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Now published for the first time--Samuel Beckett's first novel, written in the Hotel Trianon in Paris in the summer of 1932 when the author was 26. Recognized as one of the great writers of the 20th-century, Beckett's Waiting for Godot revolutionized contemporary theater and his fiction is ranked by many with that of Joyce and Proust.


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Now published for the first time--Samuel Beckett's first novel, written in the Hotel Trianon in Paris in the summer of 1932 when the author was 26. Recognized as one of the great writers of the 20th-century, Beckett's Waiting for Godot revolutionized contemporary theater and his fiction is ranked by many with that of Joyce and Proust.

30 review for Dream of Fair to Middling Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Dream of Fair to Middling Women is a monstrously ambitious and exuberantly experimental novel, it is so extravagantly intricate that it literally turns into a cultural and lexical conundrum. Considering James Joyce’s greatest influence on the book, it may easily be titled as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Madman. Every madman needs one’s own mad cosmology… The night firmament is abstract density of music, symphony without end, illumination without end, yet emptier, more sparsely lit, than the Dream of Fair to Middling Women is a monstrously ambitious and exuberantly experimental novel, it is so extravagantly intricate that it literally turns into a cultural and lexical conundrum. Considering James Joyce’s greatest influence on the book, it may easily be titled as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Madman. Every madman needs one’s own mad cosmology… The night firmament is abstract density of music, symphony without end, illumination without end, yet emptier, more sparsely lit, than the most succinct constellations of genius. Now seen merely, a depthless lining of hemisphere, its crazy stippling of stars, it is the passional movements of the mind charted in light and darkness. The tense passional intelligence, when arithmetic abates, tunnels, skymole, surely and blindly (if we only thought so!) through the interstellar coalsacks of its firmament in genesis, it twists through the stars of its creation in a network of loci that shall never be co-ordinate. The inviolable criterion of poetry and music, the non-principle of their punctuation, is figured in the demented perforation of the night colander. The ecstatic mind, the mind achieving creation, take ours for example, rises to the shaftheads of its statement, its recondite relations of emergal, from a labour and a weariness of deep castings that brook no schema. Having real prototypes for its personages (Smeraldina-Rima is Peggy Sinclair, Syra-Cusa – Lucia Joyce, Alba – Ethna MacCarthy) the story also may be read as a roman à clef. And, of course, every madman has one’s own mad loves: abstract love, spiritual love, ideal love, platonic love, carnal love, failed love… Still, bitched and all as the whole thing was from that sacrificial morning on, they kept it going in a kind of way, he doing his poor best to oblige her and she hers to be obliged, in a gehenna of sweats and fiascos and tears and an absence of all douceness. So roving the world purposelessly, young Belacqua – an author’s alter ego – finds himself caught in the rattrap of his indolence and he sees himself as a denizen of Limbo and an eternal prisoner in Dante’s Hell… At his simplest he was trine. Just think of that. A trine man! Centripetal, centrifugal and… not. Phoebus chasing Daphne, Narcissus flying from Echo and… neither. Is that neat or is it not? The chase to Vienna, the flight to Paris, the slouch to Fulda, the relapse into Dublin and… immunity like hell from journeys and cities. Travelling through life, similar to Narcissus, one looks for one’s reflection in all things.

  2. 5 out of 5

    George

    "Dream of Fair to Middling Women" written (in 1932) by Samuel Beckett at the age of 26 was never published in his lifetime. It has a "demo tape" feel to it. It's rough and unwieldy. It was his first book and wasn't published until after he died. I will say that most of it flew over my head and some parts are quite poetic. But I would only recommend this book to true fans of Beckett.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary Alice

    I decided to read one of Beckett's novels because I read a wonderful novel ABOUT him by Jo Baker. Dream of Fair to Middling Women was Beckett's first novel, written in 1932, after he had published some poetry, plays and essays. He believed in this book, and shopped it in vain to publishers all over Europe. It was considered indecent, too Joycean, and quite hard to read. Twenty years later, when Beckett was famous, publishers clamored for the book, but Beckett had put it behind him. He made the m I decided to read one of Beckett's novels because I read a wonderful novel ABOUT him by Jo Baker. Dream of Fair to Middling Women was Beckett's first novel, written in 1932, after he had published some poetry, plays and essays. He believed in this book, and shopped it in vain to publishers all over Europe. It was considered indecent, too Joycean, and quite hard to read. Twenty years later, when Beckett was famous, publishers clamored for the book, but Beckett had put it behind him. He made the manuscript available to scholars, but did not want to revisit it himself since his writing had changed very much in style in the years since writing Dreams. Yet, scholars often wrote about Dreams and quoted from it. Beckett eventually told his friends he wanted the book published "some little time" after he passed away. He died in 1989, and the book was published in the early 1990s. This book is full of words, English, German, French and Spanish words, as well as many, many made-up words. Critics advise us not to read Dreams without knowing French and German. I don't know French or German, but I read it anyway because (I reasoned) it's mostly written in English. I still only understood about ten percent of the book. I don't even know if I picked up on most of the "indecent" parts. Dreams is the story of Belacqua, a young Irishman and his pursuit of happiness or love and or/sex or life in a tunnel and maybe some intellectual company in Germany, France and Ireland. Sometimes, the scenes of Bel's life are understandable, but sometimes not, and a lot of things seem to be going on at once, especially in Belacqua's head. I longed for the rare dialogue, where I could more easily "see" what was going on. The book is supposed to be funny, but I never heard any jokes. Beckett inserts himself in the story quite frequently, and it is only then that I can see a bit of rueful humor. If you've read a page or two of Finnegan's Wake, you will understand what reading much of this novel is like. Yes, in his early years, before his stark funny plays, Beckett loved and was influenced by Joyce. I would not presume to rate this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cam Roberts

    Reading this particular novel was on the whole an incredibly messy & discombobulated experience, and yet there are some commendable strengths, one example being the foibles of a humorous love-triangle articulated from the point of view of the protagonist, Belacqua. The novel is grossly slipshod in maintaining a fluid narrative progression, at times the novel would slather itself on the extraneous and peripheral (most readers can tell when a young exuberant writer is laying on a little too much a Reading this particular novel was on the whole an incredibly messy & discombobulated experience, and yet there are some commendable strengths, one example being the foibles of a humorous love-triangle articulated from the point of view of the protagonist, Belacqua. The novel is grossly slipshod in maintaining a fluid narrative progression, at times the novel would slather itself on the extraneous and peripheral (most readers can tell when a young exuberant writer is laying on a little too much authorial relish & stylistic hubris). I've previously read basically Beckett's entire oeuvre whether it be his prose, poetry, or works for theatre, radio, film, television (he is, after all, my favorite writer). Interestingly enough, most of Beckett's novels were originally written in French (not his native language), and subsequently translated into English later on by Beckett & sometimes an assistant. This being his first novel, however, was originally written in English, which is a major issue primarily to the writing's aesthetic integrity. Beckett claimed years later (after publishing his Trilogy) that writing in French forced him to be more reductive, precise, and economical with the text. Beckett wrote this work when he was only 26 years of age, and the influence of James Joyce is (god bless Bloom) exceedingly overt, at times to the point of ventriloquism. It's a highly ambitious and enthusiastic work, albeit it suffers from a lack of the subtlety, constraint, and editorial self-discipline that we are so used to seeing in Beckett's later work. The extravagant hodgepodge of discursive devices are often subverted into mere tricks. Some critic or scholar of Beckett, I can't remember who, said the novel was like "Potpourri" - I'd quite agree with that assertion. There's lots and lots of highly inflammatory sexual exchanges, most of which are hilarious: Copulation, masturbation, ejaculation, et al.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jan 1$

    As a young writer, who sees a world of creativity, experimentalism and uncertainty all around him I affirm that this book is the essence of what I feel right now. Beckett wasn't one who sure where to put his thoughts but made his effort (a grand one at that) to make collect all of it into this novel. This novel therefore is madness, which is not for everyone. But it is a genius type madness of language, color, humor and music. I actually rate this a 4.5 but I round it off to 5. The introductions As a young writer, who sees a world of creativity, experimentalism and uncertainty all around him I affirm that this book is the essence of what I feel right now. Beckett wasn't one who sure where to put his thoughts but made his effort (a grand one at that) to make collect all of it into this novel. This novel therefore is madness, which is not for everyone. But it is a genius type madness of language, color, humor and music. I actually rate this a 4.5 but I round it off to 5. The introductions were amazing too! Go read it if you want a really hard challenge, I thought it was rewarding. Going through the book I must comment, I didn't get much of it. I did not know what was mainly said and didn't make the effort to look up his allusions but I got used to the writing after awhile. After the second "part" his writing made more sense to me, though it must of been half getting used to it and half of it being more simplified writing (not to say that it was anywhere near simple writing at that point, but closer to it). I would love to read this again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    PaperBird

    Did a review of this book here: https://youtu.be/nDTH13g5S3c Did a review of this book here: https://youtu.be/nDTH13g5S3c

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    Still crazy after all these years. I was lucky enough to have a close friend living in the UK in 1992 when Beckett's first novel was finally published 60 years after it was written, so Christmas '92 brought with it this literary rarity which at the time was a mystery and enigma to me. After 25 years it is no less of a challenge to read with its untranslated sections of French and German, invented words, intentionally misspelled words and mostly non-linear plot. What has changed in the meantime wi Still crazy after all these years. I was lucky enough to have a close friend living in the UK in 1992 when Beckett's first novel was finally published 60 years after it was written, so Christmas '92 brought with it this literary rarity which at the time was a mystery and enigma to me. After 25 years it is no less of a challenge to read with its untranslated sections of French and German, invented words, intentionally misspelled words and mostly non-linear plot. What has changed in the meantime with the advent of the internet is that even without direct access to critical analyses of the book I am now able to search out enough background information about it to put it into some sort of context. And translations and lookups of words have also become so much easier. So words that looked like typos such as the consistent use of "strom" where "storm" seems to be the context can now easily be identified as the German word for "stream" or "current". Perhaps one day there will be an annotated edition that will explain all of those sorts of things, but in the meantime it has become much less frustrating to read. It is still frustrating though because the more you learn about things such as the Smeraldina-Rima being the code name for Beckett's youthful crush Peggy Sinclair and the Syra-Cusa being the stand-in for James Joyce's daughter Lucia Joyce the more you are left wondering who the further code-named characters such as the Polar Bear (sometimes called the PB) and the Alba are meant to be. But I certainly felt more comfortable reading it now and I've even begun to think that maybe I can still tackle Finnegans Wake.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Baibhav Sharma

    Difficult to read. Still worth it if you admire Beckett's work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    J.

    Under The Night Colander The night firmament is abstract density of music, symphony without end, illumination without end, yet emptier, more sparsely lit, than the most succinct constellations of genius. Now seen merely, a depthless lining of hemisphere, its crazy stippling of stars, it is the passional movement of the mind charted in light and darkness. The tense passional intelligence, when arithmetic abates, tunnels, skymole, surely and blindly (if we only thought so) through the interstellar Under The Night Colander The night firmament is abstract density of music, symphony without end, illumination without end, yet emptier, more sparsely lit, than the most succinct constellations of genius. Now seen merely, a depthless lining of hemisphere, its crazy stippling of stars, it is the passional movement of the mind charted in light and darkness. The tense passional intelligence, when arithmetic abates, tunnels, skymole, surely and blindly (if we only thought so) through the interstellar coalsacks of its firmament in genesis, it twists through the stars of its creation in a network of loci that shall never be co-ordinate. The inviolable criterion of poetry and music, the non-principle of their punctuation is figured in the demented perforation of the night colander. The ecstatic mind, the mind achieveing creation, take ours for example, rises to the shaftheads of its statement, its recondite relations of emergal, from a labour and a weariness of deep castings that brook no schema. This material, which the author never wanted published, called the Dream Of Fair To Middling Women-- is a kind of soft-boiled Becket-In-The-Egg. Come and meet the starry-eyed apprentice, student of Joyce and brooding Irish boy-man, come with us and watch Sammy run amok in stream-of-consciousness high-jinks. An unmanageable flood that the mature writer would routinely chop, slop, grind, and purée brutally down to size, once he moved on to his journeyman days. Skymole This was compiled before Murphy, Watt and More Pricks Than Kicks. And long before the plays. But lay aside the later work and we find this to be a conscientious and muscle-flexing outing; in fact there is something of the trial-by-fire going on here, as self-administered by One Unrelenting And Jesuitical practitioner. Reading Beckett is always a bit like getting into a boxing ring on Open Ticket night, where the reader must be prepared for all comers, any kind of game, blatant cheating, and all of it on the rough side. That this is a hidden blurt of juvenalia written in a blinding heat seems apparent; the concerns spin vertiginously down from that Infinite Night Sky to the niceties of arriving informally at a posh party ... simple-you-say-I-think-not ... after having barfed up a day's work in drinks... whilst stage-managing the getting of the girl. The unpleasant meeting unexpectedly with the unsettling, as we ride his shoulder. Do you have to be Irish and vehemently narcissistic to arrive at that Holy Tranquility, that trans-configuration of the banal and the immortal wherein you may care for this kind of thing, in book-form, of all the unlikely ? I think it may actually help. It did me. But I feel better now.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    “Let it be said now without further ado, they were just pleasantly drunk. That is, we think, being more, becoming and unbecoming less, than usual. Not so far gone as to be rapt in that disgraceful apotheosis of immediacy from which yesterday and to-morrow are banished and the off dawn into the mire of coma taken; and yet at the same time phony and contrapanic-stuck, than usual. Not, needless to say, melting in that shameless ecstasy of disintegration justly quenched in the mire and pain of reass “Let it be said now without further ado, they were just pleasantly drunk. That is, we think, being more, becoming and unbecoming less, than usual. Not so far gone as to be rapt in that disgraceful apotheosis of immediacy from which yesterday and to-morrow are banished and the off dawn into the mire of coma taken; and yet at the same time phony and contrapanic-stuck, than usual. Not, needless to say, melting in that shameless ecstasy of disintegration justly quenched in the mire and pain of reassemblage; no, immediacy, it was merely an innocent and agreeable awareness of being and that less clocklaboriously than was their habit. Pleasantly drunk.” — And so with this you see a sample of what I had to deal with, reading this book, not really understanding most of it. And Smeraldina-Rima, upon hearing big words: “What’s that? Something to eat?”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Guy Cranswick

    This really has forensic and scholarly interest. It is not easy as it is somewhere between an essay and a pastiche. First novels are often like that. It is read because of what Beckett became. The reader must have a working knowledge of French and German - in fact it must have the most German of any Beckett text; along with Italian and some familiarity with the author's bio in order to interpret it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Benn

    Samuel Beckett's first novel which he wrote in a fever pitch at age 26 and could not get published in Ireland due to it's salacious content. He kept it under wraps his whole life and it was published posthumously a little while after his death per his wishes. He referred to it as "The chest into which I threw my wild thoughts." It is a tour-de-force in rhetorical bombast and a great deal fun to read, small on plot, strong on wordplay.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    enjoyed this, though I won’t pretend I was able to decipher many chunks of the froth of his writing. bad place to start with Beckett despite being the most obvious maybe

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Of all the authors I have read, I find Beckett to be the most challenging by far. In much the same way as reading textbooks and scholarly works (meaning books meant to teach first and foremost and not to entertain or take one's mind off the day or transport you to another world/time/perspective), reading Beckett forces you to pay full attention to every single word. You can't skim Beckett, or if you do, then you are not reading Beckett at all, for by skipping or eliding or jumping ahead you miss Of all the authors I have read, I find Beckett to be the most challenging by far. In much the same way as reading textbooks and scholarly works (meaning books meant to teach first and foremost and not to entertain or take one's mind off the day or transport you to another world/time/perspective), reading Beckett forces you to pay full attention to every single word. You can't skim Beckett, or if you do, then you are not reading Beckett at all, for by skipping or eliding or jumping ahead you miss the point. The words, the cadences, the repetitions, the minimalism, the circularity, the now-ness. Beckett demands your attention and immersion, or maybe he just expects it. Why else read? Why words? Why? I won't get into over-reviewing each specific text in any Beckett book as I find that defeatist, or maybe beyond my ken. Often it’s merely words on the page given meaning by how the reader interprets/intuits/internalizes them. I say Beckett is unequaled, unmatched, unsurpassed, but that is just one opinion. Still, I say read him, often, and again… So, genius. I started this, Beckett’s first novel - written in 1932, unpublished until 1992! - in 2019 but decided I was not in the mind to complete the task at hand. Beckett demands full attention. Anyway. Parts of this novel were pilfered by him for other of his works throughout his literary career, so some parts of the book were initially over-familiar and I was concerned I had read this and forgotten (extremely unlikely), or was finding myself skimming the parts I knew looking for the parts I did not. Dumb idea, and no way to read Beckett, so I shelved the book only to pick it up now. The pandemic seems an ideal match for Beckett’s consistently morose themes. Beckett had his own way with words, syntax, punctuation, and languages (he often used Latin, German, and French, unitalicized always, he saved that convention for emphasis only), and was not beyond creating a word when he felt the need. The book is pegged as anti-realism/anti-novel, and anti-feminism/anti-sexuality, and deals with the male body as a broken/failing machine. Influences: Chaucer’s “The Legend of Good Women” - which is a lengthy poem of ten virtuous women, Alfred Tennyson’s “A Dream of Fair Women” -, and Henry Williamson’s “The Dream of Fair Women”. The main character, Belacqua, is fascinating, and quite obviously a novelization of Beckett himself. He leaves you with the impression of a man at odds with the world. Too smart, too emotional, too aware. A bit of the dandy, a bit of the artist, a bit of the layabout going on. Of the world, yet not in it, quite. Obviously struggles with idealization of the Female countered by realities of actual females. Leans towards derision of females who will have sex, juxtaposed with wanting to have sex with his beloved, maybe. The women - Smeraldina-Rima, Syra-Cusa, Alba - were all derived from real life persons of Beckett’s acquaintance. I am left to wonder if this book wasn’t ever published while Beckett lived because his literary circle would know pretty much right off who the characters were cobbled from, and Beckett would rather have avoided any unfavorable conversations. Possible too that Beckett borrowed overmuch the book’s style from Joyce and Proust, having not yet developed his own, and was loathe to be critiqued or labeled a copyist. Unoriginal. There is a lot to enjoy in this novel, but there is much also dross, slag, and detritus. Beckett has no problem being an aesthete and a literary snob and a youth quite full of himself (this attitude comes through in the critical essays found in his book “Disjecta”). I love Beckett and was surprised at the immensity of words here, as in lots of them. Later Beckett is pared down severely, almost impossibly so, which I find much more appealing and powerful. I do love me some words - Proust and Joyce are absolute faves - but I feel Beckett is overdoing it here. Still, he’s 26 and in the throes of developing and managing his mighty skills, so overexuberance - and a bit of mimicry - is hardly misplaced. Likely a novel I need to buy and return to, as I found my first full reading a bit heady. Dialogue is my bane, my scourge, and here it is exacerbated by Beckett’s loquacity, comedic interjections, and overused nonsense. One is left to wonder if Beckett’s trajectory would have changed if this book had been published in 1932. He hated all of his works, so I venture he could not have cared less. Not a Beckett to start with - ironic that - but surely one to read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    J.Istsfor Manity

    This took a month to read. It was a virtuosic slog. It’s hard to believe that the same man who wrote Godot, Endgame, The Unnameable, anything post-1946-48, is the person who wrote this. The first section reads at times like a dada confluence of glossolalia & logorrhea meet Gertrude Stein. Wow! The prolixity, the dam break of allusions and proto eurotrash pre-jet set flotsam... seriously, it was a slog — five or six pages at a time. Imagine The Wasteland without the end notes over 241 pages. No wond This took a month to read. It was a virtuosic slog. It’s hard to believe that the same man who wrote Godot, Endgame, The Unnameable, anything post-1946-48, is the person who wrote this. The first section reads at times like a dada confluence of glossolalia & logorrhea meet Gertrude Stein. Wow! The prolixity, the dam break of allusions and proto eurotrash pre-jet set flotsam... seriously, it was a slog — five or six pages at a time. Imagine The Wasteland without the end notes over 241 pages. No wonder he didn’t want this published during his lifetime. It’s not bad at all, but it defies Beckett-ian expectations. My favorite work of lit is Waiting For Godot, and while this has some of the same sensibility it has none of its economy or deadpan style. It’s funny, yes, but in a sophomoric way. It is such a showy work — in modernist style: disjointed narrative, excessively allusive, stylistically disjunctive. I would have enjoyed this as an undergrad if it had been published then. I mostly enjoyed it because it’s Beckett. It’s at turns intelligent, funny, and flummoxing. Did I mention it was a slog?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    Beckett is my favorite writer. But, my passion for his writing is precisely because it's not simple, and because he took so many risks, so it's likely with such a daring risk taker that even his most ardent fans would find works of his that they do not enjoy, and such was the case for me with this novel. I'm in good company, as Beckett also seemed to dislike this book (though he appears to have softened on it later in life), and I admire that this book displays much of the thought process and se Beckett is my favorite writer. But, my passion for his writing is precisely because it's not simple, and because he took so many risks, so it's likely with such a daring risk taker that even his most ardent fans would find works of his that they do not enjoy, and such was the case for me with this novel. I'm in good company, as Beckett also seemed to dislike this book (though he appears to have softened on it later in life), and I admire that this book displays much of the thought process and sentence artistry that Beckett would perfect in his later work, but in the end, this book is simply muffled, garbled, and random - far too ambiguous of story and obscure of thought to be all that interesting. I lost focus reading this book on nearly every page. A must for Beckett fans but not worth reading otherwise.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    Blubbering lexico-saline effluvia. An antithesis to No Nut Noverberations. No saintly Nobel prize winner, not one sliver of praise from existentialist/absurd connoisseurs. Chalk one up and another one and so on for this impractical Narcissus. Cloning the desperate gut out of Echo. Cloudy glass, demands that one read Pilling's Dream Notebook and savor the entire cruncha-buncha-muncha-chariot of stolen/ablated quotes, references, paraphrases. El cheapo del spiritu sancti. Tepid compared to More Kick Blubbering lexico-saline effluvia. An antithesis to No Nut Noverberations. No saintly Nobel prize winner, not one sliver of praise from existentialist/absurd connoisseurs. Chalk one up and another one and so on for this impractical Narcissus. Cloning the desperate gut out of Echo. Cloudy glass, demands that one read Pilling's Dream Notebook and savor the entire cruncha-buncha-muncha-chariot of stolen/ablated quotes, references, paraphrases. El cheapo del spiritu sancti. Tepid compared to More Kicks Than Pricks. 2 and a half and a half. *Peggy - still sputative. You heartless Recycle Bin of a cad.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Salvatore

    Ok. He edits the novel/tales better later into what becomes More Pricks Than Kicks. Joyce looms large, 'correcting' the unfinished work as Beckett attempts to find a useful voice. Still there's a lot of fun wordplay and badinage. Worth a peak, worth a pass.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Warger

    A must for those who enjoy Becket's early work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kendal

    Occasionally brilliant, often incomprehensible, overall interesting

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    Beckett's musterpiece, messterpiece, a makeshift mark on his way to girding his loins for the literary long haul. He spoofs Joyce, references much Dante (Italy and France, poetry and underpants), ridicules self muchly, taking down Ireland, the Continent, and mucho womankind with 'im; but the obtrusive author yearns, I sniff, within it all--too close for comfort--to say something--too many things--profound. Despite himself, he almosts a novel, inventing the postmodern as if by accident--in the ra Beckett's musterpiece, messterpiece, a makeshift mark on his way to girding his loins for the literary long haul. He spoofs Joyce, references much Dante (Italy and France, poetry and underpants), ridicules self muchly, taking down Ireland, the Continent, and mucho womankind with 'im; but the obtrusive author yearns, I sniff, within it all--too close for comfort--to say something--too many things--profound. Despite himself, he almosts a novel, inventing the postmodern as if by accident--in the rain, always in the rain one cannot quell, not even on the dryasdust page. Can't seem to help himself, nor hurt himself sufficiently to realize genius. Instead this heap, shapeless as the intrusive author hopes at one point--coming in, midway, to offer all of the criticisms we would have heaped here in self-defense. The author himself knows he's too clever to be beautiful, too cynical to be profound, too sad to be funny, too self-deprecating to be serious, so this novel is all and sundry, sabotaging each thing it tries to do by turns and then tells you how it did it, each literary trick hat rabbit-warrened away, like a forgetful magician talking to himself. But he's still learning anyway. Boys will be boys. They might experiment before finding a discipline that could work. That trim, that inconsiderate cut, will come in later works, I know. Since it's near 2016 o' the clock I really ought to note the sexism implicit in both the title and the novel itself. As adolescent boys will do, our Belaqua needs to reconcile the Western World's Janus-woman of eld. "I admit Beatrice," the narrator tells us--I paraphrase having lost the exact page--"and I admit the brothel. But what I can't admit is Beatrice in the brothel." This is much the heart of Occidental Christian society, down in the cockpit anyway, where all the young boys sprout hair and tumescent organs for the first time. How do we/they reconcile what they know (desire) and never know (desire): womankind. Only a fair to middling one would want us, n'est pas? We make do with opposites when we can't admit compromise. I have no trouble going on, this time, to the next book our man B. wrote. Did I forget to mention that there were many fabulously lovely lyrical passages, too, as if the author had grown temporarily distracted and began to write uncontrollably, as if sleepwalking, though beautiful fields forgotten of all his clever-boy thinking and literary stature weighing him down.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Gold

    This book was largely incomprehensible. At times the language became quite beautiful, but I never knew how it related to the larger text or really how any single sentence had much to do with another. Also the book has a tendency to slip into French which definitely slows thing down and there are several German and Latin phrases in there as well which are never explained. But none of this really matters at all because the English is so damn abstruse. Can I tell you what this story is precisely ab This book was largely incomprehensible. At times the language became quite beautiful, but I never knew how it related to the larger text or really how any single sentence had much to do with another. Also the book has a tendency to slip into French which definitely slows thing down and there are several German and Latin phrases in there as well which are never explained. But none of this really matters at all because the English is so damn abstruse. Can I tell you what this story is precisely about? Well it concerns a man, a man who is very much in his own head, a man whose content is clearly of some aesthetic perhaps even philosophical value, but is lost in translation to a great extent. I much prefer Beckett's later attempts at the novel (e.g. Malloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable), and of course his plays, both long and short. These works simplified matters, stripped the form of the novel and the play down to an intense minimum. This novel is just too free-formed and wide-ranging to express the prison-like state of being in which the protagonist dwells. Having said that I definitely see the Beckett who became famous for his sparseness and rigidity in this novel, not so much in the form, but in the content where one can sometimes pick up on classic Beckettian phrases ("making an end," "it all," etc...) and themes. This makes it somewhat of a worthwhile read. The novel is irreverent, impenetrable, completely cryptic, and it's all Beckett to me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This is one of the most musical books I've ever read, right up there with Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" and William Gass' "The Tunnel." It's a hell of a lot of fun to read out loud. Beckett's youth obviously shows in this book since it was his first novel, but the turmoil of language on display makes a great case for his vital and huge sense of humor, which for some reason often goes unrecognized in any discussion of him. You can see him struggling to write both around and exactly what he thin This is one of the most musical books I've ever read, right up there with Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" and William Gass' "The Tunnel." It's a hell of a lot of fun to read out loud. Beckett's youth obviously shows in this book since it was his first novel, but the turmoil of language on display makes a great case for his vital and huge sense of humor, which for some reason often goes unrecognized in any discussion of him. You can see him struggling to write both around and exactly what he thinks, usually comprising by getting increasingly esoteric. You also get the sense that he is flipping off the reader at almost every possible place, and I for one cherish that youthful anger that can combine so well with irrepressible enthusiasm for the medium of its expression. A couple of my favorite bits from the book: She was always on the job, the job of being jewelly. I shall extinguish also, by banning the torchlight procession in the city that is I, the fatiguing lust for self-emotion. A lascivious petulant virgin. High red cackle belch of duty. The daily snipe of inspiration. He felt himself heavenly enflamed as the Cherubim and Seraphim for all the world as though his mouth had been tapping the bung of the heavenly pipe of the fountain of sweetness instead of just coming from clipping the rim of a pint pot of half-and-half.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    Then it goes. The wretched reader takes off his coat and squares up to the book, squares up to his poetry like a cocky little hop-me-thumb, hisses up his mind and pecks and picks wherever he smells a chink. And the old corduroy mode, when you switched on and put in the plug and dropped everything, let yourself go to the book, and it do the work and dephlogisticate you like a current of just the right frequency, once gone is gone for ever. 53

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Fair to middling sounds about right. On the one hand, it's Beckett, so it's obviously got some amazing sentences and intermittent bleak hilarity. But on the other hand, I'm not sure if I'll finish it. The best bits were subsequently scavenged for More Pricks Than Kicks, and the rest of it is clearly the work of a young writer still finding his voice and way too enamored with James Joyce for his own good.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cock Johnson

    An early autobiographical novel from Beckett. It can be difficult at times- It might even help if you are at least familiar with French and German. It is evident that it was written fresh off Beckett's involvement in Joyce's literary circle, helping with research for Finnegans Wake- by far the most Joycean Beckett work I have read. Still a very worthwile read that gives good insight into the wild mind of a young, sardonic Beckett.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Hanny

    To his credit, Beckett didn't want this pastiche of allusive Joyce-esque writings published. I don't imagine that it would repay the effort required. Skipping this one and sticking with the biographer's summary.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Early Beckett, very Joycean, often funny, sometimes maddening; linguistic high spirits triumph over compulsive wordplay.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A bit wild and wordy for Beckett and highly indebted to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

  30. 5 out of 5

    John

    comical Beckett that proves he was a genius from a green young age

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