Friday, 14 April 2006
Beckett, schmeckett

Take a look at this:




Yes, it’s Prince Charles, in a dustbin (trash can to Americans), in a student performance of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” (with thanks to Esmerelda). For decades students sat around in dustbins or piles of sand and other students sat around pretending to enjoy watching them. For decades people have pretended that “Waiting for Godot” isn't boring, but clever, even funny. Now the time has come to lift the dustbin lid. Beckett is rubbish. Overrated, pretentious, dreary rubbish. Almost as overrated as Brecht. I was pleased, therefore, to see that this idol has feet of clay and that a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. (As it is both Passover and Easter, I have no qualms about mixing Old and New Testament for my purpose.) From The Telegraph:


The 100th anniversary of Samuel Beckett's birth will be marked across the world today with dozens of dramatic productions, festivals, exhibitions and broadcasts commemorating his brilliance as an absurdist playwright.

While most events concentrate on a serious literary analysis of his output, the Nobel Prize winner credited with redefining modern theatre will be remembered quite differently at his alma mater, Portora Royal School, Enniskillen.

Long before he left Ireland for Paris, the creator of Waiting for Godot was a difficult and moody schoolboy, whose sporting prowess far outshone his scholarly promise.

Aside from the occasional piece of vulgar verse, Beckett gave little indication of nascent literary genius at Portora, where he shunned the school plays and magazine.

But as one would expect of the only Nobel Laureate to have the distinction of a mention in the cricketers' bible Wisden, he did excel at games.

His talent on the cricket pitch was only matched by his aptitude for the age-old schoolboy pastime of tormenting masters - one of whom he reduced to floods of tears.

A host of fascinating anecdotes about Beckett's early years has been unearthed at the Co Fermanagh school, where he boarded from 1920 to 1923 and which also boasts Oscar Wilde as an old boy…

Beckett mocked a science master, W R Tetley, who was thought by boys to have a resemblance to Dr Crippen.

Bored by the subject, Beckett spent one science class drawing "lewd caricatures" of Tetley and ended up in the study of the formidable headmaster, the Rev E G Seale.

On another occasion, a master called Tackaberry, who could not keep discipline, had to supervise the whole school of 120 boys during prep.

On Beckett's prearranged signal, the school burst into a programme of songs he had distributed beforehand.

As chaos reigned, Tackaberry slapped Beckett around the head in a desperate attempt to restore order. "Hit someone your own size," was Beckett's reply.

Tackaberry slumped over his desk "sobbing uncontrollably". The unfortunate master then uttered the words: "To think I've come to this, a convenient piss-pot for the whole school."

Little blighter.

When reprimanded by the Campbell headmaster of the time, Beckett was asked if he understood that his pupils were the "cream of Ulster". "Yes," Beckett replied, "rich and thick."

Oscar Wilde it ain’t.

When it comes to cricket, his overriding passion, the school magazine records that he represented the 1st XI in his first year at Portora, scoring 11 against the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

"Beckett can bat well at times, but has an awkward habit of walking across the wicket to all balls. Good field," the magazine reported.

            All balls? I wouldn’t argue with that.

People have wondered why Beckett didn’t give interviews. Surely it couldn’t be in order to make the public believe he was more interesting than he really was? Perish the thought. Not many people know that it was because he had come to realise that his plays were gloomy and pretentious, and wanted to write something a bit more cheerful. Here’s what he came up with:

Yes, that’s right – Top Cat. This is much better. Godot turns up, for a start, but he’s changed his name to the polypragmonic Officer Dibble. The tramps are still there, but they are transmogrified, as it were, into wise-cracking alley cats. Last, but not least, we’ve still got the dustbin. When one of his critics objected, “But this isn’t Beckett,” he replied, “Beckett, schmeckett. What’s it matter so long as there’s a dustbin?”

Beckett, schmeckett is, incidentally, a Yiddish-German pun. In Yiddish, “schmeck” means smell, but in German it means taste. For what is also not well known is that in later life, once he had moved onto his Top Cat phase, Beckett became something of a gourmet, perhaps even a gourmand. Abandoning the consumptive, tortured artist look:

He grew plump and jolly:

There was no way he could go back to writing those miserable plays after that. But keep this to yourselves. His admirers would be very disappointed if they realised they had been sold a pup.

Happy Easter/Pesach.

Posted on 04/14/2006 6:09 AM by Mary Jackson
14 Apr 2006
Send an emailMarisol Seibold
Top Cat...

Do they show Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law in the UK?

The Cartoon Network controls the Hanna-Barbara catalog, and thus has the rights to its characters. Harvey Birdman recasts them in an animated sitcom about a law firm. Examples: A "Flintstones" parody of The Sopranos, Yogi's sidekick Booboo as a Unabomber clone. Also a recent episode with Top Cat.

One of my favorites.

6 Apr 2009
Gene Callahan

"Now the time has come to lift the dustbin lid. Beckett is rubbish."

Yes, and you're one of the great literary virtuosos of our time.