Lucky’s Monologue from Waiting for Godot

Mehdi Bajestani, as Lucky, (from a production ...

Lucky is a slave to the character Pozzo. Lucky is unique in a play where most of the characters talk incessantly: he only utters two sentences (one of which, this monologue, is more than seven hundred words long ). The monologue is prompted by Pozzo when the tramps ask him to make Lucky “think”. He asks them to give him his hat: when Lucky wears his hat, he is capable of thinking. The monologue is long, rambling logorrhea, and does not have any apparent end; it is only stopped when Vladimir takes the hat back. Within the gibberish Lucky makes comments on the arbitrary nature of God, man’s tendency to pine and fade away, and towards the end, the decaying state of the earth. His ramblings may be loosely based around the theories of the Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley (Wikipedia)

Lucky: “Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast heaven to hell so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labours left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labours of men that as a result of the labours unfinished of Testew and Cunard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labours of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation is seen to waste and pine waste and pine and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicilline and succedanea in a word I resume and concurrently simultaneously for reasons unknown to shrink and dwindle in spite of the tennis I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell to shrink and dwindle I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per head since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per head approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and than the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold on sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull to shrink and waste and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labours abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard (mêlée, final vociferations) tennis… the stones… so calm… Cunard… unfinished…” — Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Is Lucky’s Monologue Poetry? thanks to Rich)

That Was Fast

Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...
Amazon Says E-Books Now Top Hardcover Sales: “Monday was a day for the history books — if those will even exist in the future., one of the nation’s largest booksellers, announced Monday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books.In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.” (

R.I.P. Peter Orlovsky

Allen Ginsberg with partner Peter Orlowski, Fr...

Poet and Ginsberg Muse is dead at 76: “Peter Orlovsky, who inspired Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, with whom he had a romantic partnership for decades, and who wrote emotionally naked, loopy and occasionally luminescent poetry of his own, died in Williston, Vt., on Sunday. He was 76, and lived in St. Johnsbury, Vt.” (New York Times )

“They don’t know that we know they know we know.”

Image of the human head with the brain. The ar...

Next Big Thing in Literary Theory: ‘At a time when university literature departments are confronting painful budget cuts, a moribund job market and pointed scrutiny about the purpose and value of an education in the humanities, the cross-pollination of English and psychology is a providing a revitalizing lift.

Jonathan Gottschall, who has written extensively about using evolutionary theory to explain fiction, said “it’s a new moment of hope” in an era when everyone is talking about “the death of the humanities.” To Mr. Gottschall a scientific approach can rescue literature departments from the malaise that has embraced them over the last decade and a half. Zealous enthusiasm for the politically charged and frequently arcane theories that energized departments in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s — Marxism, structuralism, psychoanalysis — has faded. Since then a new generation of scholars have been casting about for The Next Big Thing.

The brain may be it. Getting to the root of people’s fascination with fiction and fantasy, Mr. Gottschall said, is like “mapping wonderland.” (New York Times )

The Death of Fiction?

from darkness into the light... [08/52]

“After more than a century of founding and subsidizing literary magazines as a vital part of their educational missions, colleges and universities have begun off-loading their publications, citing overburdened budgets and dwindling readership. Despite the potentially disastrous consequences to the landscape of literature and ideas, it’s increasingly hard to argue against. Once strongholds of literature and learned discussion in our country, university-based quarterlies have seen steadily declining subscriber bases since their heyday a half-century ago—and an even greater dent in their cultural relevance.” (Mother Jones)

The Talented Ms. Highsmith


Review of Joan Schenkar’s The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith: “She kept 300 snails as pets. She drank a quart of gin a day. She considered robbery worse than murder. She left the United States to live in Europe because of what she called ‘the Negro problem’ — by which she did not mean discrimination against Negroes, but the civil rights movement that had Negroes demanding their rights.

A houseguest once left her window open; she threw a dead rat inside. She took tips left on restaurant tables. She’d drive 60 miles to get a cheaper spaghetti dinner. She called Hitler’s extermination policy a ‘semicaust’, because only half the world’s Jews died.

She thought that ‘life didn’t make sense without a crime in it.’ Her idea of happiness was to write a murder. At 1:30 in the morning, standing in a lover’s apartment, she didn’t hesitate to make a booty call to another woman. ‘I am a man and I love women,’ she wrote. She liked young blonds, very made up.

A mental health professional, observing her for only a few minutes, pegged her as a psychopath. Another writer described her as ‘a black cloud.’ Her own assessment: ‘If I were to relax and become human, I could not bear my life.’

…Why would you even think of reading more than 600 pages about such a monster?” (Head Butler)

Which is Your Favorite Thunderword?

Cover of "Finnegans Wake (Penguin Twentie...

‘Joyce described [Finnegans Wake] as a downwards parabola into sleep, or as a tunnel going through a mountain. As HCE moves through the dream, the “thunderwords” track his movement. There are 10 thunderwords, the first 9 of 100 letters each, the last of 101, for a total of 1,001–tales of a thousand and one nights, appropriate for this book of sleep.

As each thunderword leads into another part of the book, it fits into Joyce’s usage of Vico‘s philosophy to tell the story. Each thunderword leads to a new cycle and a deeper part of sleep, and a deeper, more muddled state in HCE’s mind (where the “mudmound” of his body fades from view and even the acrostics for HCE become muddled, as hec, ech, etc.). Thunder itself was important in Vico’s philosophy as a motivating force and a symbolic marker of events in history.

“There are ten thunders in the Wake. Each is a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history. When a tribal man hears thunder, he says, ‘What did he say that time?’, as automatically as we say ‘Gesundheit.’ ” — Marshall McLuhan.’ (FinnegansWiki)

Here are the ten thunderwords, hyperlinked to their places in the FW text:

Philip Roth predicts novel will be minority cult within 25 years

Philip Roth

Roth has long been pessimistic about the survival of the novel in a gaudy, short-attention-span culture, but his latest prophesy is one of his bleakest yet, predicting that the form will dwindle to a “cultic” minority enthusiasm within 25 years.

The author believes that the concentration and focus required to read a novel is becoming less and less prevalent, as potential readers turn instead to computers or to television. “I was being optimistic about 25 years really. I think it’s going to be cultic. I think always people will be reading them but it will be a small group of people. Maybe more people than now read Latin poetry, but somewhere in that range,” Roth told Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast“. (

You are all computer literati and most of you are readers. Are you noticing impairments to your attention span? Do you think Roth is right? Will you be in the (illustrious) minority, when it comes to that? [thanks, Barb S.]

Absurdist Literature Stimulates Our Brains

“Absurdist literature, it appears, stimulates our brains. That's the conclusion of a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Psychologists Travis Proulx of the University of California, Santa Barbara and Steven Heine of the University of British Columbia report our ability to find patterns is stimulated when we are faced with the task of making sense of an absurd tale. What's more, this heightened capability carries over to unrelated tasks.” (Miller-McCune Online Magazine)

R.I.P. Jim Carroll

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Poet and Punk Rocker Who Wrote ‘The Basketball Diaries’ Dies at 60: “As a teenage basketball star in the 1960s at Trinity, an elite private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Carroll led a chaotic life that combined sports, drugs and poetry. This highly unusual combination lent a lurid appeal to “The Basketball Diaries,” the journal he kept during high school and published in 1978, by which time his poetry had already won him a cult reputation as the new Bob Dylan.” (New York Times obituary)

Even when I didn’t listen to punk, ‘People Who Died’ was in my regulsr rotation. Time to punch it up on the iPod and add one more name to the list…

Dissertations — in 17 syllables

Grave of YosaBuson (与謝蕪村墓)

“The Web site Dissertation Haikus has been around for a few years, but it’s enjoying a late-summer surge in popularity. The concept is irresistible. As its creator explains, “Dissertations are long and boring. By contrast, everybody likes haiku. So why not write your dissertation as a haiku?” Why not, indeed! For the writer, the site provides a way to dramatically expand the universe of people with a loose grasp on how you spent several or 10 or 12 years of your life. For the reader, it provides a way to painlessly survey what passes for the cutting edge of knowledge, without having to negotiate precious, colon-hobbled titles or scientific jargon.” (Boston Globe via laurie)

The Chart of Fantasy Art

“Never let it be said that publishers don’t research their market. Having surveyed all the fantasy books published by the leading SFF imprints in the US, we are now one step closer to unlocking the greatest mysteries of fantasy cover design. Behold, the legendary Chart of Fantasy Art!” (The Publisher Files)

(A visual survey of the frequency of various cover art elements from all fantasy books published in 2008 by major fantasy publishing houses)

David Foster Wallace lives on for an “Infinite Summer”

“There are many ways to cope with death, but founding an online book club is a pretty unique approach. “When I heard that David Foster Wallace had died, it was like remembering an assignment that had been due the day before,” said Matthew Baldwin. A blogger who regretted never having finished “Infinite Jest,” Baldwin founded, a Web site and collaborative reading experiment that creates a vast literary support group for completing the late author's 1,079-page tome over the course of this summer.” (Salon)

Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft?

“Slam poetry was invited into the White House last month and it is also the focus of the recent HBO documentary series “Brave New Voices.” So you might think that the originator of the poetry slam, a raucous live competition that is more likely to take place in a bar than in a bookstore, would be feeling rather pleased these days.

But from his base here at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Marc Kelly Smith expresses mixed feelings about the growing popularity and respectability of the art form that he created almost 25 years ago. From the start, he envisioned slam poetry as a subversive, thumb-your-nose-at-authority movement, and he wants to ensure it stays true to those origins.” (New York Times )


The story of the origin of fairy tales is a fairy tale

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‘ “It has been said so often that the folk invented and disseminated fairy tales that this assumption has become an unquestioned proposition,” [Ruth] Bottigheimer writes in the introduction to her most recent book, Fairy Tales: A New History (State University of New York Press, 2009). “It may therefore surprise readers that folk invention and transmission of fairy tales has no basis in verifiable fact. Literary analysis undermines it, literary history rejects it, social history repudiates it, and publishing history … contradicts it.”

Her claim is the latest chapter in — some say it should be the epilogue to — a clash almost as old as fairy tales themselves. For many scholars, the debate over where fairy tales came from is a battle that belongs to the late 19th century, when national folklore societies sprang up in the United States and Britain and established the importance of oral traditions. That principle long ago became a pillar of the work done by folklorists — influenced by anthropologists and ethnographers — even as they have used book history and manuscript evidence to put together a much more complicated picture of how the Grimms and other key collectors, editors, and writers produced their influential versions of stories.

Many of these scholars have simply moved beyond the debate. They say the really interesting work on fairy tales now occupies a shifting middle ground where the spoken and written versions play off each other: on the pantomime stage, for instance, and on the movie screen.’ (The Chronicle of Higher Educatiton)

R.I.P., J.G. Ballard

In more than 20 novels and story collections, Mr. Ballard coupled his potent descriptive powers with an imagination attracted to catastrophic events and a melancholy view of the human soul as being enervated and corrupted by the modern world.

He is best known for Empire of the Sun, a somewhat autobiographical novel from 1984 about an English boy growing up in Shanghai, during the Japanese occupation in World War II. The book made the short list for the Man Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, and Steven Spielberg turned it into a 1987 film (with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard) starring Christian Bale and John Malkovich.

Although not a characteristic work — it was neither as fantastical nor as provocative as many of his other books — Empire revealed Mr. Ballard’s own childhood as the source of much of his surrealistic imagination. It is full of the images — emptied swimming pools, abandoned buildings — that came to symbolize his view of the world as “a bizarre external landscape propelled by large psychic forces,” as he said in an interview with The New York Times Magazine in 1990. (New York Times obituary).

I’ve been a reader of Ballard since his earlier works such as The Drowned World and The Wind from Nowhere. My devotion remained through The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash.

How novels help drive social evolution

‘Boehm and Carroll believe novels have the same effect as the cautionary tales told in older societies. “Just as hunter-gatherers talk of cheating and bullying as a way of staying keyed to the goal that the bad guys must not win, novels key us to the same issues,” says Boehm. “They have a function that continues to contribute to the quality and structure of group life.”

“Maybe storytelling – from TV to folk tales – actually serves some specific evolutionary function,” says Gottschall. “They’re not just by-products of evolutionary adaptation.” ‘

via New Scientist.

R.I.P. Harold Pinter, 1930-2008

“Harold Pinter, who died at the age of 78 on Christmas Eve, was very likely the only writer ever to win the Nobel Prize, the French Légion d’honneur, and inspire an episode of Seinfeld. He was also a towering enough figure in modern theater to lend his name to a word: “Pinteresque.” It was most commonly used in reference to the famous pauses written into his plays, and many a theater lover born during or after Pinter’s first period of success knew long before discovering his plays that describing the sight of an actor daring the audience to wonder if he’d just forgotten his lines as Pinteresque was an easy way of seeming smart. More generally, and more and more as Pinter’s career went on, it came to stand for the whole mysterious, threatening world he created on stage, a place where everyone seemed to be nursing a secret grudge and perpetually squaring off against and testing each other, and the balance of power kept shifting. Pinter, who attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1948, entered theater as an actor and spent twelve years struggling to get by as a member of various repertory companies; for about half that time, he performed under the name “David Baron.” His time as a starving young actor in London overlapped with that of Michael Caine, and Caine has often enjoyed telling interviewers about the time good old “David” stormed out of the pub, saying that he was bloody sick to death of this bloody business and was going home to try to write something.”

via The Screengrab.

What Ails Literary Studies

Cover of Baby Dayliner's second album

“The major victory of professors of literature in the last half-century — the Great March from the New Criticism through structuralism, deconstruction, Foucauldianism, and multiculturalism — has been the invention and codification of a professionalized study of literature. We’ve made ourselves into a priestly caste: To understand literature, we tell students, you have to come to us. Yet professionalization is a pyrrhic victory: We’ve won the battle but lost the war. We’ve turned revelation into drudgery, shut ourselves in airless rooms, and covered over the windows.”

via The Chronicle.

The 150,000-Word Sentence

Countries of the world where English is an off...
The Anglophone world…

Take that, all you doomsayers of the English language in the age of texting. Comes now word that the 517-page French novel Zone, by Mathias Enard — consisting of one 150,000-word sentence — will be published in English. Told from inside some guy’s mind as he takes a train trip, the story “has a lot of commas.” To which we can only add, exclamation point!

via New York Times Ideas Blog.

Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong

Sherlock Holmes in

“Cultural gadfly Pierre Bayard returns to the genre of “detective criticism,” which he invented fifteen years ago (in his rereading of Agatha Christie’s Who Killed Roger Ackroyd), and immerses himself in Arthur Conan Doyle’s imaginary universe. The result is a new, startling way to think about one of Sherlock Holmes’s most famous cases.”

via Very Short List.

Has sci-fi got a future?

Taken during the Spook Country promotional tou...William Gibson

“These days, science can be stranger than science fiction, and mainstream literature is increasingly futuristic and speculative. So are the genre’s days numbered? We asked six leading writers for their thoughts on the future of science fiction, including Margaret Atwood, William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson.”

via New Scientist