Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jax presents ... SAMUEL BECKETT'S RADIO PLAYS






“The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him.
    He’s not fucking me about, he’s not leading me up any garden path, he’s not slipping me a wink, he’s not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he’s not selling me anything I don’t want to buy — he doesn’t give a bollock whether I buy or not — he hasn’t got his hand over his heart. Well, I’ll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty.
    His work is beautiful.” – Harold Pinter on Beckett


We all know Beckett's work for stage and his novels. Few of us know his radio drama. Until recently, I didn't even know he wrote any. But in 1955 the BBC, intrigued by the international attention being given to the Paris production of Waiting for Godot, invited the author to write a play for radio. Beckett was initially hesitant, but wrote to his friend the shipping heiress and political activist Nancy Cunard:-

“Never thought about radio play technique but in the dead of t’other night got a nice gruesome idea full of cartwheels and dragging of feet and puffing and panting which may or may not lead to something.”

That ‘nice gruesome idea’ led to All That Fall—and four other plays specifically written for the radio medium between 1957 and 1962. There’s also a sixth – From an Abandoned Work, which I haven’t heard – and a French play, translated as The Old Tune, which comes bundled with the downloads below.

Neither Beckett’s work for stage or his novels, he’d be the first to agree, are exactly big on narrative and his radio drama is no different. Here’s a short synopsis of what does – or doesn’t - happen in those five plays:-

All that Fall: Maddy Rooney, seventy years old, “two hundred pounds of unhealty fat,” makes her laborious way to the Boghill railroad station to meet her blind husband, Dan, as a surprise for him on his birthday.

Embers: Henry sits on the strand, tormented by the sound of the sea. He talks to his drowned father, who doesn’t answer, and to his wife, Ada, who does. Throughout it all the sound of the sea weaves in and out, almost like a third character.

Words and Music: Words, called Bob and Music, called Joe are forced to collaborate by the club-wielding Croak. Under duress they produce two of the most exquisite lyric poems ever written by Samuel Beckett. The play is often understood as as being “about” the agonizing difficulties of the creative process itself.

Cascando: an Opener “opens” and “closes” two characters: Voice, who desperately promises “this time” to tell a story he can finish; and Music, who equally struggles to create a finished composition.

Rough for Radio I: the grumpy MacGillycuddy gets a female visitor then makes a phone-call, receives two in return, finally securing - or perhaps admitting - the information 'tomorrow...noon'.

Rough for Radio II: an Animator assisted by a Stenographer and the whip wielding mute character, Dick, has the task of eliciting from Fox some unknown testimony of unknown significance. If it could but be achieved then “tomorrow, who knows, we may be free!”

And thanks to the wonderful RTE (the radio and TV broadcasting company of Ireland), who re-recorded all five (plus The Old Tune) in 2006, as part of “Beckkett100”, they are now archived online and available to download as mp3s HERE.

‘All that Fall’ and ‘Embers’ are probably the most accessible, unless you’re a total Beckett freak, but I really like Rough for Radio II and Cascando – not because I understand them in particular, but because they’re really beguiling in an aural sense. Maybe he’s not big on conventional narrative but Beckett uses structure to poetic effect like no-one else, both in his other works and his radio drama.

So what's the deal with radio plays, I hear you ask? English-language-wise, both the US and UK have a rich history of radio drama, spanning the first 'soaps' on commercial radio in the US and Orson Welles' seminal adaptation of HG Wells' “War of the Worlds” (which used the medium so well, a nation was raised to the edge of panic). And by the mid-1940s, the BBC was producing over 400 radio plays each year. These days, radio drama has a minimal presence on terrestrial radio in the US, but the BBC's commitment to this most idiosyncratic of media remains strong. In the UK, Radio 4's daily 'Afternoon Drama' attracts an average audience of 500,000. That's half a million. Five days a week. Fifty two weeks a year. And most of these are not adaptations of novels, short stories or stage plays: they are works written specifically for radio – that is, they take full advantage of the medium.





So again, what's the deal with radio plays? For me, a good radio play is the next best thing to music, in that the content bypasses the eye and mainlines itself straight into your brain. Cos radio plays are all sound. So far, so obvious, right?

But what does ‘all sound’ actually mean? For the listener, compared with say watching TV drama or films, it means YOU get to create your own version of the characters and story in your own head because sound has to be, after smell, the most connotative of the senses.

What's the first thing we become aware of, in the womb? Our mother's heart. One could argue, therefore, that our ears are of primary way of engaging with our environment.

What differentiates homo sapiens from other animals? Speech – and how do we receive speech? Through our ears.

Sound is primal. Sound is personal and thus both subjective and infinitely ambiguous: the same sound will have as many connotations as it has listeners. Sound is intimate: the lover's whisper, the bully's hissed threat, the child's cry, the dog's howl. Yeah, I'm rambling a bit here, but that's purely because of the very special and unique relationship each of us has with any given collection of sounds, which in turn renders the aural experience difficult to describe.

Okay, I’ll admit it: there's something very unnatural feeling about sitting down and listening to radio drama as it is broadcast, whether it’s on an actual radio or via a website. There's nothing to look at. You (well, I do) start to fidget after the first five minutes. Worse still, I close my eyes in the hope this will let me focus – and I fall asleep. We're so visually oriented these days, we don’t know what to do with our eyes when we’re not using ‘em to take in information.

Listening is defo a skill. What I do – thanks my digital radio and its sd card – is record plays then transfer 'em over to my mp3 player and take 'em out with me. On walks. On train journeys. On the bus. With my eyes actively engaged in looking at nothing in particular, my ears are freed up to allow the drama to unfold somewhere deep in my brain. And if you've never listened to radio drama I urge you to take the plunge, cos at its best? There’s nothing like it.


Other Notable People Who You Might Not Know Have Written Radio Plays

Mr. Pinter : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Slight_Ache

Mr. Orton: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ruffian_on_the_Stair

Mr. Behan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brendan_Behan#Plays

Mr. Minghella: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Minghella#Selected_plays

Mr. Adams: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy

Ms. Carter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Carter#Radio_plays

More recently, one of my fav radio plays is Matthew Broughton’s wonderfully eerie The Rain Maker. Due to copyright issues, you can’t download it, but I have an mp3of it, if anyone wants to send me a flash drive. Here’s a link to the writer talking about The Rain maker process:-

http://matthewbroughton.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/the-rain-maker/

Another amazing piece of writing for radio is Jack Thorne’s People Snogging in Public Places. Again, due to copyright issues, this isn’t available to listen to right now, but keep an eye on the radio schedules cos it may be repeated.

Finally, in true Becketian tradition, let me end where I began, with himself. There’s been a recent vogue for ‘staging’ his radio plays: here’s a trailer for one:-





Here’s a Mexican version of Embers, in Spanish:-





Here’s the original 1957 BBC recording of All That Fall – as a bonus, you get to stare at a particularly craggy Sam as you listen.





And here’s a photo from his little known ‘buff’ period.







*

p.s. Hey. Major treat this weekend as the writer and d.l. extraordinaire Jax concentrates us on the radio plays of the unimpeachable lit-smith Mr. Samuel Beckett. There's amazing stuff galore up there for you guys, and I hope you'll enjoy the directive and the goods, and that you will speak back to your guest-host between now and Monday. Thank you, and thank you, Jax! Now, I'll go back and start by recreating the interactions I attempted re: the later comments from two days back that Blogger so rudely disappeared on me and then gradually get us up to speed. ** Thursday ** Sypha, Weird to see the changes I made to my 50 books list. The Agota Kristof wasn't a change, I just called the trilogy of novels by their overall name in one list and by their individual names in the other. Of course, if I redid the list again now, it'd be differently made yet again. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Wise Gore. ** Barry, Hey! What a true pleasure and honor to have you post here. Thank you! I was at the opening of Hors Piste the other day and saw that they're screening your work, and, if I'm in town, which I'm almost sure I will be, I'll be there. Everyone in or near Paris, Barry Doupé's 'The Colors that Combine to Make White are Important', which was featured in Hyrule Dungeon's post the other day, is being screened at the Centre Pompidou on February 1st at 8 pm in the Cinema 2 theatre as part of the Hors Piste festival, and I highly recommend that you attend if you at all can. Again, thank you, and, if you'll be there for the event, hopefully I'll meet you there, and, if not, somewhere somehow, I hope. ** Hyrule Dungeon, Hi, J. Thanks so much again! ** JoeM, Hi, Joe! Thank you so much about the video for my dad. That's really kind of you to say, my friend. The Seekers! Nice, thank you for that too! ** Anonymous/ postitbreakup, Hi, Josh. No, the 'Pyre' booklet will only be for the people who see the show. That's Gisele's decision, but, given its strong resemblance to the first section of my novel, I also prefer that it stay locked to the theater piece. Thanks about the 'Try' thing. ** 5STRINGS, Hi. I think I've long since 'fucked up' my 'career' to the point where selling out would not be technically possible even were doing that were the slightest temptation. It is technically possible to get rich off one's first novel, so go for it. I don't know that Ugly Joe-like new band. What an idea. I don't think any of my novels are bad, no. Some bad short fiction and poetry, for sure. Some weak chapters, but not bad necessarily, I don't think. I really don't think I'll see 'Argo.' 'Skyfall' I will certainly see, probably on a plane flight. Paris is good. You should be here, although it is a bit nippy. ** Billy Lloyd, Hi, Billy! If the London gig for 'The Pyre' pans out, I'll definitely let you know. I think I do know some pretty awesome Paris places that tourists don't get officially directed towards, so that's a deal, and, yeah, I hope you do get over here. That would be fun. Oh, no, the motivation spell wore off a bit? Temporarily though, right? Did the coffee work while not rumpling your stomach? How are you today? ** Friday ** Chris, Hi, Chris. Mm, it depends on what you mean by heal. Honestly, I didn't feel completely like my old self for at least a year, I think, or it felt like a year. I think that, after that long, I was eating and drinking most of what I had imbibed before, although I never ate onions or peppers and that sort of thing again. I was/am a vegetarian, and apparently that helped it go sort of smoothly, I was told. But I haven't had any recurrence of the ulcer thing since, and, obviously, it's been a long time, so hopefully you have internal peace to look forward to again. The theater schedule is pretty much a red herring, as far as charting my own schedule goes, but, that said, I don't post the behind-the-scenes work schedule, which is relatively intensive, or will be until late May. ** Misanthrope, Yikes: car, slippage. Did it snow more? We seem to be completely through with snow, at least for a while. It's even supposed to get contextually toasty -- 14 degrees C -- in the next few days. ** Un Cœur Blanc, Hi! She is tough, but her surfaces are detail-y and alluring. You're still beset with the flu? Ugh, I'm sorry. The flu is so imperialist this year. Of course I'm happy about your Blanchot reread. Wow, you're so right about the weirdness of Blanchot and a food space. How totally interesting. Yes, that feels wrong. Hm, I'm going to think more about that. That's so interesting. Thank you, and have the best weekend you can. ** David Ehrenstein, Oh, good, I'm glad you seconded my Stead post resurrection. She's talked about and read far too infrequently these days, I think. No chance in hell that I'll get invited to the Diderot reburial. It's interesting, though, 'cos they haven't buried a new body there in many decades. There was a campaign afoot to get Celine reburied there a short while back, but that got scotched by the powers that be for the obvious reason. ** Rewritedept, Coachella is like dead band reunion central this year. That feels weird or something to me. That said, now I really want to try to go because one of those reunions is of one of a fave, very under-appreciated band, The Three O'Clock. Although I'm hoping they do a warm up gig at some small, friendly LA club beforehand 'cos Coachella attendance just sounds like hell to me. With Stead, 'The Man Who Loved Children' is her masterpiece, probably. It's long, though, and I've only read a couple of the others, but they were both excellent. The Blur show should be pretty fun. The videos of their London reunion show look like a lot of fun. I was underwhelmed by the new Yo La Tengo. I mean, it's real nice, obviously, but I wanted something new to be happening in their sound, I guess. We were briefly linked, if you mean LinkedIn, but I got the hell out of here this morning. Nothing personal, of course, ha ha. Get through your non-off days as best you can, man. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. That Embassy show sounds like a lot of fun, as does the Orton sisters' installation. I hope it gets photographed or videoed or something. Excited for your Skinny review. 'Hello, Hello, I'm Back Again' looks spooky and great. So, steroids it is. Well, obviously, I hope they help you out a lot. ** 5STRINGS, It doesn't quite match to any of those connotations precisely. I guess I should see 'SLP'. Don't know if I will, though. Eventually, I guess. Inspired by Clapton? Why? I've never really gotten the Clapton as great/god thing at all. Must be a nice feeling to feel like your ass is 20 years old, congrats. Nice column, buddy. ** James, Hi, James! Nice to see you! Sorry to hear that you've been beneath the weather. You have plenty of company, although that knowledge never helps much. Cool about the Xmas time old friends hanging stuff. Any comparison between 'Closer' and 'Irreversible' is a very high compliment to me, thank you. Paris has been treating me very good when I've been here. Had great snowfall for a few days, and now its evidence is completely gone. Quite cold, but not deadly. I am back working on the George novel again, yes, slowly, but yes. You're into the editing phase, nice. I really look forward to getting there on my end, as violent as it may end up being. Have a lovely weekend! ** Bollo, Hi, J! Good, so it's fixed and ready to be your silent enclosure again, an architectural installation work titled 'Applause' or something. I had no clue about the Zorn/Rimbaud thing. He's like Pollard; either you commit fully to his trajectory or you get lost. Thanks, I'll go check out the video, cool. Is that new Grouper the one that's reviewed in the current issue of The Wire? Made me want it, not that I needed any encouragement really. ** Steevee, Hey. We disagree about The Quick, but then I'm familiar with their evolution. They were my very favorite band for about four years. I must have seen them live something like 30 times. The new Philippe Grandieux being 'White Epilepsy' or the documentary? Probably 'WE', I would gather. I heard a piece of the Pantha du Prince, and it did sound really tasty, and I'll get it, thank you. ** Kyler, Hi, K. Oh, God, ... I came home tired late last evening and saw that an old friend of mine whom I haven't talked to in far too long had 'invited' me to hook up with him on LinkedIn, so I blearily joined and then awoke this morning to find my email box flooded with LinkedIn shit and a few emails from friends asking if I had really invited them to join LinkedIn, which I hadn't, so I deleted my account there lickety-split. What a creepy place. Hm, interesting and mysterious about 'what went wrong'. I couldn't quite decode your message, but it was colorful and intriguing. Happy that laughs have pummeled the 'wrong' to some degree, man. ** Alan, Hi, Alan. She's pretty interesting. Unique voice. You might give her a try. Oh, thanks a lot about the 'Weaklings (XL)' cover, man. All the credit goes to Joel Westendorf. That photo is of the living room of the house I grew up in. Very melancholy image for me, and I'm glad to know that it works without attached memories. Have a great weekend. ** Okay. We're caught up. Be with Beckett and Jax as best you can this weekend, and I will naturally see you again on Monday.

30 comments:

Jeff said...

Jax,

I think I actually saw/heard some of those 'staged' in a room at the back of The Calder Bookshop in 2006.

As I recall, they had an old-fashioned radio sitting on a table at the front of a small stage, and at the beginning of each piece someone would get up and adjust a knob on the radio (although the sound might not have actually been coming from it), a light behind a translucent screen set across the stage would go on, and actors acted out the scenes as shadows behind the screen.

In particular, 'Embers' and 'Rough for Radio 1 & 2' seem very familiar, both the titles and the synopsis. The sound of the sea, 'Tomorrow...noon', and the whip wielding character are in my memory.

Little known fact: during the recordings of Rough for Radio made during Beckett's buff period, the whip crack sound was provided by Beckett himself, by flexing and slapping his pecs together.

'Words and Music' sounds familiar as well. I remember some strikingly beautiful poetry in one or more of the plays.

They also performed a few plays by Beckett of a more traditional sort. I think one involved two guys sitting at separate tables covered in stacks of papers facing each other, flipping through the stacks and getting increasingly agitated and working each other up to a fever pitch. I remember that one being quite funny.

I saw some other Beckett plays performed at the Barbican during that visit, but preferred the intimate atmosphere at The Calder Bookstore. There were maybe 30-40 people in attendance there.

I bought a copy of "The Philosophy of Samuel Beckett", and Calder signed it, dated May 2006.

Afterwards, me and my brother went to a nearby pub, wandering towards drink along with a stream of other attendants, and a few of the actors.

Johnny Vegas was at the pub :)

Anyway, I'll give this post a closer read now, and download those mp3s. Cheers!

wv: 140 ipackak (ipecac)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Great work Jax! Radio used to be a very powerful medium -- as A Christmas Story attests. Before TV came along it dominatedeverything, mkaing stars of Bing orsby andtons of others. Back when was going to Communist Martyrs High I listened to Jean Shepard constantly and WBAI. That as where I first heard the Beckett plays.

I reccomend listening to them with the lights off.

DavidEhrenstein said...

One sounds good the other excruciating

(Jean-Marc Barr's One Fabulous Babe and a terrible sweetie)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Edward Albee loves his kitty more than Broadway and who can blame him?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Attention Yury!

Fashions by Julei Newmar's mother

Tosh said...

Fascinating! You know, I think I am in a Beckett radio play. Something that was produced by KPFK, and directed by Dean Stockwell. I was a child at the time or a young teenager. I think I had two or three lines. Did he used it? I just remember being taped and directed by him. This is sort of a Proust moment, where you mention the radio plays, and the memory goes somewhere.

rewritedept said...

d-

i didn't even notice that the three o'clock were on the lineup. there's a lot on there.

yeah the new yo la's ok, but i'm glad i got 'i am not afraid of you' at the same time. cuz that album is much better. they seem to do that, though. like, do one or two albums that are super fresh and challenging (IANAOYAIWBYA, popular songs, i can hear the heart) and then do one or two albums that are really mellow (and then nothing turned itself inside out, this new one). the new one makes for good bedtime listening, and then if i want something more upbeat, i listen to their older stuff.

my friend jenny and i were discussing how amazing it would be if blur did any US shows around the fest, but i'm not counting on it. the fact that they're even playing stateside is more than enough for me. comically, i have lots of trepidation re: reunion tours. i've seen some that managed to be pretty inspiring/fulfilling (pixies, refused, dinojr) and then i've seen, or more accurately refused to go see, some that were fairly dismal (at the drive-in is the biggest recent example i can think up). for the most part i'm opposed, as it's just a cash grab in most cases. but, hey, i never got to see blur the first time out.

in conclusion, yes, i suggest you go. coachella's pretty mild as far as fests go. like, since it's in palm springs with all the old people, they have to have everything shut down by midnight and if you're staying in a hotel it's pretty cush. i would never fuck with camping at that fest.

i've been reading too much manson stuff lately. i need something light to clear my head.

ok, off to work. long weekend ahead. talk soon.

-me.

JoeM said...

Jax I loved Beckett way back when. I think, but don't know the time-line, that he was always progressing ever more forward to minimalism. Starker and starker.

My fave of his was Happy Days. And even Godot is pretty fucking stark. But then he got to Not I, which is almost a radio play but not quite. Otherwise he would have made it that:

Not I

BBC 2 1973! - saw that and loved it - I was 15. That and Life on Mars. What a year!

Yes Dennis re:your father and all. I was remembering how Yury had to trail along to the French authorities by himself to try and get that visa and how he never met your mother before she died (but I hope she saw that video) and you know all that trying to please our parents stuff. And how shy he looked and all that. When you put all that together well – it's really not fair...

steevee said...

I can see how you'd get a different impression of the Quick if you saw them live that many times and heard their demos.

Yeah, the Grandrieux film playing here is WHITE EPILEPSY.

I finally got a new CD player. It has a bunch of features I haven't figured out yet - it supposedly plays MP3s, but there's no obvious iPod dock - but I was able to figure out how to plug it in and get it working in 30 seconds, which counts for something.

Un Cœur Blanc said...

Thanks, Jax. Your day is very nice---my perpetual favorite Beckett is How It Is. I have thought it would be great if somebody records How It Is and makes it as a radio play. I already hear a voice that repeats when I read it but I think that would be great if there is a radio play of it, too. Maybe there is one?----Dennis I do not like leaving a second comment to your PS but I do think that Blanchot Aminadab feels wrong in many ways. I don't usually think of Blanchot's work this way. My impression is that Aminadab's intensity is faux, because its textual effect does not consistently deliver an intensity. Movement of language is not so interesting. But movement towards and off things and characters inside the building is surely interesting, as you remember. yours, h

Misanthrope said...

Jax! Well, Beckett in his buff phase is very akin to what Dennis looks like now. Don't let him fool you. He's a gym bunny.

Dennis, Yeah, my car's rear wheel drive and notorious for being bad in bad weather.

We're going back into the 40s/50s next week, so yeah, I think we're done too. Thing is, DC is just paralyzed by the smallest amounts of snow. They can drone strike a fucking flea from 10 miles away, but an inch of snow shuts down the whole fucking area.

You don't have a LinkedIn account, do you? I got this invitation from "you" to "connect" on there. Of course, when I went on there, it said the invitation didn't exist. I thought it was very strange because you don't seem the LinkedIn type. (I'm not the type either, but I keep it just in case and I can always give my friends an extra "contact" or whatever.)

Now get back to the gym. You're slackin'! :D

paradigm said...

Jax, great day. I have read these radio plays in print but haven't heard them so I look forward to that experience.

Did you catch the movies of Beckett's plays done in I think 2006? I remember watching them over a month on SBS here in Australia. I remember watching them all and getting the rythym of the plays in it's performance moreso then reading them in text.

Dennis, Glad you like the day. Thought it was up your alley. Look forward to seeing it next Saturday. I think you'll like Jon Rose. I'm slowly putting the day together.

Thanks for the reminder about Christina Stead. I keep meaning to pick her up but because she's been championed by Franzen I have kind of avoided her. Should put that aside as the novelists that Franzen himself like tend to be ones that I have enjoyed too. It's interesting that he's writing then is not more my cup of tea.

I've been watching Mark Cousins The story of Film: an odyessey lately. It's quite ambitious in its attempt to give a 120 year history of cinema. It's quite comprehensive too showing features from India, Cuba, Brazil, Egypt in the 50's 60's as well as your usual big names of American and European Cinema. I think you'd enjoy it even though it does gloss over some areas and probably misses some areas.

Hope you have a good weekend and make some more progress on the novel.

take care

Scott

Jax said...

Dennis: thanks so much for hosting the Beckett day.

Jeff: man, amazing memories! Part of me kinda baulks at the 'staging' of radio plays, but I love the twiddling with the old radio knob device / shadows behind a screen, and if it exposes more people to the damn things, it's worth doing. I've only seen one Beckett performance: Waiting for Godot at the Citizens Theatre here in Glasgow years ago. Changed my young life, obviously. Love your little known fact from the big guy's 'buff' period, of course:) Enjoy those downloads.

David E: yes, defo listening with lights off – just you and those voices..and the sounds. Really lets the stuff into your brain. Now I'll have to go Google Jean Shepard.

Tosh: directed by Dean Stockwell?? I am so impressed:) Not to mention thrilled the mention of Beckett's plays took you somewhere else. The big guy would be pleased, I think.


JoeM: starker and starker, yes. The ultimate lesson in 'less is more', too. Stark still feels so right: there's nothing can't be improved by stripping it further back. Beckett is also so 70s for me. My then best mate Hugh and I saw Godot together and that sparked off a massive investigation of all his stuff. Hugh really got into the Molloy / Malone trilogy (which I staggered through, I still prefer his drama). Thanks for that great 'Not I' link: Billy Whitelaw is amazing, eh?

Un Couer Blanc: you're dead right, pal - someone really should record 'How it Is' since, as far as I know, none exists. Glad yu enjoyed the day.

Misa: knew that would tickle you. On the web page I stole that pic from, there's a typically craggy photo of Sam the Man, entitled 'I can't go on...', and underneath's the Photoshopped image, with the words 'I'll go on.'

Paradigm: no, I didn't see the movies, man - I must track 'em down. And yes, it's the rhythm I love most, I think. It's there in the text to, of course, but there's something about listening to his stuff that gets it into your bones. Like David E says: preferably with the lights off.

Scunnard said...

Thanks Jax, and wow I never knew Beckett was so butch. heh.

Hey Dennis, thanks for reminding me I have a LI account... I pretty much forgot, but I should prob update it a bit in case of all of those jobs pounding down my door have a peek! All best.

5STRINGS said...

"Dennis Cooper?" "Them boys is good." Pleasure. I wish I could get rich someway. Argo's mindless crap. Skyfall is fun. Even funner and gets the Oscar is Life of Pi. I should be there. I should be there in summer. SLP sucks dick, sounds like a coffin doesn't it? Bradley Cooper as maniac. Most people wouldn't know anything close to whatever mania is if it fucked them in the ass. Uh, sir. Uh, pardon me sir. I think you missed something. Ok I kind of think of it like this. You know how there's that Jesus guy right. Well there's this guy named Dennis and there's this guy named Eric. That's basically how I see it. It's hard to explain but it's real. I got hooked on him with unplugged. I heard one of his porno songs the day I got my ass destroyed last, when you hear it you know. He's like an underground porn video. I think a bunch of his songs are unbelievable. 20 years and just broke a whisky glass in my chest. Death to the dead. Nice column yourself fella. Cool Beckett day! Fucking A!

James said...

*Jax,

Thanks for the proper Beckett radio day. I'm not much for theatre, but radio theatre / plays is an interesting concept because it subtracts the corporeality of the audience (the fat lady sitting next to you whose elbow is in your stomach... yes, I speak from experience... I saw Genet's 'The Screens' in 1989 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and being a wee tot of 19 yrs at the time, I couldn't really appreciate its in-your-face hilarity, though the thought of someone dying on the can mid-shit was funny).

My favorite Beckett is 'Murphy.' He was still quite talky in that phase. 'Murphy' has my favorite opening line of all time:

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

I've read all his short stories that were collected in 'The Complete Short Prose.' The stories at the end of the collection were extremely minimal, like a disembodied voice whispering in a cylinder. They were almost mathematical expressions, if that makes sense.

Jax, Thank you for showing me the buff phase of Beckett... I never realized he had an LA Fitness membership!

Thanks again Jax, awesome weekend!


*Dennis,
Thank you for the open-arms welcome back. I'm starting to feel human again. I lost five lbs. during my sickness, so I guess something good came of it. I'm now down to a slim trim 157 lbs. I'm not quite picture weight yet, but you know, 157 lbs. is pretty good. I'm only 5'7" ... pretty small.

Dennis, I'm glad to hear you're back to work on the George novel. I was afraid that if you stayed away too long, you might give up the ghost. Glad to hear you're back at it, Sir! Speaking of the writing process, have you ever heard the term 'ambient influences'? Adam Novy mentioned it in an interview on Biblioklept. He said while he is writing (he wrote a 2 volume novel called 'The Avian Gospels' that kind of looks like a Gideon hotel bible) that ambient influences affect him just as much as literary influences do. Like albums were listening to, television programs we may be watching, talking to the old lady downstairs. I thought it made perfect sense. What are your thoughts on that? I'm in the editing process on my novel right now. I've also been listening to the new Titus Andronicus album 'Local Business' for about a month solid. I'm sure their new stripped down punk ethos is affecting the way I've been hatcheting my writing, getting all Lizzie Borden on its ass. Do you think that's really possible? I'm curious to hear your thought on ambient influences.

Much love to you, Dennis!

Your friend,
James

Kyler said...
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Kyler said...

David E, so true about Broadway. One exception of Albee's that I saw there was the production of A Delicate Balance with Elaine Stritch. (the delicate balance we all straddle between sanity and insanity) That was a phenom. Of course Beckett, along with Sarah Kane, belongs OFF Broadway and far off.

Un Cœur Blanc said...

Hi. I finally got Mike Kitchell's new poetry book, **Throw yourself out and see it if makes me come** I had read it on computer before, but this time, I read a printed one, which I feel much better. What I particularly like in this is his honesty that becomes more dense and, also, his textual performance that finds almost a godly present body of love. This work is a very honest spirit, where Kitchell loves everything, not for an attraction or a repulsion of a reader. I always think, Kitchell's impulse and structure for a honesty, also for an innocence of form and love is great enough to give me or anyone else a certain calm. I think, Kitchell's work delivers a spiritual truth thanks to his Artaud learning but at the same time, his studies of formal movement of language gives a certain elegance of writing, too. I just wanted to write this naturally here. I must write a complete review on this one, but, without excuse, I think, Kitchell's next book will be even greater and I want to live to write about it.

Bill said...

Very nice Beckett feature, Jax.

Good to hear the Strasbourg sojourn was nice, Dennis. Whenever I mention thinking of visiting Strasbourg (which I never have), my friends usually pipe up: "have some foie gras!" I'm sure you stayed away from it; do they make a vegetarian version?

Caught Mondo Lux last night. The Schroeter rehearsal footage is very interesting, but I would umm cut 10 mins of it in favor of more excerpts from the films. Now I'm really looking forward to Rose King, Flocons d'Or, etc. The only Schroeter I've seen is Palermo or Wolfsburg on VHS, and I can't say I really got into it. The excerpts in Mondo Lux all look gorgeous though.

Bill

allesfliesst said...

beckett w/ a sixpack, my golly.

i'm back in berlin, at least for 3 days, and it's still a winter's tale here. i'm correcting the proofs of my book on the 'the art of the collective,' which is supposed to come out in march, and in doing so i came across a little story about hypnosis that i used to end one chapter. i thought i'd pass this on here since you might like it. it's from 'and on the thousandth night,' a 6-hours performance by forced entertainment where the performers are telling improvised stories (they have to continue until someone else calls 'stop!' and starts a story of his/her own, and nobody is allowed to continue when another one calls 'stop!', and no performer is allowed to leave the stage during those 6 hours and the storytelling has to go on uninterrupted). so, one story went like this:

once upon a time there were two boys, and the one boy told the other that he would hypnotize him and then he would be under his spell and do everything he, the hypnotist, wanted. so the boy went to hypnotize his friend, but the friend realized that the hypnosis did not work at all. as he'd agreed to play this game, however, he felt obliged to pretend that he had been hypnotized and was now under the other one's spell, and when the other boy told him to take of his clothes he did it because he thought it would violate the rules of the game if he didn't. and when the boy who though he'd hypnotized his friend saw that he had indeed power over the other… - 'stop!'

there was also a nice story about two hills who were in love with the same valley.

Chilly Jay Chill said...

Jax - What a great day! I remember listening to "All That Fall" and "Embers" as a teenager in class and being slightly baffled by them and it's great to be reminded of them and revisit with a much better appreciation of Mr. B's work. Cool about the other radio plays as well. It's an underutilized format.

Tempted to take you up on the "Rainmaker" offer, if it still stands.

Dennis - Thanks for those details about "The Pyre" book. Since it plays off the dance, did you and Giselle collaborate on coming up with the narrative basics for your text? And did you both work on the content of the dance as well? Was the process different from how you've worked together in the past and how you work on your own fiction?

I heard word back from the open studio for "Dream of the Red Chamber" that it went amazingly well. Lots of folks waiting to get inside, many were able to sleep and let the piece seep into their subconscious. Hopefully some of the producers who attended will want to get involved since we badly need a cash infusion. Hope you'll get to see it at some point - the 14-year old who stars in it is the spitting image of the kid from "Luna" and an amazing performer, besides. We also just got some great songs from Elysian Fields that will be included in the next iteration.

alan said...

Jax, Thanks. I just downloaded the MP3s and will check these out and also pass them on to a friend who has a special interest in radio drama, if she doesn’t know about them already.

Dennis, Interesting. Yeah, the photo is very attractive (especially together with the colors around it) and confusing/evocative. I know JW did the design but you must have been the one to pick the image, right? Coincidence that the previous edition also has an interior scene on the cover?

_Black_Acrylic said...

@ Jax, thank you so much for this! I was very deep into Beckett in my late teens. Revisiting the great man is a revelation, and I'll be sure to check the audio work.

Had a great day off work today. The DCA cinema is having a Polanski season, and at lunchtime I saw Repulsion for the first time ever. So glad I did, it really is everything I could hope to look for in a film right now. The scariest, most disturbing horror out there, and seeing it on the big screen just about blew my mind into a million tiny pieces. Wow.

And then afterwards I went to the pub, drank coffee with friends and watched Leeds United beat Spurs in the FA cup. Like Ice Cube once sang, it was a good day.

There's some photos of Friday's Embassy members' show on Friday night here. I wrote the gallery for some titles and artists' names for the review. Once it's online I'll post a link.

Sypha said...

Interesting day, Jax. I'm sadly a philistine when it comes to Beckett. There's a horror writer I like, Thomas Ligotti, who has hyped up Beckett a lot. One of his novels in particular: "The Unnameable" I think it was.

Jax, while I have your attention: years ago on here, I recall someone saying how they went through a period where they tried writing Symbolist prose, but when that didn't work they decided to focus on more conventional genre fiction. Was that you? I guess it's something that's been on my mind lately. Over the last two years or so I've become very interested in long postmodern novels, and I wasted a great deal of 2012 trying to write in that vein, all of which ended in total failure.

Dennis, yes, you should post an updated top 50 list here one day. I would be very curious to see what would get changed. I got two James McCourt novels at work yesterday that I will read later on this year: first I want to finish "The Tunnel" then read some more of DFW's work.

steevee said...

Do you like Frank Zappa? When I was in college, I liked his work through 1970 or so, then I found it unlistenably wanky and smarmy. My Zappa CDs got stolen, and I haven't listened to his work in 20 years or so. I've just downloaded FREAK OUT, ABSOLUTELY FREE & WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY. I'm listening to ABSOLUTELY FREE now, and I'm surprised how appealing this sounds - snotty prog. I can hear a lot of Henry Cow and some of the more interesting European prog bands in this.

Chris Dankland said...

@Jax: Nice! I hadn't seen a lot of these, thank you


@Dennis:
Just saying hello, how're you?

I got done listening to this Gordon Lish interview from two years ago, where he shit talks Tao Lin(around 17 minute mark)

http://www.miettecast.com/iambik/Lish-Conversation-Part2.mp3

He doesn't really say anything very interesting or constructive, it's just a literary cat fight or something. It interests me because I'm pretty sure Zachary German is taking (or recently finished taking) a Gordon Lish class, I'm curious how that went.

I watched Zero Dark Thirty over the weekend, I enjoyed it. The torture scenes made me ashamed of the US, but I can also see how other people might watch those scenes and feel that we were totally justified in doing that

But it's interesting, it got me thinking a lot about the last ten years since Sept 11. It wasn't a partisan movie, which I appreciated, it shows a more complicated picture. I don't know if it's a must see movie, but it's definitely worth watching. I liked the Hurt Locker more than this one, though

Talk to you later :)

5STRINGS said...

The World is a Vampire

Marc Vallée said...

Hey DC, Did you catch that Larry Clark is in Paris? To shoot a film about, “A group of self-destructive skateboarders in Paris.” Marc x.

MMR said...

Hi Dennis !

MMR still undergoing a Kids in the Hall re-realizing... And checking on WC for Feb(?!).

Hope you are very well and to speak soon,
(MMR)