Here’s a fact that’s either very surprising or not surprising at all: Samuel Beckett didn’t want his letters to see the light of day. He once wrote to Barney Rosset that he didn’t care for “the ventilation of private documents.” Despite this disinclination, his third volume of letters comes out this week, and it includes, as detailed by John Banville in a review for The Irish Times, a letter in which Beckett asks that none of his plays be produced in Ireland. Pair with: our own Matt Seidel on Beckett’s “Echo’s Bones.”
Now online: PEN World Voices video of Keith Gessen interviewing Vladimir Sorokin, author of the just-released Ice Trilogy and Day of the Oprichnik. I was a little nonplussed by the Times‘ decision to begin its profile of Sorokin with a discussion of his hair, but really…it is quite something. Come for the mane, stay for the acerbic insights.
Members of the Word Reference forum contemplate the etymology and meaning of the “A” in the expression, “Fuckin’ A.” Elsewhere Geoffrey Nunberg, linguist and author of Assholism: The First Sixty Years, shares his take on the ubiquitous “a-word,” which he believes originated during World War II.
David Foster Wallace stranded on a desert island.Another reason to love Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley: his refreshingly enthusiastic take on “slacker fiction” and All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen, who, admittedly, “scarcely qualifies as a slacker.”Paul Auster was a protesting, fence-tearing, rioting crazy ’68er, too, it turns out.The phenomenal Burkhard Bilger supplements his New Yorker piece on folk-music field recordings with some audio.Malcolm Gladwell’s seemingly endless string of public appearances continues. This one is, intriguingly, a public “book discussion” with the Washington, D.C. chief of police.With some speculating that CBS News is about to close up shop and that Katie Couric is on her way out, rumors are already swirling about the obligatory memoir.Jonathan Franzen answers the question “Do you regret your run-in with Oprah?” in a “Big Think” video. Aficionados of Franzen mannerisms may also enjoy the other fifteen or so Franzen videos that Big Think has available.
The British critic, essayist, and novelist John Berger died yesterday at his home in France, reports The New York Times. Probably best known for his book of art-criticism-as-philosophy Ways of Seeing, which was turned into a popular BBC series and sold more than a million copies, Berger also won the Booker prize for G. in 1972 and was nominated again in 2008 for an epistolary novel, From A to X. The Guardian has rounded up some of his quotes, including the apt-feeling “[h]ope is not a form of guarantee; it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”
In 1962, Samuel Beckett wrote “Play.” Originally intended to be a stage production, the piece has now been adapted as a short film starring Alan Rickman, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Juliet Stepherson. Come for the Beckett writing (full text can be found here), but stay for the disembodied heads-in-urns.