Steven's Reviews > The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989

The Complete Short Prose, 1929-1989 by Samuel Beckett
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's review
Mar 29, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: short-stories, irish, beckett

Previously all I had were half-a-dozen collections of Beckett's short fiction, so having them all in one volume is a big plus. For students and scholars this edition has excellent notes on the texts of these corrected versions, plus a good bibliography. Editor S. K. Gonroski's introduction takes up the notion of what Beckett's short prose is: prose poems? drama fragments?, incomplete novel fragments? and maybe even revolutionary short stories? Yes, all of those. He goes on to discuss Beckett's suggested stagings of the prose works, which offers a stunning insight into Beckett's artistic vision. Gonroski, making a key point, one that anyone who's seen the play's performed would perhaps agree, writes: "Actors, then, have intuited what literary critics have too often failed to articulate, that even Beckett's most philosophical and experimental short fictions have an immediacy and emotional power, 'the immediacy of the spoken voice,' which makes them accessible to a broad audience and places them firmly within a tradition of Irish storytelling." [xviii] The introduction then proceeds through a breezy analysis of Beckett's evolution as a short prose stylist, with particular emphasis on his use of disembodied voices as narrators, his anti-character techniques, summing up by saying: "Taken together the stories suggest the intertextual weave of a collaboration between Rorschach and Escher." [xxx] Which is a quite apt description. Because Beckett in a large sense defies description, you just need to pick it up and read, enter into these disembodied voices and give yourself over to the affective quality of the work. A Beckett story a day keeps the doctor away.

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