by John--Ed. Calder ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 23, 1987
Festschrift volume of very brief essays on the occasion of the Irish Nobel Prize winner's entrance into the club of octogenarians. Editor Calder assembled a similar, better book for the author's 60th birthday. The intervening years have not added greatly to Beckett's reputation, although the ever-sparer, ever-more death-obsessed books keep being produced by the indefatigable pessimist of Erin. Calder is the British publisher of only the author's prose, but the present book contains many actors' reminiscences about the plays. Most of these are fairly self-absorbed and unrevealing about the subject, although one player named Leonard Fenton offers a nice anecdote about Beckett, directing at age 73, crawling around on a dusty floor alone before a rehearsal, in order to save an actor from having to make the uncomfortable movements himself. A similar generosity and grace informs the only valuable item here, predictably a text by Beckett himself, never published before. Its literary value is minor, merely a dry, factual radio broadcast about part of the author's wartime Resistance work in an Irish-staffed French hospital. Yet its plain-spoken determination not to make too much of a dramatic situation happily forecasts the writer's talent for focusing on the humdrum and death-giving things of life. The worst elements of this book are the attempts at critical commentary: all of the eminent academics here, from Richard Ellmann to Martin Esslin, sound tired and played out on the subject, as if they have already said all they have to say about Beckett. Colin Duckworth, the author of previous criticisms of the writer, offers here an inane jape about a bad director. Looming over the whole project by his very visible absence is today's preeminent Beckett scholar, Hugh Kenner, whose omission from this volume is unforgivable. Only for the most complete Beckett collections.
Pub Date: March 23, 1987
Page Count: -
Publisher: Riverrun--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987
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