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The Missing Links

Some fasinating extracts from Beckett Remembering Remembering Beckett, edited by James and Elizabeth Knowlson (Bloomsbury, out in March). Beckett to Francis Stuart: “You know, Francis, my days are filled with trivia”. Peter Woodthorpe on the British premiere of Godot: “The important thing Peter Hall said when he started was: ‘I don’t understand this play and we are not going to waste time trying to understand it’.”. Martin Esslin: “He said, ‘How very nice to meet you. You can ask me anything about my life but don’t ask me to explain my work. . . . Sam told me (and I know he’s told other people) that he remembers being in his mother’s womb at a dinner party, where, under the table, he could remember the voices talking. And when I asked him once, ‘What motivates you to write?’ he said: ‘The only obligation I feel is towards that enclosed poor embryo’. Because, he said, ‘That is the most terrible situation you can imagine, because you know you’re in distress but you don’t know that there is anything outside this distress or any possibility of getting out of that distress’.” * An interesting review of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You die (the kind of title that gives me a panic attack!) edited by Peter Boxall. * An interview with Tony Wilson (link via dogmatika). * According to Neel Mukherjee in the Observer, DBC Pierre‘s new novel, Ludmila’s Broken English, “is let down by a prose-style mannered to the point of gratuitous murkiness. The whole novel feels as if it has been written first in a normal way, then each sentence tampered with to produce a style that could be thought of as original and strikingly different. . . . The incongruity of the similes and metaphors point to effortful straining”. The reviewer concludes that “There’s a lot here to be awed by — the laughter of despair has never had an angrier or funnier source, the political satire is like uninsulated electricity, the grand guignol ending and the twists of the coda are some of the most shocking in current fiction — but the failed stylistic attempt to defamiliarise both language and the reality it embodies deals it a fatal blow”. In the Independent on Sunday, Tim Martin writes that “Pierre’s writing bleeds imagination, but Ludmila ends up proving what Vernon proposed: that though this writer is smashing at texture, he’s not hot on plot. . . . And the book seems perpetually distracted by linguistic gurning from the interesting subjects it raises: all too often what might have been a fruitful meditation on a rewarding theme (terrorism, dystopia, warfare) is stifled by a quip or a flashy passage of description. Still, Pierre can unquestionably write, even if he does so in a manner that occasionally suggests that, like Blair and Bunny, he may be on limited release from a home for the dangerously ill”. His verdict is that “reading bits of Ludmila is like looking at drawings by a schizophrenic: thrilling, electric, visionary and almost unclassifiably wrong”. * The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back, and not a minute too soon.

First posted: Sunday, February 26th, 2006.

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