What I Wish I Were

Endspiel by Samuel Beckett

A very silly title to a very silly post. To maintain some clarification, I do not wish I were Beckett. I only admire him for being an example that not everything the same can also be good. I do not believe Beckett to be the intellectual and/or difficult writer that so many claim of him – or that so many academics have given him. I think he’s a great example of purity and simpleness and how the two make for beautiful art… Or something like that. But before I continue with Beckett…

I still do not claim to believe in ”writer’s block”. But this morning, while working on a story, I realized that I had reached a dead end. I started writing it about two weeks ago and have since had two misleading breaks that have caused great pain in maintaining the focus, the concentration, the gist of the story. After the second break – this past weekend – I found that I had simply lost touch with what was streaming out of me only a few days prior. It’s sad, really, especially when one looks at such an unsuccessful (worts)writer as myself. Oh. The thousands of words I have obviously wasted. So much potential gone astray, one could say. Others would say: ”fuck it”, just get on with it all the same. Yet, how does a ”writer” explain to those who don’t write what it means to lose the connection, the trust, the fluidity of thecreative process? If only I had the courage to end it all – this writing madness. But I won’t give up. Especially when I think of all the grasshoppers for whom I’m providing such an example – you know, of how not to write. This grand trip we are taking together dear worst-reader, the places we are seeing, e.g. the corners of our rooms with too many cobwebs or the cracks in the tiles of our terraces, these places where our eyes gather and see what needs to be seen – the emptiness, the nothingness – is what keeps us going. Is it not?

Solace.

Or knowing that we will at least dream of trying to achieve what the greats have done before us. I speak, no less, of he who haunts me (us?): Sam Beckett. The genius and purity, simpleness, precision of pen. I’m only barely worthy to read and own a few of his books or to have had the privilege of seeing some of his theater on varying stages.

(Image of book.)

I know. Though shallt not want. And at this point it doesn’t really matter. I only own a few books. Most of my books are just plain old paperbacks bought used – because I hate hardcover books and paperbacks were (at the time) easier to travel with. I also own a few – I guess you could call them – collector edition books. One of my favorite books is a special printed edition of Endgame from the September 26, 1967, Berlin premier that was directed by Sam Beckett himself. The publisher of the book is Suhrkamp. The cast of the play is as follows:

  • Nell (left can): Gudrun Genest
  • Nagg (right can): Werner Stock
  • Hamm (dude with glasses): Ernst Schröder
  • Clov (dude kinda bent over): Horst Bollmann

 

The thing that’s cool about this book is that when you unfold it you get the feeling your in the audience. It’s printed in hard cover A4 landscape. The cover has a pic of Sam Beckett directing, see above. The title is:

Samuel Beckett inszeniert das ”Endspiel”

The inner cover has a few pics of the actors from the inszenierung and when you open it completely the whole book resembles a fold-out, maybe pop-up theater stage. When all the folds/covers are opened the left and right folds have pictures of curtains on them. The inside of the main cover has pictures of a ceiling with strobe lights. As you flip through the pages the text of the play is printed on the top page and a picture of the corresponding scene is printed on the next page below in black &white. At the end of the play there is a rehearsal journal, or diary, that contains the daily happenings, including what Mr. Beckett was doing, where he sat in rehearsals, what he drank, etc. The journal begins on Friday, August 18, 1967, with: ”Im Hof des Schiller-Theaters…”

Yes. What a lovely book to own.

Links:

 

Rant and dream on.

-tgs-

Krapp vs Krapp

Eleuthéria by Samuel Beckett

All-time favourite word? “Krapp”. worstwriterdotcom is, fittingly, full of the word ‘krapp’. Oh, how I wish I could get credit for coining such a word. But all for naught. So much for worst-writer’s attempt at replacing the word absurd with it. I mean, what sounds better, dear worst-reader, “everything is absurd” or “everything is krapp”? Nomatter. If I could coin such a worst-word then the worst-world-over could forward me a nickel every time it’s used. And then maybe, just maybe, I would earn as much as Samuel Beckett earned from the receipts of his plays. But such is the absurd… I mean krapp. Which brings me to other earnings.

Curse the day I read Godot the first time. Although I’ve almost forgotten that special day, Godot hangs on to me like the stickiness of severed flesh where parts of my arm or leg dangle in a wind coming off the north sea coast, embellished and enriched with salty air and the million year murkiness of a future ready for more petroleum, less reading, absurdity status quo and sharks that bite but also forget. And all the above makes the (almost) forgotten day grand, to say the least. How counter intelligent, eh? For I realised at that moment after reading Godot that Theatre Of The Absurd ain’t such a damning thing and I need not lay waste to such days. What a great way to figure out the humdrum of this or that life, eh? Or to see through the valance covering the life of others. In this particular case, or valance, one can see through Samuel Beckett’s life–at least in part his literary life. I like to think of Eleutheria as Beckett’s first and last play. That is, he wrote it before he wrote Godot but Eleutheria was rejected for Godot and hence theatre has never been the same. When the play was finally published Beckett was no more. So who do we thank for this and what should have been published sooner? Again. Nomatter. Since publishers seem to be the ones that caused this to take so long (after Beckett’s death) then all that’s left is all the absurd… Krapp. Wait. Or do we thank death, the only real thing left?

M. Krap: One moment. Finding it therefore impossible to live and recoiling from the great cure, through a sense of decency, or through cowardce, or because of the very fact that he is not living, what can man do to avoid the oh so very discreet and unobtrusive insanity he has been taught to dread? He can pretend to be living and that others live. -Samuel Beckett “Eleutheria”

As is the case with all things of absurd  yet valuable, leave it up to publishers to have a shit-fit about who-when-where would publish this piece of literary history. Thank Godot it made it, thank Godot for human mortality, and thank him again for Beckett’s last breath. Indeed, a valued piece of literary history. Ad absurdum. Can be had by all.

What this play is about is irrelevant. Yet its content should, somehow, be known. So. It’s about the Krap family. They are a bourgeois family and after the death of the father the son must cope. Cope with what? Well, this is a Beckett play and it either holds the seeds to what will come or it is the blossom of what has been. But even that doesn’t matter. And unlike Godot, Eleutheria doesn’t contemplate death but maybe it should. For in Godot the main character never appears but in Eleutheria the main character is everybody–even an “audience member” that, without trickery or other forms of drama-magic, appears in the play. This play is extremely complicated and for the most part in-cohesive. But if you concentrate on the words, the mis-en-scene, nothingelsematters. Yet while trying to find  a way through it I eventually realised that the family name Krap was used again by Beckett in his infamous play Krapp’s Last Tape. Ah, maybe there is trickery going on here. This play is indeed connected to much of Beckett’s work, probably more his prose than his dialogue. But I will not go down that analytical path–as I don’t think Beckett did either. Instead I will stick with the unknown and the in-cohesive and Godot and dangling limbs and north sea sharks with small Germanic spicy teeth and überpowerful jaw. And the fact that a poet of this magnitude could use the same name twice? Yes, it’s hard to let go–this wondrous absurdity. Or is Beckett actually writing the absurdity twice but hidden under a different valance? Ah. The genius nobel laureates, dear worst-reader, they all deserve their titles and their earnings for coming up with tricks and dicks. For you see, Beckett added a ‘p’ to the infamous name and thereby also adding a bit more absurdity he created Krapp. If only another ‘p’ could be added to absurd. Nomatter. Eleutheria means liberty in greek but this play frees no one except maybe a whacked-out doctor that preaches to those who cannot face the absurdity of life and judging it so. Here, ironically, a “doctor” explains life and what should be done about it.

Dr. Piouk: Here it is. I would prohibit reproduction. I would perfect the condom and other appliances and generalise their use. I would create state-run corps of abortionists. I would impose the death sentence on every woman guilty of having given birth. I would drawn the newborn. I would campaign in the favour of homosexuality and myself set the example. And to get things going, I would encourage by every means the recourse to euthanasia, without, however, making it an obligation. Here you have the broad outlines. -Samuel Beckett “Eleutheria”

Rant on.

Tommi

Alone With Company

One of Samuel Beckett’s last published works. “Company” is a fable. I always thought a fable has animals in it. In this fable there’s only “M” and “Hearer”. Oh, there’s a “W” in there somewhere, too. If that sounds a bit ambiguous, then go with what you’re hearing. Ambiguity and loneliness is really all that’s in this piece. Also. Worst-writer learned long ago, probably after reading Malone Dies, that actually paying attention to what goes on in Beckett’s work can easily send the mind astray. Just read the stuff.

For why or? Why in another dark or in the same? And whose voice asking this? Who asks, Whose voice asking this? And answers, His soever who devises it all. In the same dark as his creature or in another. For Company. -Company by Samuel Beckett

Still. I’m surprised at how hard it is to actually summarise what goes on this story. The reason for that is because this is what it would sound like:

Laying on back. Staring at sky. Almost bored. But alive. And you can go places although it doesn’t really matter where you go. And when you get there, a café or a pub or a john, just stare at the sky. But I already mentioned that.

Could not conceivably create while crawling in the same create dark as his creature. -Company by Samuel Beckett

I don’t know what else to say except it’s word sculpting from another dimension. And that’s grand.

Rant on.

Tomas

Grappa & Godot

Note. This story took place in the early 90s. The notebook I transcribed this from isn’t exact with the date. I reckon that’s my bad. But I recall the play mentioned and the rest very well. Good luck.

April 5, 1990

A postcard arrived exactly three days after waking up alone on the living room floor, butt naked, of a chick named Heidrun. But before I get to her and how much of a blast that experience was – even though I still have a few carpet burns as I write this – some background. First. What  people fail to realize today is that there is a lot to a name. If you have smart parents they can play some neat tricks while naming you. This is mostly done with girls and has something to do with the history of fathers trying to protect and/or gain fortunes. But most modern pseudo democratic law has rid us of that nonsense. Thank goodness! If you have dumb parents even they can play some tricks with their naming of dumb offspring – but usually their tricks only spite themselves. It’s a kind of natural law. I think. Anywho.

The name Heidrun is long for Heidi. The name comes from  nordic mythology and originally was the name of a goddess-goat that had the special power of delivering mead from one of its teats. For those that don’t know – in ancient days (whatever that means), mead was the drink of choice for those trying to relax after a day of slaughtering nature – it was their beer.

Heidrun wasn’t always a goat. As the myth goes, the goat was some goddess that pissed off some god and to tame her he turned her into a goat and to humiliate her even further he made her so that she would supply him with god beer – or mead. Obviously that level of servitude would never suit a goddess – even if she was just a goat. So she found a way to split and started roaming various nordic plains and forests in search of… grass, I guess.

One day a run-of-the-mill goat herder discovered this special goat, became its owner and eventually became a king. He quickly discovered the intoxicating effects of the goat’s milk, I mean mead. After sharing his new treasure with some friends and then many more strangers the goat herder was able to acquire subjects and eventually a kingdom. (Yes. That’s exactly how it works even today.) When other kings eventually realized how this goat herder became a king – they managed to cut his head off, piss down his throat and while hundreds of years passed, various kings created a special part of human history buy slaughtering each other in the name of the almighty Heidrun – a goat with a teat of magic.

Long story short. The last king to have Heidrun was named Langlerloch (or something like that). The thing that makes Langlerloch special isn’t that he was just the last owner of Heidrun, but that he introduced the concept of legitimately sanctioned kinghood. (Yes. The nordic people had such a word.) He proclaimed and, as usual, his willing subjects believed, that he was nothing more than a curator of a higher power. This power enabled him to turn Heidrun’s byproduct into a profit center. The nordic people, all being a little bit thick because of the cold weather they had to live in and the boredom of the northern hemisphere, went along with it. Yet any fan of history should try to appreciate this myth because, in a way, it pretty-much describes the birth of modern political-economics. Anywho.

As we all know, the nordics eventually became extinct. The reason for that is they lost Heidrun because the god that made her returned and took her back. So. We can conclude that the nordic people are extinct today because they ran out of beer. I mean mead. They are also extinct because of a goat named Heidrun.
*
The consummation took place with Heidrun after an outdoor production of Waiting for Godot. Of course, I called her Heidi. But when I think of her, when I dream of her, she is and will always be Heidrun. It was a perfect match (almost) to be with her at one of my favorite plays. Although I knew Godot from reading it, it was the first time I’d ever seen it performed. So this was actually the beginning of two wonderful and/or questionable relationships. One was short (Heidrun) the other long (Eurowasteland). FYI, I will probably remain in Eurowasteland and die as an expatriate. Hopefully someone will have some mercy with my lost soul when I die and fulfill my last wish: to be cremated and my ashes thrown in the Rhine. But that’s not allowed in Eurowasteland. In fact, the bitch is, you can’t even take the ashes home. So maybe someone will have the balls to steal my ashes and as a consolation (for my having gotten locked into the golden piss hole of Eurowasteland), flush them down any toilet. You know what they say about toilets, don’t you? It all goes to the ocean anyway.

Digress I.

Culture, as enigmatic as the word is, is was one of the reasons I left American’t. The death of opportunity is another. Of course, as far as opportunity goes in bureaucratic, civil-servent Eurowasteland, things are even worse here. But. And here’s another consolation to being born in the dried-up old lady that is the western world and shitty life, you can actually drive to any town in Eurowasteland, almost any day of the week – except in July and August – and see a play. For an American’t interested in it – that’s nothing short of (short pause) spectacular. Not only that but without special ordering you can actually get books and plays in their original languages. Many of those same books and plays are not on corporate bookstore counters that marginalize literature based on radio-like top 40 statistics. Culture – even if it can be just about shit – is everywhere. Granted. Eurowasteland’s culture is old, outdated and often appears as though it could use a major revamp or renovation, but at least it’s there. And since, culturally, there’s nothing new coming out of the old dried-up lady western world, what the hell! Try to find culture in the drug-sick wasteland of American’t suburbia. Like the name says: it’s not whether you can but the fact that you can’t. American’t – fuck yeah! Anywho.

What a play production and Heidrun was eying me the whole time. Which was foreseeable. It was kind of a romantic evening. The weather was mild. The atmosphere, with the content of the play, vibrant. A good mix for all things foreplay. As far as the play production goes. For Godot they put up a small stadium in the parking lot of the state funded theater with bleachers and protection for rain. There were loudspeakers and the actors had microphones. How modern, eh. Is this Eurowasteland’s answer to revamping culture? It was very wow. And. You’d think that all the money Eurowasteland theatre gets from the state that they could have the performance somewhere other than the parking lot. But hey. I’m not complaining. Even though I could start-on about how much money could be spent on culture if it all weren’t gobbled up by pensioners from the Wirtschaftswunder and paying for weapons that Eurowasteland placation doesn’t even need.

Digress II.

Heidrun was actually Austrian born but, like most other Austrians with half a brain, she had to go elsewhere to find a job other than driving a bus or milking cows for a living. Ironically, she was from the same town as Arnold – you know, the Austrian governor of Cali-shitty-ya that slaughter poor people by injecting them with chemicals. But hey, we can’t be too hard on the man with the biceps cause, as far as Austria goes, at least he was able to get out of those inbred, pervert mountains and make a million or two.

Digress III.

When it comes to meeting Eurowastelanders and subsequently getting some sexual relief, I met Heidrun at work. She worked on a different floor as a junior consultant slash accountant slash mathematician. I mean, enough can’t be said about this career chick or about how well educmacated some Eurowastelanders are. Boy, she was really good with numbers. In fact, before our first date and long before I even started contemplating being able to do the math of a commercial transaction AND the constant disarray of watching my currency (American’t $) against the currency of Eurowasteland (DM), I used to call her up while standing in line at some retailer begging her to give me a quick add and substract lesson. She usually offered me a deal to do it. I appeased.

This might sound corny but, the tickets to the play were hard to get. I wanted to see the play as much as I needed some sexual relief. I was taking a chance here. You know, getting that kind of relief from a co-worker. I had to pull a Napoleon to get tickets. Unfortunately we couldn’t sit together. I tried to be strategic with our locations. She sat two rows below me and five seats to the right. I put her below because I didn’t want to have to turn around to see if I wanted to look at her while the play was on. I burdened her with that. The cool thing is, that allowed me to see whether I she was scoping me. Good move, I have to admit.

After the play was over I rushed to the bar for my obligatory beer and smoke and Heidrun made the first move by gently pinching a piece of fuzz from my shoulder. I offered her a cig and she took it and I quickly realized that that was probably the third or fourth cigarette she had ever had. While puffing away we conversed about Gogo and Didi and I let her babble about the common ultimate question of the play. She concluded that there was a Godot and I concluded that there wasn’t. With that we moved on to a jazz bar and got drunk on a bottle of red wine that she bought. A trumpeter and his band were trying to play Miles Davis’ Pharoh’s Dance and their ill-fated effort drew me closer to Heidrun. At around midnight she invited me to her place to have grappa and cheese.

When we got to her apartment I asked if she had any jazz and she pointed to a tall CD rack full of discs. I searched through it and noticed that many of the CDs were still in their original packaging. I found a 1963 Ella & Basie CD. It was a really cheap clone recording, AAD disc, but I unpacked it and put it on. She had a nice amplifier but a cheap TEAC CD player. I didn’t bother looking at the speakers but they seemed adequate. Her living room had all the basic furniture but the couch seemed out of place. It was new and everything else was old. But it matched, I guess. Then I noticed the rug atop the old and polished wooden floor. She later informed me that it was given to her by her late father who got it from his father who fought against the Turks. I knelt down to feel (test?) the rug. It was extremely rough and course and it looked older than the hills. It must be worth a fortune.

Heidrun brought out a glass of Proseco and put it in my hand. I didn’t question where the grappa was. She said “prost, welcome, nice to finally get you here,” and we drank and then she went off to her little kitchen again saying that she’d be right back. I took the time to orient myself. Her place, like every other single place, was small but neatly furnished. Battered but still functional Ikea shelves, small tube TV, tables with candles, flowers, and pictures in frames and one unused ashtray.

“Can I smoke,” I asked.

“Sure. Wait. I’ll bring you an ashtray,” she said from the small and well packed kitchen.

“I found it,” I said.

I lit up, took two deep puffs, laid the fag on the rim of the ashtray and peaked into the open door of her bedroom, it was opposite the kitchen. The bed was made and a blouse, the color I couldn’t make out because of the low lighting, lay sloppily on top of it. At that moment, somehow, I knew that her bed would go unused for this encounter. I turned and peaked into the bathroom, went in and laughed to myself at the sign above the toilet telling men to sit when they pee. I opened the lid, unzipped and pissed. I wiped the rim with a sheet of toilet paper and washed my hands. The only towel available was on the wall above the tub and shower, behind a white see-thru plastic curtain. I reached over the tub used the towel and smelled it. I pushed the curtain out of the way and the tub was clean. I noticed, on the edge of the tub, near the drain, a large purple dildo, a woman’s razor for those intimate places and an industrial sized, quart (or more) bottle of baby-oil. While I was staring at the intimate utensil, almost in a trance, Heidrun stood behind me with my cigarette in her lips, holding a plate of perfect room temperature cheese and a bottle of golden colored grappa.
Nothing more needs to be said. Really. In fact, I’ve already said too much. Allow me just this short pause. Ok. I’m ok now. I only need to say two more things.

Thanks for the memory, Heidrun.

Rant on.

-tgs-