ontological human memory or organic reality

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Scenes or acts in this play

Unfortunately, there were no scenes or acts in this play, at least not so far, and no interval when one might disappear discreetly. Even Godot has two acts, I thought. And it was at this point that it occurred to me why Beckett was so much better known in the theater than in his novels, even though for the Beckett fan the novels are infinitely more interesting than the plays. Anyone new to Beckett, opening the trilogy and seeing those long pages—no paragraph breaks, no dialogues, or none punctuated, no immediately obvious plot, strange ideas, strange emotions, strange non sequiturs—might well be daunted, might even imagine the writer was merely incompetent or self-indulgent. Likewise with the baroque prose of Murphy, or the mad computations of Watt, or the repetitive bleakness of How It Is, or the knotty, gnomic compression of Texts for Nothing. You have to be a determined, patient, ultra-receptive reader the first time you approach Beckett in prose.

Reality and immediacy

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In the theater on the other hand the flesh-and-blood presence of the actors, good or bad as they may be, creates a sense of reality and immediacy, a heightened state of attention. Having paid for your seat, having promised yourself a special evening, and finding yourself sitting in the middle of a long row beside others who have also paid and promised themselves a special evening, others whom you imagine have similar interests to your own, people willing to spend time and money supporting avant-garde culture, a community almost—in these circumstances you are probably always going to hang on at least thirty minutes, however bewildered and sceptical you may be. And thirty minutes should be enough for Beckett’s enchantments to begin to work. Simply the emotional experience of being in the theater, the sense of occasion, the positive atmosphere of people engaging in an intellectual pursuit together, provides the necessary momentum for tackling the great enigma of Beckett’s work.