckett, at the start of his career, noted of Joyce, the elder Irishman strove to cram the whole of existence into the written word, while his successor sought to eliminate as much of the words and still capture the whole of the same human condition. Two contrasting approaches, intersected by the love of language, the compulsion to manufacture it, and the doubt in any higher purpose than that of the artist driven to create and depict and narrate.

Cronin's energy never flags. I happily measured how well he paces his own story. Godot appears only about 2/3 of the way through, and Cronin never stints on the earlier, more embarrassing malingering of the younger Beckett that presaged his rise to fame and irritated his naturally reclusive nature. His generousity, often remarked upon by those who knew and/or studied him, left many in his debt. Winning the Nobel Prize in 1969, he escaped on an extended holiday and gave away the prize money to a list of deserving up-and-coming writers. One bought a sports car with her windfall.

Cronin, as one who knew and at least once offended Beckett, offers a counterpart to Damned by Fame, which appeared (as biographers often find) immediately prior to his own volume in 1996. James Knowlson, the keeper of the Beckett archive at the University of Reading (where a year's concentration and cash can earn you a MA in Beckett Studies), brought out the authorised biography, with more of the typical trajectory beloved by screenwriters, with Beckett's earlier, more derivatively jaunty, Joycean, or jejune scribblings preparing the way for a blossoming into challenging, disturbing, and, yes, humourous sketches of frailty, despair, and hope.

For Cronin, Beckett's less a secular saint than a hypochondriacal mum's boy who, after coddling and a preparation for respectability, lived the life of the Irish exile (who kept decamping to London and even Dublin often enough) and finally had to grow up, support himself, and push his resources to plumb the darkness within. Out of this, he made stunningly evocative prose, for my tastes some of the best in the 20th century in English, full of cadences that, in the restricted French that he chose so as to limit himself to a harsher diet than that afforded the luxuriant Hiberno-English consumer, ghosted Irishisms, summoned English at its best, and shone through French.

4-0 out of 5 stars Getting to Know Him
A careful, highly readable and sometimes very amusing account of the life of the Irish novelist, playwright, theatre director and sports enthusiast. This gives a nuanced and sensitive account of the Irish background from which Beckett at first painfully extracted himself to a new life in France, but which he was always attached to sentimentally and creatively, never being too busy to meet with a young writer from Ireland, or to drink with old Irish friends and wax nostalgic about the Liffey. This book, while generally very admiring (Cronin has no time for the last novel), is actually more discerning and knowledgeable about Beckett's affairs emotional, literary and dramatic, especially in the later years of his career when Cronin was one of the first to write about him at length in the TLS and elsewhere, as well as to meet him and ask questions such as, "Krapp seems to think he had the possibility of happiness...?" To which Beckett calmly replied, "That doesn't mean he did though, does it?"

You get a fair sense of the man and his times, and a more modulated sense of his slow climb to success, even after "Waiting for Godot" made his name. Never has fame seemed less romantic. Cronin is that best of acquaintance-biographers - no fool, but not an assassin either. Fun as well as thorough. I can't think what will come to light to make a better biography possible.

4-0 out of 5 stars A highly readable book: a fascinating, mysterious genius
For a pretty fat bio, I found this a surprisingly easy and swift read. Cronin, who certainly knows the lay of the land, the type of people, and even some of the actual folks Beckett knew, seems a fair and judiciousbiographer. I found the book most useful in charting Beckett's developmentas an artist from the callow "knowingness" of his early novelsand poems to the wry despair of his mature work. One is impressed both byBeckett's inconsistent touchiness about the handling of his work byadapters, and by his quiet generosity with near strangers as well asfriends. Cronin includes plenty of delightful trivia, from quotes ("Iam not a philosopher; one can only speak of what is in front of one andthat is simply a mess") to the fact that Beckett always accented thefirst syllable of Godot. ... Read more

10. The Collected Shorter Plays Beckett
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 320 Pages (2010-07-13)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$9.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802144381
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

Samuel Beckett, the great minimalist master and winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature, produced some of his most widely praised work for the stage in the form of the short play. This complete and definitive collection of twenty-five plays and “playlets” includes Beckett’s celebrated Krapp’s Last Tape, Embers, Cascando, Play, Eh Joe, Not I, and Footfalls, as well as his mimes, all his radio and television plays, his screenplay for Film, his adaptation of Robert Pinget’s The Old Tune, and the more recent Catastrophe, What Where, Quad, and Night and Dreams.
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Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars satisfaction guaranteed !!
Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett: All That Fall, Act Without Words, Krapp's Last Tape, Cascando, Eh Joe, Footfall, Rockaby and others
After much searching I was very pleased to find this book on Amazon. I had particularly wanted this edition which includes 'Embers' to send to my son in Israel where he had been asked by a young director to translate into hebrew.
Thanks again to the seller for very prompt delivery and excellent condition of book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beckett's best short dramatic works.
This is a very fine assortment of Beckett's short dramatic works, together in one volume.Most of these are late works, and they all have that existentialist angst, not to mention the dark humor, that is the hallmark of Beckett's best late works.He worked in a variety of forms in his later works; there's a work for film, a television play, some radio works, as well as stage plays.In every instance his genius shines through. Fans of Beckett will find this volume indispensable, and anyone who has an appreciation of modern stage works will also find this a superb addition to their library.

1-0 out of 5 stars Absurd and nothing else.
I have long heard the name of Samuel Beckett, along with Yeats, Bernard Shaw and Heaney as the 4 most distinguished writers of Ireland. But Beckett's plays in this book are a total disappointment!
For shoppers who are reading this review, you may disagree with my rating of this book, but you have to agree that the plays in this book can (might) only be appreciated through watching them being acted out, and not just by reading the scripts.
I don't understand the plays in this book at all, except for the very first one - All That Fall.
For those who like Eugene O'Neill and such, and not absurdity, please do not try this book.
This is definitely not worth US$15.95!
Maybe just US$1.95, for All That Fall.

4-0 out of 5 stars Almost too much Beckett from such a small book!
The perfect collection of Samuel Beckett's shorter works. A resource that no home library should be without.

5-0 out of 5 stars Blinded by the darkness
It is in these short 'dramaticules' that Samuel Beckett's dark and chilling genius is at it's most intense. Beckett's plays are his most vivid depiction of the futility of human communication, and the undeniable solitude of the individual as a result.

Old age and the fruitless reminiscing that this stage of life brings, preoccupies Beckett in many of these short pieces. In 'Ohio Inpromptu' an aged character's memories are constantly stopped from wandering into nostalgia by the periodic knocking of his mirror image who sits opposite him. This struggle for or against nostalgia for the past is one that faces many of Beckett's characters. In 'Rockaby' and 'Footfalls' we see old women who have battled against life for long enough and are simply awaiting their death. They feel no longing for the past and feel no passion for a life that has failed them. In 'Krapp's Last Tape', Beckett's main character has the difficulty of simultaneously battling with his former and current self. The result is a display of disdain for the optimism and exuberance that characterises more youthful thought.

The aforementioned plays, as well as notable others such as 'The Old Tune' and 'All That Fall' fantastically exemplify Beckett's premise that we are all stuck on the pointless treadmill of life and that only death can pull us off it. ... Read more

11. Watt
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 256 Pages (2009-06-16)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802144489
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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In prose possessed of the radically stripped-down beauty and ferocious wit that characterize his work, this early novel by Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett recounts the grotesque and improbable adventures of a fantastically logical Irish servant and his master. Watt is a beautifully executed black comedy that, at its core, is rooted in the powerful and terrifying vision that made Beckett one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.
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Customer Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars Watt a larf
Well first of all there's this:

"For when on Sam the sun shone bright, then in a vacuum panted Watt, and when Watt like a leaf was tossed, then stumbled Sam in the deepest night. But ah, when exceptionally the desired degrees of ventilation and radiance were united, in the little garden, then were we peers in peace, each in his own way, until the wind fell, the sun declined."

Sam and Watt strolling in their respective weathers because at this point in Part III Watt has just been removed from Sam's pavilion and the little garden of before now had borders, in the form of fences, fencing off, as far as Sam could see, the little gardens of other pavilions. The poor unfortunate inmates of Saint John of Gods in Dublin, or, more colloquially, the Johnny Goddams. I cycled three or four times around its grounds in the 80s and stopped once and smoked a smoke standing up under a stand of pines. Not too shabby I thought. Getting back to the present though I tried inputting the paragraph about Watt's reflections on Mr Knott's apparent want of a house-dog and Amazon inexplicably failed to print this so I altered one or two of what I took to be the offending words: crotch and loins to be exact. But still Amazon baulked. It's funny but I do believe the exiled Foxrockian himself was forever having trouble in the English langauge in the form of edicts of excision signed by none other than the Lord Chamberpot himself, Sir Bertram Overlunch or some such I shouldn't wonder. Talk about straining at stool. But be that baulk as it may let me urge in any case the following: 1. Watt's a right old larf for those who ceaselessly harken to the perpetual permutations of a particular type of prose fiction--plotless to all intents and purposes, the end hardly the issue, the telling words used to tell, the sheer variety of trousers and so forth--and 2. Jimmy Luntz from the hilariously lean and mean Nobody Move by the ever reliable Denis Johnson which I just so happened to pick up again while I was halfway through Watt is a curiously maligned but memorable character and the four-parter itself as a matter of fiction is the niftiest little noir tailor made for those lucky bleeders who'd already dug the dude's magisterial Already Dead, to say nothing of the incandescent short stories or Angels or especially Resuscitation of Hanged Man. Here is Luntz more or less pleading for his limbs in Ernest Gambol's Cadillac:

Jimmy Luntz: "Give me a chance, my friend. A chance to work my magic."

Ernest Gambol: "You're working it now. It ain't working."

Watt's been here thank Christ since well before paragraphs of his fanschmabulously funny adventures could be printed for people to admire and chuckle over online. But that's not the thing, this here's the thing: read slowly the devastatingly funny pages about the Lynch family and its travails towards a personal millennium in Watt and fail to laugh I double bleeding dare you. When I read these pages myself on the A train I had to stand up and get off early, at Columbus Circle if you must know, to laugh properly with appropriate abandon. Watt is a novel of the most exceptional pages. Written by all accounts during an oddly protracted time in a place where nothing and everything seemed to be occurring almost simultaneously, that is in the south of France between 1943 and 1945. Passed the time you might like to think and so Sam said and indeed by rights the book is written in exactly the way it is because of the way things were. Watt more or less doesn't even conclude convincingly which is probably just as well, for Watt. The passage concerning the learned university committee of five fine men adjudicating the results of the student Earnest Louit's college sponsored endeavours in the Burren, involving the stupendous mathematical cerebration of one Mr Nackybal, cube and root et cetera, is a sustained blow upon the funny bone. To say nothing of Sam's shock when he first heard Watt utter his words back to front in John of Gods: "No it is, yes, replied Watt. This short phrase caused me, I believe, more alarm, more pain, than if I had received, unexpectedly, at close quarters, a charge of small shot in the ravine." Jimmy Luntz though in Johnson's canny caper just recently blew into town and get this: Jimmy's thumb hurt like a bleeding horse radish after he fired that other weapon in the dark falling down the outside stairs of the tavern on the Feather River. He let the damaged digit hang out of the window while he drove and I was right up there all along coz I cannot hardly stand when a bone of any kind gets threatened or maltreated in a book I'm reading. Forget movies altogether too in this regard--makes my hair stand right up in my scrunchy so it does. The flaw in the ointment so sue me already. So Jimmy Luntz had him a sharp pain in his shooting thumb and after sucking it for a minute or two abruptly stuck it out into the wind while he drove around in Sally's Eff's truck which as far as I can remember he then banged eventually into a fence post looking for smokes which turned out to be in his shirt pocket the whole time.

I guess in the end it comes down to this: Watt's the gent for those discerning few whose reading does not necessarily anticipate the actual full stop and Luntz is overwhelmingly the short sharp relish of readers every which way but Osbert Sitwell.

4-0 out of 5 stars ''and they say there is no God"
Longer than but at a faster pace than "Murphy" if not the prose trilogy that followed, this dismantled novel written during WWII in France by its underground author features less slapstick, more repetition, and lots of nothingness. Produced under stress, "Watt" reveals the ineffable beauty glimpsed amidst the mundane despair and enduring horror of never belonging, never knowing where or why we are here. It's a brisk read, perhaps since there's so much repeated!

Such an element starts to work on you like a mantra, or a dentist's drill's rhythm. It nags at you. Knott's "shadow of purpose" stalks Watt, and those who precede and follow him in serving this man on his surreal estate. There's in this verbose, plangent, picky prose a few glimpses of poignant loveliness mixed with the characteristically wry bitterness: "for here we all seem to end by being good-natured men, and of good will, and indulgent towards the dreams of middle age, which were our dreams, whatever may escape us now and then in the way of bitter and I blush to say even blasphemous words and expressions, and perhaps also because what we know partakes in no small measure of the nature of what has so happily been called the unutterable or ineffable, so than any attempt to utter or eff it is doomed to fail, doomed, doomed to fail." (62)

If you see humor as well as heartbreak in this, it's a quick glance, as most of the work carries the increasingly hefty weight of later Beckett drama and prose. You snatch what you can amidst the squalor. "To be together again, after so long, who love the sunny wind, the windy sun, in the sun, in the wind, that is something, perhaps something." (163) Aging draws us away from even these passing comforts towards acknowledgment of their fleeting, spare joys. "To think, when one is no longer young, when one is not yet old, that one is no longer young, that one is not yet old, that is perhaps something." (201)

I found this a tougher time than "Murphy" (also reviewed by me) which by comparison seems rollicking. "Watt" takes us into the circle, the pot, the dog, the Lynch retainers: the familiar upended, tipping us into the existential abyss. It's a heady book, in every sense, for its nonsense reminds us of our tethered mind, trapped in the senses. Out of such circular reasoning, "Watt" begins to make sense, literally. There's such a surfeit of description and rehearsal and routine that the novel deadens from such detail, and in this rigorous mortification it stiffens into a long shout against alienation.

I'm not sure where Arsene's duck came from, I lack the ability to fill in the question marks that break the narrative, and I share the estrangement Knott and Watt both possess, claiming they need little to nothing, but still demanding that Knott "needed to be witnessed" even when "needing nothing if not, one, not to need, and, two, a witness to his not needing, of himself knew nothing." (202-3) Out of such knots and whats, the tale tangles itself and you with it. It's up to you to take the challenge, for "Watt" will prepare you for the heights of the prose trilogy, the "dramaticules," and the chilling atmosphere of the later prose pieces as well as the plays.

P.S. Four stars only by comparison with the prose trilogy; there are typos in this Grove printing and lapses in such episodes as Arsene & his duck that add more reader difficulties to the formidably complex narrative! The mass of material that takes a point a further nineteen ways may be amusing, and I know why Beckett does it, but it may deter or dull those wishing a more linear storyline. But, if you're reading Beckett, you already know what to expect rather than a conventional narrative.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Insane
"Watt" is my favorite Beckett novel for a number of reasons: it's funnier than the Trilogy and better constructed (not to mention more original) than Murphy; unlike e.g. "Malone Dies" it doesn't feature a self-pitying deadbeat that you frequently wish would shut up and stop whining; and Arsene's long speech is one of the purplest passages in all of Beckett. The novel consists of four parts, which (as he explains at the beginning of part IV -- I guess this is a spoiler, to the extent that it makes sense to talk of spoilers in a Beckett novel) are "naturally" arranged in the chronological order 2, 1, 4, 3. The outer frame (the opening and closing parts) is Joycean realism -- these parts take place in well-defined locations, a tram stop and a train station, and contain a fairly rich cast of characters. The inner sections are full-blown Beckett, deranged and solipsistic: 2 takes place in Mr Knott's strange establishment, where Watt, inexplicably, becomes a manservant; 3 in what appears to be an asylum -- though much of it consists of the second half of Watt's time at Mr Knott's, which in turn consists largely of an irrelevant story the other manservant told the gardener about a rustic who can allegedly do cube roots in his head.

The centrality of irrelevances and non sequiturs to Beckett's style makes a plot summary useless, but there are three observations to be made. 1. The lack of emotional sequence helps communicate the whole Beckettian complex of ideas about life being pointless and strange. 2. Beckett's use of irrelevance derives but is distinct from Joyce's digressions in the later chapters of Ulysses. Joyce is exuberant, and overwhelms his lists with the names of heroes or vegetables; Beckett is stark, and pads his writing out, say, the permutations of five objects in three holes. This habit dates from Murphy (the ordering of the five biscuits), and is part of Beckett's shtick about life being not just pointless but uninterestingly so. 3. I was delighted by the weird ingenuity of Mr Knott's household arrangements (esp. this magnificent passage about a large family of variously damaged people that is to feed its dog Mr Knott's leftovers), and by the pastiches of mathematical reasoning, but I wonder if a lot of readers wouldn't find these passages merely outlandish.

The prose is wonderful throughout, but this is usually the case with Beckett. (Some highlights: "Life begins to ram her fish and chips down your gullet until you puke, and then the puke down your gullet until you puke the puke, and then the puked puke until you begin to like it." "All the old ways led to this... the wild country roads where your dead walk beside you, on the dark shingle the turning for the last time again to the lights of the little town, the appointments kept and the appointments broken, all the delights of urban and rural change of place, all the exitus and redditus, closed and ended. All led to this, to this gloaming where a middle-aged man sits masturbating his snout, waiting for the first dawn to break.") There's the rest of Arsene's famous speech, of course, and I also like the distinctive jerky effect Beckett gets out of hobbling his sentences with commas every three words or so. e.g. "He stood, by the door, of the house, in his clothes."

4-0 out of 5 stars It's so hard to get good help in a Beckett novel...

To a house in the country comes an enigmatic man named Watt to take the place of an outgoing servant in the household staff of a man equally enigmatic, Mr. Knott. From this commonplace beginning, Samuel Beckett weaves a most uncommon tale that can perhaps only be accurately described as...well, Beckettian.

Watt is of that distinctive tribe of shabby, decrepit, stumblebums who are regularly featured as "heroes" of Beckett's work. In the case of the present novel, Watt becomes obsessively preoccupied with the habits, duties, and peccadilloes of the other household staff and, in particular, of his erstwhile new employer, the aforementioned, Mr. Knott. Clever how Beckett has Watt--a cipher himself--trying to decipher another cipher, Mr. Knott. To Watt, his employer, who he eventually comes to dress and undress, remains an elusive albeit binding mystery. But then virtually everything presents itself as a mystery to Watt and becomes the subject of long, tortured, and mostly humorous super-logical speculations that seek to take every possible explanation into account for even the most mundane phenomenon--with invariably absurd results. What you have is the literary equivalent of the old proverb of the spider who asked the centipede how it manages to walk with all those legs--and the centipede trying to explain suddenly finds he can't take another step without falling. The same sort of paralysis grips Watt's efforts to understand Mr. Knott and, for that matter, the absurdity of life in general. It's an affliction very common to characters in Samuel Beckett's work--and probably one that strikes a sympathetic chord in the experience of his most appreciative readers.

Indeed, significant portions of *Watt* will likely try the patience of lesser fans comprised as these portions are of quasi-Biblical lists of absurd comprehensiveness, extended series of repetitions detailing, for instance, all the possible permutations a man might manage when shodding his feet with the customary footwear available to him each morning: a shoe, a boot, a sock, and a slipper. Like a lot of Beckett, these kinds of ridiculously exhaustive lists of minutiae gather a certain sort of power and poetry when read aloud, but they are nearly impossible to get through with any profit while reading silently on a crowded bus, let's say.

On the other hand, *Watt,* like *Mercier and Camier* is quite a bit more conventional than Beckett's later fiction; though, of course, "conventional" in regard to Beckett is a relative term. In this case, *Watt* features genuine dialogue, a range of character viewpoints, and, if not a plot in the ordinary sense, than a plot in the extraordinary sense.

Mordant, ribald, dark, and grotesque, not to mention slapstick, sometime Three Stooges-like funny, *Watt* may not be Beckett at his peak, but he's clearly on his way--and Beckett anywhere on the climb is head and shoulders above just about anyone else.

5-0 out of 5 stars Funny AND Avant-garde
This novel is SO funny! I know it's an avant-garde masterpiece and all, but it's also hilarious. I guess if we read it straight, we would have to conclude that the protagonist, Watt, is schizophrenic, along with the narrator also, probably. The characters are not realistic. Plot actions seem completely random and unmotivated. Watt's characteristic action is to consider every possibility in every situation, and every possible combination of possibilities. There's one part that had me laughing out loud. Watt is some kind of minor servant in a household, and his orders are to feed the leftovers to the dog. But there is no dog! So Watt dreams up all these far-fetched and absurd schemes for finding a dog to feed the leftovers to. I couldn't stop laughing, but my friends say I have a weird sense of humor. ... Read more

12. Mercier and Camier
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 128 Pages (1994-01-20)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.60
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0802132359
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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One of the most accessible examples of Samuel Beckett’s dark humor, Mercier and Camier is the hilarious chronicle of its two heroes’ epic journey. While their travels are fraught with complications and intrigue, Mercier and Camier at least “did not remove from home, they had that good fortune.”
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars If it weren't written by Beckett...
If it weren't written by Beckett it would be a cheap rip-off of Godot. But seeing as it is Beckett's, and was written before the great play, it is interesting and sheds light on things... well a bit of light.

For a Beckett fan it is a must. If you don't love Waiting For Godot, it will bore you.

5-0 out of 5 stars A long walk nowhere...

*Mercier and Camier* may be my favorite work by Beckett--if not, then it's certainly on the shortlist. Indeed, it's one of my favorite novels of all time. Written around the period of *Waiting for Godot,* *Mercier and Camier* bears a good deal of similarity to Beckett's legendary play, except the two curmudgeonly protagonists of M&C are walking instead of waiting on futility.

Decrepit, degenerate, down-at-the-heels, Mercier and Camier are two mutually antagonistic friends who decide to set off one day on a journey. They're looking for something--or somewhere--but what they aren't exactly sure. They have a broken umbrella, one raincoat, a bicycle, and a sack between them. At one point or other, they lose, regain, and lose again even these scant belongings. Their laconic dialogue is peppered with insults, complaints, truncated rants, sarcasm, and, most of all, a confusion bordering on out-and-out senile dementia. They no sooner leave one station of their journey then they decide they must double back. It's always raining, or about to rain. As in a nightmare, for every two steps forward they seem to take two back. They don't get anywhere; which is apropos. They had no clue where they were going from the start.

Along the way, the two friends have various fallings-out and reconciliations, all over trivial matters. They come across various outlandish characters with whom they interact in the most oblique and frustrating of ways. They commit what should be a shocking act of senseless and unpremeditated violence which causes them to become fugitives--if they weren't fugitives already. But because of the dreamy surreality of the text that renders the emotional charge of murder equal to that of bickering about a fork in the road nothing seems more important than anything else and nothing seems important at all. Everything is flat-line, the same expanse of featureless gray.

Odd to say then that *Mercier and Camier* is a hilarious, slapstick novel--a read that will have you laughing out loud. On a universal scale, Beckett's gallows humor simply can't be topped. He's got the oft-mentioned "absurdity of the human condition" down the way no one has before or since. Slim, grim, and good for a grin, *Mercier and Camier* may be one of the most *perfect* novels ever written.

1-0 out of 5 stars A depressingly overrated waste of paper
"Mercier and Camier" is the kind of book that people say is great when inside they know it's pretty much terrible.Samuel Beckett gives us a plotless tale of two guys walking around a city, acting like idiots, taking pleasure from a woman's gruesome car accident, and then killing a cop.Unlike comparable 'bad guy' protagonists - such as in "A Clockwork Orange" - Mercier and Camier are not interesting, complex, sympathetic, memorable, or worth our time. And make no mistake, these guys are bad - the fact that they act like brain-damaged five-year-olds doesn't change that.

I think Beckett intended them to represent the mixture of boredom, madness, and detachment which is an essential part of most people's psyche (especially the thoughtful), but he does not achieve this goal in the least.There are a million books which express the desperation and hollowness of life, with a tinge of humor (and indeed there are a few moments of this book which are humorous, or at least attempts at humor).This is perhaps one of the most overrated of this sort of book.

Beckett's writing style is unique and, for the most part, good.My favorite line in this book came at the end of a lengthy descriptive paragraph: "End of descriptive passage."But the actual substance of this book does not live up to the promise provided by the style.While I tend to love the strange and the unique in art (especially books about people who seem at once hideously abornal and yet universal), "Mercier and Camier" proves that not all books about distinctively bizarre characters are good.

You'd be better off seeing "Waiting for Godot," or better yet, read something by Shakespeare.

5-0 out of 5 stars Waiting for Poe
Written in 1946, "Mercier and Camier" was Samuel Beckett's first postwar novel and his first in French. "Mercier and Camier" captures the time of depression and indecision in Beckett's life. It continues the line of vagabond heroes which begins with Belacqua in "More Pricks Than Kicks" and continues with "Murphy" and "Watt." They are the first of his vaudevillian couples, and this novel is in many ways the precursor of "Waiting for Godot." If there is a chronological line of development in his writing, "Mercier and Camier" surely marks the first tentative approach toward what Beckett calls the "mature" fiction of "Molloy," "Malone Dies" and "The Unnamable." In the trilogy, Beckett relentlessly reduces his characters from pitiful creatures with few possessions--a hat, a pot, a stub of pencil--to voices, who have only the inner torments of their past life to sustain their present existence, doomed to repeat themselves until finally, even the voice, their last vestige of humanity, is stilled. There is no discernible setting, no tie with any real existence, and seemingly, no plot.

In "Mercier and Camier," the journey shapes the plot as the two men parade on an endless quest. Despite its somberness, it is in some ways a warm and funny book, occasionally tinged with stinging sarcasm. There are secondary characters, skillfully and swiftly delineated, so bizarre that even the two oddities of the title are struck by their madness. Mercier and Camier are otherworldly figures themselves, but they need the trappings of the real world in order to give their story coherence, and this is no doubt part of the reason why Beckett chose to abandon them and go on to the Malones and Malloys of his later fiction.

Just about this time, Beckett discovered that writing was for him the most intensely personal experience possible, depending not on verbal virtuosity or on the careful construction of the traditional novel. For him, creation satisfied only when he could plumb the depths of his unconscious, find an incident from his own life, and then work to conceal biography within the framework of his creative consciousness, changing dimensions of time and space according to the whim of his fictional voices. He reduces life to a series of tales, told first by one, then another (perhaps the same) voice, but all the voices are his.

Beckett perfected this method of writing novels when he discovered what he has called the most important revelation of his literary career--the first person monologue. He found he could create a multi-dimensional universe through the use of a voice telling a story. At the same time, this relentless voice could reveal character in its most desperate loneliness, stripping it as never before in contemporary fiction.

Written just before "Molloy," "Mercier and Camier" stands on the threshold of Beckett's mature fiction. There are large chunks of dialogue which he later transferred directly into Godot, but here speech is encumbered by a plot with progression and movement, albeit circuitous and often contradictory. There is a narrator, as in "Murphy" and "Watt," who occasionally intrudes to inject an acerbic comment and who thinks nothing of slowing down, speeding up, or otherwise circumventing the progress of the "pseudo-couple" (as they are called in "The Unnamable").

"Mercier and Camier" is about voluntary exile, much like Beckett's own. While it can be read as the odyssey of Beckett and the other young Irishmen who went to Paris in the 1930's hoping to gain the same success as their countryman of an older generation, James Joyce, it can also be read as two aspects of the personality of Beckett himself. Before his departure, he had been easily recognizable in Dublin by his shapeless, dirty raincoat, several sizes too large. He was plagued by recurring idiosyncratic cysts. When he wrecked his own car, he had continuous problems with his bicycle. In a drunken moment, he lost his favorite hat, which he mourned long afterwards.

It is the raincoat, however, which best symbolizes the final division of his first 30 years from the rest of his life, as well as this novel's place in his canon: when he left Dublin, Beckett threw his raincoat away, just as Mercier and Camier, after throwing theirs away, walk off into their own uncertain future, looking back now and again at the heap on the ground--unwilling to go on with it, but hesitant to abandon it... ... Read more

13. I Can't Go On, I'll Go On: A Samuel Beckett Reader
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 621 Pages (1994-01-12)
list price: US$18.95 -- used & new: US$7.78
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Asin: 0802132871
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (6)

1-0 out of 5 stars entirely inadequate
This book is entirely useless to anyone who wants more than a cursory look at SOME of Beckett's work.Many of the works included are incomplete.I paid about 20 dollars to read half-novels?Seriously? I don't know who put this book together, or who they thought would be reading it, but it's inadequate for any purpose I can think of.If you're the kind of person who picks up a book, reads half of it, then forgets about it, then by all means buy this.It's perfect for you.If you want to read the included works in their entirety, buy something else.How can ANYBODY reach anything close to a meaningful conclusion about the author or significance of his work when they're looking at snippets?I'm in college.I need to read the WHOLE BOOK if I want to be informed for class.I would hope that even casual readers would have enough respect for Samuel Beckett to read his work from beginning to end.Even if you don't want to read the whole thing, then don't waste your money on this, just read some quotes online for free.In conclusion, this book is a complete waste of time/money/intellect.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Stories
I'm afraid my review won't do Beckett justice.So I'll simply say I was very fortunate to have a college professor years ago who asked us to read a few of these stories.Very rarely will you find a story (or group of stories) that makes you think about the world in an entirely new way.I knock the dust off this book about once a year to remind myself what a good writer Beckett was.

5-0 out of 5 stars I Can't Go On, I'll Go On; A Samuel Beckett Reader
The book is outstanding and a great introduction to Beckett's life and work.It arrived promptly and in excellent condition.

5-0 out of 5 stars Absurd, Tragic, Wonderful
This book is a must have for any fan of great theater, intelligent novels, deep poetry, critical essays, or moving short stories: because it has all of them by the master of all of these genres.

From famous works such as, "Waiting for Godot," and "Krapp's Last Tape" (plays), that force a reader to rethink their world, to classic short stories, such as, "Dante and the Lobster," that is a dive into a surreal world: this book has everything.

1,000 words is not nearly enough to get into this book at any real depth, or to even give it a proper over view.This book covers the entire spectrum of one of Ireland's greatest writers.

Creater of the theater of the absurd, world renouned playwright, and man who single handedly made a place for the "shorter play," in a world that had come to expect a minimum of two acts, for a peice of drama to be considered serious.

This book contains novels, novel excerpts and short stories, all of which, redefined the genres that they belonged to.Prolific, constantly changing, and reaching new hights, Beckett redefined every genre that he wrote in, and set new levels of perfection for the rest of us to reach for.

One can not say enough things about this true literary genius.The best advice that I can give you is, buy this book, read it, and give yourself the perfect oppertunity to become aquainted with Beckett.This book gives a wondeful over view of each of Beckett's writing stages and the evolution of his work.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential to understanding Beckett
This is a very wise introduction to Samuel Beckett's work.If you haven'tdiscovered one of the most profound voices of the 20th century, then thisbook is the way to do it. By far his most accessible work is the short playKrapp's Last Tape and it is in this volume complete.Waiting for Godot isalso here as well as excerpts from Beckett's prose and some of his laterplays like Not I. This book belongs on your shelf. ... Read more

14. Endgame and Act Without Words
Paperback: 112 Pages (2009-06-16)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.84
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Asin: 080214439X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Samuel Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969; his literary output of plays, novels, stories and poetry has earned him an uncontested place as one of the greatest writers of our time. Endgame, originally written in French and translated into English by Beckett himself, is considered by many critics to be his greatest single work. A pinnacle of Beckett’s characteristic raw minimalism, it is a pure and devastating distillation of the human essence in the face of approaching death.
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Customer Reviews (30)

3-0 out of 5 stars Absurd yet Compelling
Beckett's second play "Endgame," translated from French by his own hand into English, is a vision of the world at its end. It focuses on the few surviving human beings who are themselves facing mortality; the betrayal they face from their own bodies as their physical forms break down and the end of life becomes imminent. I freely admit that I didn't understand everything Beckett was doing in the play, with fragmentation, repetition, extensive pauses within the dialogue, and allegorical referencing. I looked into educated sources on the play and found that there are allusions to the death of Christ and to Dante's "Inferno," which upon reflection become clearer to me now. I also recognized allusions of my own, particularly the parallels between the slave-son Clov and Prospero's savage servant Caliban: Clov's relationship to his father-owner Hamm is more forgiving and less vile than that between the two men in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but the similarities are definitely there. Specifically, the line from Clov -- "I use the words you taught me. If they don't mean anything any more, teach me others" -- harkens back to Prospero and his daughter Miranda giving the man-beast language and understanding.

Beyond the allusions are Beckett's own personal ideas about life and death, loneliness and family, powered by a fairly pessimistic and dark view of the ultimate fate of humanity and humankind. As a main player in the philosophical ideology and existentialist movement of The Theatre of the Absurd, his stance makes sense. The world within his play IS absurd, as well as meaningless and a bit inhumane. So, making sense out of non-sense is the key to the reading experience -- or, refusing to make the attempt to unravel the play in order to find some common understanding and just choosing to go with the flow of dialogue and action that is presented. I tried a little of both, which was frustrating and challenging while still being somewhat enjoyable.

The companion piece to "Endgame" is "Act Without Words: A Mime for One Player," which borrows motifs, characters, allegories and tone from its predecessor. While it might be much more effective and interesting if seen in performance, the actual reading of five pages filled with nothing but repetitive, tedious stage directions is less than a fulfilling experience. But the main event, "Endgame," is the reason for this book, and if you want a taste of that absurdist, existential playwriting that Beckett and Ionesco made famous, this and "Rhinocerous" are good places to start. And, of course, there's always "Waiting For Godot."

4-0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get much better than this.
Samuel Beckett, Endgame, A Play in One Act, Followed by Act Without Words, A Mime for One Player (Grove, 1958)

Samuel Beckett's plays are known for being obtuse while entertaining; Endgame is no different where this is concerned, but it is also arguably his most powerful work. We are presented with four characters, three of whom cannot move and one of whom cannot stop moving, in a relentlessly bleak landscape that, while it is never explicitly stated, seems to be post-apocalyptic. It is possible that these four are the last people left alive on earth, and their collective health is failing. Beckett uses this absurd, if gripping, mise en scene to reflect not only on both the banal and the dramatic in interpersonal relationships, but on how screwed up the world is in general. What caused these four people to be the last on Earth? And are they, in fact, the last on Earth in a literal sense, or is it just that they have become so isolated the rest of the world has forgotten about them? And can we (and the other characters) trust anything that Clov, the sole character capable of movement, is telling them? We get no answers; we are expected to supply them ourselves, of course.

Endgame is, in this volume, followed by Act Without Words, a behaviorist melodrama taken to absurd extremes, with one man in a desert setting unable to reach a carafe of water that is dangled (presumably, by a supreme being) just out of his reach, despite objects being delivered to him that should by rights help him reach it. As with most of Beckett's work (much of which, by the way, can be found free online at samuel-beckett.net, including the entire texts of these two plays), the comic and the tragic (or, I should say in this case, the endlessly frustrating) blend marvelously into one ugly morass of emotion. Great stuff, this. ****

2-0 out of 5 stars Review from a Beckett lover who was sadly disappointed
Beckett's literature can so often be prided on portraying the struggle of the pointlessness of existence versus the hope that is created by the denial that all humans are immersed in. This play is a certain exception.

All hope in Beckett's theatre is ironic and only meant to be seen as a bi-product of human desperation, however this ironic hope is the element of his plays that make them relevant to the human condition. The lack of this hope in endgame is what means this play is simply unhuman.

In 'Waiting for Godot' the flimsy pathetic hope is generated by the idea that Godot will eventually turn up. In 'Endgame' there is no hope for the future of any kind seen in any of the characters. The only any way upbeat contributions come from Nagg and Nell's memories which are irrelevant to their current situation and even more irrelevant to their future (reinforced by the death of one of them).

This play is a pale shadow of 'Waiting for Godot' and it is 'Waiting for Godot' I would recommend as more relevant to what Beckett had to say as well as some other plays from his collected works such as 'Krapp's last tape' 'Ohio inpromptu' or 'Rockaby'

1-0 out of 5 stars "Endgame" - Ghastly!
"Endgame" is a crude and despicable play.It's not a classic and a pitiable excuse of a play.Utterly useless and does not deserve our time.The characters are one dimensional, lacking, and unrealistic.The plot is morally confusing and worthless.I do not recommend.

4-0 out of 5 stars The bleakest of them all...
Totally bare in the conventional aspects of drama, Beckett's skewed humor depicts a meaningless world without hope or happiness. Taking the uncertainty of the human situation to the edge, Beckett summarized his views at his deathbed "What did you find to enjoy about life?"....."Very little." (approximately)
As such, Beckett's repitiveness shows the monotony and boredom of existence. Some people, who find his plays painful, would be in a state totally akin to Beckett himself. I get more enjoyment out of reading the plays than watching them performed. They are too slow and devoid of action to be filmable. The sense of humor is not redemptive to life, but merely shows the bleakness more sharply by contrast. I personally prefer Camus to Beckett, who at least has a slightly more balanced view of life, if not more meaningful. ... Read more

15. Stories and Texts for Nothing
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 160 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.87
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Asin: 0802150624
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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This volume brings together three of Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett’s major short stories and thirteen shorter pieces of fiction that he calls “texts for nothing.” Here, as in all his work, Beckett relentlessly strips away all but the essential to arrive at a core of truth. His prose reveals the same mastery that marks his work from Waiting for Godot and Endgame to Molloy and Malone Dies. In each of the three stories, old men displaced or expelled from the modest corners where they have been living bestir themselves in search of new corners. Told, “You can’t stay here,” they somehow, doggedly, inevitably, go on.
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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars ..but no one really knows what an ostrich sees in the sand..
read. immediately. carry it with you everywhere. read. again. read. immediately carry it with you. everywhere read. again read immediately. carry. it. with you everywhere read again read. immediately carry it. with. you everywhere with. this. infinite. here. what is there but this this is this infinite here what is there but this infinite here

5-0 out of 5 stars Not for Nothing
Bloody bleeding brilliant! ... Read more

16. Samuel Beckett: A Biography
by Deirdre Bair
Paperback: 736 Pages (1990-04-15)
list price: US$20.00 -- used & new: US$48.99
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Asin: 0671691732
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Samuel Beckett has become the standard work on the enigmatic, controversial, and Nobel Prize-winning creator of such contributions to 20th-century theater as Waiting for Godot and Endgame. 16 pages of black-and-white photographs. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Happy Days
I just read Bair's book. Impressed by her diligence and appetite for detail. Some interesting insights: for example, she claims that much of the dialogue in Godot was taken verbatim from his conversations with Suzanne, his lover, while fleeing from Paris during the war years when his resistance circle was busted by the Nazis. On the minus side, much of her psychology is too simple-minded and pat, with too much emphasis on his love-hate relationship with his mother. Worst of all, time and again she claims access to his thoughts and feelings way beyond what she can possibly have known. So many contradictions in his character that after reading it, still have no idea what really drove him.

1-0 out of 5 stars Not a definitive study of the genuis of Samuel Beckett
As one who is attempting to read almost all there is to read regarding Samuel Beckett, I have to rate Bair's attempt as weak at best.I can't even begin to explain how far off she is attempting to characterize Sam, as he was a true sympathetic, modest, and generous person.Her allegations of his romantic encounters with actress Billie Whitelaw are completely unfounded, as Billie has explained countless times in interviews and her "chatterbox" sessions.

It is also important to understand that Deirdre Bair was a PhD STUDENT when she was working on this book, and that Sam said he would neither "help nor hinder her," meaning it was not authorized.If you looking for a solid academic study of the life of Samuel Beckett, I suggest you turn to "Damned to Fame," a work by renown scholar and PERSONAL FRIEND of Sam, and the ONLY authorized biography of Beckett.This book provides a truthful and honest look at the wonderful person Sam was, and doesn't turn to unfounded selacious details for dramatic effect.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bearing the Absolute Aloneness of One's Solitary Spirit.
SAMUEL BECKETT: A Biography. By Deirdre Bair. 736 pages. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978. ISBN 0-15-179256-9 (hbk).

In 1971, while casting about for a dissertation topic, Deirdre Bair wrote to Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) to ask if she could write his biography. He replied that, while he was not prepared to help her, he wouldn't hinder her either. As things turned out, he did help her to some extent, as did many others, and the result is this well-written, well-researched, and extremely illuminating account which covers the story of Beckett's life up to 1973. Although it has since been superseded by the fuller biography, 'Damned to Fame,' by Beckett's personal friend and official biographer, James Knowlson, which appeared in 1996 and which covers the whole of Beckett's life, Bair's book seems to me to be still well worth reading. The fact that she was not a personal friend had both disadvantages and advantages. Although it meant that certain things were closed off to her, at the same time it left her a certain freedom, the freedom to say things a friend might be disinclined to say.

Briefly Bair sees Beckett's mother as the key factor in his formation - a cold, frigid, and neurotic woman dominated by notions of class and respectability, and determined to mold him into an ideal son who would be respected by Protestant and materialistic upper middle class Dublin society. Beckett rebelled against this treatment from an early age, and the regular campaigns of psychological torture which his mother launched whenever things didn't go her way were to lead to his years of misery, repeated bouts of serious physical illness, and eventually to the full-blown psychosis which is evident in certain of his works. With a more balanced and loving mother, and one sensitive to her son's aesthetic nature, Beckett might have led a normal and happier life, though it is doubtful he would have arrived at the shattering insights into human nature and reality that helped make him one of the greatest writers of the age.

The story of Beckett's life and his extreme sufferings and spiritual anguish, as told by Deirdre Bair, is both horrifying and fascinating, and she does seem to have done her best to present it as objectively as possible, though she does allow her distaste for certain of his views to peek through at times. From her account, which covers far more than his devastating love-hate relationship with his mother, and which I can't even begin to do justice to here, we come away with an enhanced understanding of Beckett that should help anyone to better understand and appreciate his somber and often difficult works.

It's true that as a mere graduate student she could hardly be expected to have a grasp of Beckett's works as extensive as that of a seasoned professor such as Knowlson. It's also true that there appear to be a number of errors and misunderstandings in her work, possibly because of her limited access to materials. But her less unctuous attitude to her subject leads me to feel that we are perhaps getting a more objective portrait of Beckett, though one that in some respects is not as detailed as that provided by Knowlson, and the serious student will want to read them both.

1-0 out of 5 stars I Want to talk to SAMMS2
Sammm, or whatever.i need to set you straight about a few things.get in contact with me quick.you miss the point more times than one would think possible.

4-0 out of 5 stars Amazing, almost perfect
Richard Ellman gave the the world the casting for what would be known as the perfect biography, James Joyce.Thus, as Beckett recanted when he stated Celine's Journey to the End of the Night was the greastest novel in the English language before pausing and explaining that Joyce is on a level that no one should have to be compared, I must state this is a good effort on Bair's behalf.The pace is well kept until the end, when things seem rushed.It ends with "1973-."I would love to see her go back and finish the text since Beckett's demise.I would not state that this text gives ample evidence of Beckett's insanity.Anyone wired directly to the world's pulse as we Beckett, will indeed suffer the psychosomatic symptoms that he underwent throughout his life, as do most greast artists.Their illnesses, physical and mental, are defense mechanisms to protect themselves from their selves.Beckett is no different and in some cases to be considered elevation upon the "upper teir" with the world's greatest artists.All in all this is a great text, especially how Bair projects Beckett's comments without interpertation, thus insinuating that he should not be trusted at all times.Case in point:he stated that Godot was a fun project that he didn't take seriously.Considering the complexity of the play, if any human were able to throw such materials onto the page without effort . . . see for yourself. ... Read more

17. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett
by James R. Knowlson
Paperback: 832 Pages (2004-04-30)
list price: US$22.00 -- used & new: US$13.21
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Asin: 0802141250
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Damned to Fame is the brilliant and insightful portrait of Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett, mysterious and reclusive master of twentieth-century literature. Professor James Knowlson, Beckett's chosen biographer and a leading authority on Beckett, vividly re-creates Beckett's life from his birth in a rural suburb of Dublin in 1906 to his death in Paris in 1989, revealing the real man behind the literary giant. Scrupulously researched and filled with previously unknown information garnered from interviews with the author and his friends, family, and contemporaries, Knowlson's unparalleled work is the definitive Beckett biography of our time.Amazon.com Review
SamuelBeckett, a talent so exceptional that he created masterpieces in bothFrench and English, shied away from the limelight for much of his life.However James Knowlson, in this amazing biography, shows Beckett wasn'tentirely hesitant to talk about himself; the book relies heavily oninterviews with Beckett to reconstruct the writer's dizzying career. Knowlsonfills the pages with exhaustive detail--some major, some minor. In addition,he analyzes the influences on and evolution of Beckett's work. Through it alla larger picture emerges, one of the artist at work and in life. Damned toFame is a necessary addition to any study of Beckett. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Life of Beckett: The Heavyweight Version
At the time I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Beckett's novels, back in the early '70s, there was no such thing as a biography of the man, only journalistic gossip and sidelong comments from scholars, such as Ruby Cohn, who had developed personal friendships with him in the course of their critical work. When Deirdre Bair's biography appeared in 1978, I read it with much interest, but soon with much disappointment. In addition to evident errors of fact (even in light of what little we otherwise knew at that point), the general level of analysis left much to be desired and rarely seemed to pull the writer and the work within hailing distance. After reading the first volume of Beckett's letters, which appeared recently, I was inspired (wrong word, Beckett would undoubtedly say) to pick up a copy of James Knowlson's "Damed to Fame" (1996). This is an absolutely excellent exercise, carefully supported by the evidence at every point, including material from extensive interviews conducted with Beckett during the last years of his life. One will even find notes correcting Bair's errors. If you want to know Beckett, with all the nuances, this is the biography to get--the writing is carefully crafted and, for the most part, highly readable (assuming one knows a bit about Beckett, or is interested enough to learn), only marred occasionally by unnecessarily melodramatic passages.

2-0 out of 5 stars Knowlson's assembled a list of details and mistaken it for a life
Reading this book was an agonizing experience. I love Beckett's work, but Knowlson's obsequiousness is almost too much to bear. According to Knowlson, Beckett was a saint in every aspect of his life, and any hint of bad behavior (his drinking, infidelity, general intractability, angry outbursts, etc.) is either neatly sidestepped or explained away at great length. I think these sides of his personality are fascinating (especially in the context of his works and writing process), but instead of exploring them Knowlson chooses to assemble a 700+ page laundry list of Beckett's daily activities -- interspersed, of course, with cloying descriptions of Beckett's utter selflessness. True analysis, either of the man's character or of his works, is completely absent from this work.

Don't waste your time with this, seriously. I'm sure there's a better Beckett biography out here -- maybe not as exhaustive as this one, but probably a great deal more interesting. And if you want a good example of what literary bio can and SHOULD be, read Richard Ellman's James Joyce. It's stunningly beautiful, and Beckett himself makes an appearance near the end!

5-0 out of 5 stars James Knowlson Gets Us Up Close and Personal with Samuel Beckett
James Knowlson's scholarly, yet accessible and gripping, biography of Samuel Beckett enables readers to meet the real man behind his poems (e.g.,"Echoes Bones and Other Precipitates"), his prose ("More Pricks Than Kicks" and "Watt") and his plays (e.g. "Waiting For Godot").For in sharing details from his long-term friendship with Beckett and offering sensitively written insights into Beckett's hopes and fears throughout his long professional career, as well as this reclusive author's personal loves and losses, Knowlson ensures our increased understanding and enjoyment of Beckett's notoriously complex texts.If you're a new student of Beckett's writing you must try this brilliant book.

4-0 out of 5 stars the intensity of brilliance
Considering the voluminous experience garnered by his subject, James Knowlson does a good job in this depiction of a great writer and and even greater personality - a life that showed about as much integrity as is possible in this time on earth. Since Knowlson knew Beckett for many years, he was intimate with aspects of the life of Beckett that would elude other biographers.

Yet, as good as this book is, it could have been better in that it gets awfully windy with inconsequential and petty details. Do we really need to know about Beckett's bouts with the flu, or the morbid details of so many friend's deaths over his eight decades? The fact that there are 125 (!)pages of footnotes makes one wonder where the copyeditor was on this book. Richard Ellman's "James Joyce" has but 65 pages, and that is way too many. Was Knowlson trying to outwrite Ellman on this bio or what? It sure is hard on the reader when footnoted material that should have been folded into the text is not. I suppose this is what is referred to as "exhaustive detail".

In spite of my items of critique, this is still a good book and an invaluable resource for those interested in one of the 20th Century's literary giants. The bibliography is a valuable compilation in itself.

As far as the Tepi review, it is overblown with false characterizations.
Knowlson actually does depict the emotional struggle between Beckett and his domineering mother, while Beckett's life with Suzanne is adequately told. This is one review best ignored.

Recommended reading.


The Cloud Reckoner

Extracts: A Field Guide for Iconoclasts

The Amplitude of Growlers, Part I

The Amplitude of Growlers - Part II

4-0 out of 5 stars Detailed record of the life- journey of 'The Master of 'Less ' is 'More'
James Knowlson is both a preeminent Beckettscholar, and cherisher of Beckett's friendship and memory. There is thus in his biography a degree of caring, and perhaps too a degree of personal protection. Nonetheless it provides any student of Beckett with a wealth of new information to enhance our knowledge of a great writer, but not solve completely the mystery and meaning of his greatness.
Joyce , Beckett's boss, and great inspiration , taught him the meaning of total dedication to the craft. But Joyce also gave him the key negative example. The feary father was greedy, and always added on and made more words than any other maker could possibly contend with . So Beckett chose a contradictory technique and became the great minimizer, the great substractor, the master of 'Less is More'.
One reviewer on the Amazon site(Tepi)excoriates Knowlson for playing down the emotional and psychological drama and difficulty of Beckett's life, of underestimating the role the cold mother played on her creator son. The criticism too of the biography is that it does not come to life in providing real portraits of the real people in Beckett's life, including the companion of twenty - years Susan.
Nonetheless I believe in general we search for the good in the book, value what it gives us. And this book does give us much new detail about a master in the art of making meaning out of what is smaller.
My own reading of Beckett goes back a long way in misunderstanding and appreciation. I in reading years ago the trilogy of novels felt that Beckett comprehended a basic aspect of human experience, in old age and dying, in a way no one else had. He made into 'Literature' kinds of experience which had not been made into Literature before.
His fierce inner poetry the Irish lyric spirit was strong in him as Joyce.
A biography can provide us details and insights into the life, and even the creative process of a master, but it cannot solve the mystery of great creation which always has within it something of a ' divine gift' a ' surprise' that even the creator himself cannot fully understand. ... Read more

18. Samuel Beckett: Photographs
Paperback: 92 Pages (1996-04-17)
list price: US$18.50 -- used & new: US$15.22
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Asin: 0807614106
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Collected here is a series of photographs by the Irish photographer John Minihan that presents a view of Samuel Beckett that has long been missing.The most remarkable thing about this collection of photographs of Beckett is that it exists at all, for Beckett was notoriously elusive throughout his life. When he was awarded the Novel Prize for Literature, journalists were unable to locate him for interviews and photographs; he did not even go to Stockholm to accept the prize. Minihan's photographs take a rare and intimate look i9nto the life of this intensely private man. Black-and-white photographs throughoutAmazon.com Review
In a remarkable piece of photojournalism, John Minihandocuments the private world of playwright-novelist Samuel Beckett(1906-1989), best known as the author of Waiting forGodot. The expatriate Dubliner is seen directing stage productionsof his work, relaxing in a hotel room, chatting with friends in aLondon pub, and walking the streets of his adopted home, Paris. Whilethe photographer's preface could have been more revealing, hispictures capture--and humanize--that most enigmatic of literaryfigures. The book provides an ideal complement to James Knowlson'srecent biography of Beckett, Damned to Fame. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars An exceptional intimate portrait of a very private man.
John Minihan's collection of photographs of the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett are truly amazing. The cover photograph of Beckett seated in a Paris cafe in 1985 is truly one of the great portraits of the 20th Century.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wham, bam, thank you SAM!
This books confirms--as if any of you were doubters--that in addition to his writings, Samuel B. was one of the coolest LOOKING human beings who has ever graced our environs. From the beauty of his "eagle" haircut to the absolutely perfect crease in his trousers, this book captures it ALL. He hangs out, drinks coffee, has a smoke, similar to mortals you'n'me. Best bet: look at the pictures in this book while listening to the old Columbia recording of Bert Lahr and E.G. Marshall doing "Waiting For . . .". I'll tell ya, like a Chesterfield, it satisfies! ... Read more

19. Novels II of Samuel Beckett: Volume II of The Grove Centenary Editions (Works of Samuel Beckett the Grove Centenary Editions)
by Samuel Beckett
Hardcover: 536 Pages (2006-03-13)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$11.97
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Asin: 0802118186
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Edited by Paul Auster, this four–volume set of Beckett's canon has been designed by award-winner Laura Lindgren. Available individually, as well as in a boxed set, the four hardcover volumes have been specially bound with covers featuring images central to Beckett's works. Typographical errors that remained uncorrected in the various prior editions have now been corrected in consultation with Beckett scholars C. J. Ackerley and S. E. Gontarski.

"A man speaking English beautifully chooses to speak in French, which he speaks with greater difficulty, so that he is obliged to choose his words carefully, forced to give up fluency and to find the hard words that come with difficulty, and then after all that finding he puts it all back into English, a new English containing all the difficulty of the French, of the coining of thought in a second language, a new English with the power to change English forever. This is Samuel Beckett. This is his great work. It is the thing that speaks. Surrender." — Salman Rushdie, from his Introduction
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20. Rockabye and Other Short Pieces (Beckett, Samuel)
by Samuel Beckett
Paperback: 80 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$10.00 -- used & new: US$4.50
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Asin: 0802151388
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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We find in Beckett's masterful, exquisite prose, the familiar themes from his earlier works here expressed in the anguished murmurings of the solitary human consciousness.
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Customer Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars A Beckett play that has had grown men (and women) in tears.
Probably the most famous of Beckett's last works, 'Rockaby' features an old woman rocking mechanically on her chair, listening to a recorded poem evoking a life perhaps similar to her own, solitary, staring out of her window at the shuttered windows opposite, yearning for a glimpse of humanity to justify a life she is close to cursing.It reads like a skittish remix of a story from Joyce's 'Dubliners'.

Like most of Beckett's late stage works, this doesn't really work on the page - the rhythmic combination of words, images, lighting and the mechanical rocking of the chair create a startling visual-aural effect that can only be incompletely imagined.Many believe it to be staggeringly moving, though. ... Read more

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