Thursday, August 26, 2010
I'd like to write specifically about Beckett's Texts for Nothing, but of course the Introduction I read will bleed into my impressions, as well. To create an impression in writing is much like leaving a fingerprint, unique and with a certain solidarity that can be mimicked, but not fully. This imprint is a particular voice, style, what have you, that sources out from different areas in the mind and lingers on the page, as a moving swirling grip that maintains sovereignty in and of itself. The singularity and the distinction of voice is something that Beckett so clearly captured and something that many moderns were aspiring to create, or did accomplish in one way or another. Some of the objects that this voice reflects are immaterial, immobile, sort of like double negatives that create something out of nothing, or nothing out of something. In line with these conundrums, these lyrical, logical quagmires of absence, the word nothing both is and is not a subject, or an object and with Beckett's Texts for Nothing this particular nothing is used and diffused like a piece of paper folded into a brilliant assortment of crumples and shapes. Folded and folded again, the paper becomes worn and trodden, without any fibers left unchanged, unturned. Where there is nothing, there are a million folds that pull the word into shapes. The fourth text for nothing caught my attention for its lyrical beauty, with sentences that I wanted to repeat over and over on the tongue. There is a sense of the tension between a drive for death and a drive for life and these two drives take on different I's that are a singular I in the voice of the text. It is said that Beckett is a master of the disembodied voice, and the disunity of voice, but the body for me is contained in sound, in repetition. There is a sense of completion through the incomplete repeat. With rhythmic abundance, the text with no body forms a song that we can all take upon our tongues and rehearse. These texts also pull in different functional characterizations in a life, part of a voice's life that includes mundane fixtures. In Text 3, nothing is used in conjunction with Guinness, the bar, the free bench on which to sit and the cloak covering a man who must have looked dirty, to outsiders. But these texts rarely make a declarations for the outside. These are voices that remain inside, with the swirling thought patterns that form song, the continuous references to horns and the sounds that call out into bleak sky, with no origin, like an echo. And if nothing is a direction, an object without object, then nothing is something that creates this deep mystery that is a toy for only a skilled craftsman to use in order knead the framework of everything into the void of this one word. If it weren't for the rhythm, I might have found these trails of words to be too esoteric, too self-reflecting, but of course, the self for Beckett is a non-entitiy here, something compiled inside a loosely framed body, leaning, heading distinctly, and with abandon on the edge of a cliff, for death. Soon death will wash over and the voices remain, I think he knew this all too well, and these words seem to be in a sense, a Requiem for a soon gone self. But its life is etched through this slow progression with verbs and the motion of non-entities. We are spun around in fleeting postulates that escort an empty sphere. The feelings that arise are the coordinates of truth. Why did I read Beckett? It seemed to soak into my mind like a cheese or a flavor that lingered, not merely as an instantaneous burst, but sort of in a slow, downward movement, like water through soil and I do trust that Beckett's words will thrive in me. They will be words that I'll return to. His categorizations are of the most basic kind. He categorizes the living, in a sense, as the act of simply moving, making movements and continuing to move, preferably without obstacle. There is habitation, and places that are hostile to habitation. We arrive in one piece under glass, under a magnifying glass in the sun, there is no rest, no house, no shelter, but there are limits. These limits of economy, worldly tracts of movement versus immobility define for Beckett, the modal tendency of life, when one reaches the limits of a mode of life, the tune changes, the movements adjust and the struggle to move between modes signifies the limits of death. Lastly, I still question something that came up in the Introduction. Why on earth did Beckett wish to write in French? His English is necessary for us who find English to be a graceless mode. Beckett breathes hope into the lyricism of English, which relies on simple logical twists and repeats them into a woven structure of a mounting, elaborate trajectory, unfinished due to the nature of the obstinate design. For me, English is always unfinished, always unrefined. Beckett allows this state of difficulty to assume grace.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
First of all, If this writing that I have done is poorly written, so be it. My attraction to the writing of Tennessee Williams is not without bias. I know that he stood up for his own botched style. Gore Vidal seemed to consider him a botched writer, but not without appeal. Tennessee Williams once asked Vidal to correct his odd syntax as he saw fit. Vidal corrected backwards sentences and shortened phrases and cleared up confusion. After doing so, Williams defended himself by saying, "What you have done, is effectively remove my style" or something to that effect. In regards to this statement, the appeal of the style is there for me, too, but it is a ponderous thing. In The Night of the Iguana, there is style that almost outshines its plot in a very quirky or awkwardly endearing way. With the ambiguous role of sexuality stemming from the remaining wet-spot on the woman's belly, the apparent homosexual getaway of the scene for two writers, and the strange staging of movement between rooms, thoughts overheard between walls, it is almost as if the separation between men and women is a structure that is broken down, in an almost dismal way, through the use of architecture. And what of the difference between the vacationers and the locals, with their local customs, that in theory do not match those of the woman-visitor with her mind for superiority over them, to which the writers muse over, mock her for, and refuse to take into account with any degree of seriousness. Is this story about the unserious life of artists, washed into the fold of what matters - sex. Or what counts - leisure. Or what aids the transition from the serious life, to one of leisure - drugs and alcohol. This story asks, when and to what degree will some women allow themselves a way out of their neurosis. This woman is of course, Ms. Jelkes. She is concerned, she is a spy, she holds the heated position of meddler. Her curiosity is one with a liberal aptitude that would not necessarily reject the men for their cohabitation, but it actually comes down to a battle of wits between her and the older man, as if age were the combination that will unlock the secret to their sameness. Or perhaps it is the similarity of neurosis, because each of them share the habit of drug-use. Or perhaps it is a combination of the feeling of remove, in a world where they feel entitled to some kind of negotiated form of community. Thus, in exile, what becomes of community? But this is not exile, per se, it is retreat. They are all on 'vacation' but to get away from what? Themselves, perhaps. These things are enough for a story, but not enough for Mr. Williams. In his so-called style, he cannot resist making something of a spectacle out of the moment of 'climax'. There is a storm and a white bird appears, and the shutters to the windows flail, and the younger writer exits the scene. This is the battleground for Ms. Jelkes and her self-induced chastity that shrinks away from the overly eager leap and attack of her male counterpart. What remains is the disappearing storm, and the wet-spot, that she touches in a very theatrical gesture, once she has retreated to her own room. What of a "Room of One's Own?" Ms. Jelkes wants to break through to the writers, she wants to share their room. There is no Ms. Jelkes without the others. She needs them. But they could do with or without her. This is enough to make her feel hopelessly disembodied in her speech, awkward, and overly congenial. Ms. Jelkes is the maneuver from one disembodied repression into a battle to oust what Williams effectively names a 'demon' as if the virginity within her, the self-induced virginity was possessing her and causing her the grief of seriousness. Thus, if everything boils down to principle, we can only live to a certain extremity, and fail to see a 'fuller' picture. She knows not what she says when she claims to know suffering. She is essentially a blind hypocrite. So sad that she must be a she. Of course it is up to a male author to shed light on an important woman in this way. As if the ignorance were a fault of some kind. The writers seem equally dysfunctional, but they get along fine, in their dualism. Jelkes, on the other hand, is alone. As a lone figure, she is shown as helpless, rather than courageous for her attempts to know these authors. As it is, the authors will not be known, will not be subjects of sympathy, will not be 'akin' to poor Jelkes.
The walls are what impresses me most about this story. There is an Iguana under the floor boards, there are voices spilling through the thin walls, there is a storm smashing the door into the frame, back and forth, there is a shared veranda, there is, in essence, no privacy, no stability, and the building structures are as solid as a cardboard box. The beach setting, however, is one of false beauty, but it is the scene's backbone. Without the beach, there is no Corte Madera. The beach is the geographical margin encompassing this story, it is a place where one can see only into the horizon, without a care for the surroundings. It is a place where one can look away indefinitely, from where they sit, from where they are. It is the geography of escapism.
Back to the climax scene, the utter 'escape' into strange allusions during this passage, of bestiality, god's wrath in the form of a storm, and the compiled pizazz of multiple climaxes, turns it into a fireworks show. But what actually comes to pass? It is hidden from the reader. The man lunges, misses, and a wet spot lands on the woman's body. We know she explicitly fought him, after inviting him into some form of understanding between the two of them. They are the oddest pair in this story, with the oddest interaction, because 1. Where does her sense that they are alike come from? 2. Why does the younger writer temporarily disappear in this scene? 3. What is anyone thinking? 4. What do the gestures, coated with the gloss of fancy illusion refer to?
What I'm left with is a fanciful blur for a climax. I find it rather funny: a fireworks show with an illusory 'bang!'. This is genuinely funny to me. This writer has done something incredibly awful, but in a way, he's done it effectively. He has also brazenly got away with it. Not that I would ask Tennessee Williams to remove his white bird, or his storm, or his wet-spot from Ms. Jelkes' belly. I just want this writing to happen to us, with more and more conviction, in order to know that writers can do whatever they want. Writers express what they can how they want to and this botched art is so incredibly and confusedly non-proprietary to the canon, non-proprietary to the king, with the semblance of 'poetry' in a way that is luxuriously ridiculous. It is this sentiment that secures my love for Tennessee Williams, because like Ms. Jelkes sharing sentiments with the old writer, I, too, feel a shared-luxurious-ridiculousness with the 'bird' as Gore Vidal nicknamed him. Is this not a form of pure defiance in the face of a certain sexual, moral, political, and aesthetic seriousness?