on February 7, 2001
Some advice: although this book contains some of the most astonishing plays ever written, I wouldn't read them all in one go. If you do, doubts might seem to creep in. About how Beckett doesn't really have all that much to say, and became increasingly mannered in his attempts to say it. That his work is really just three variations on basic forms - the Godotesque double act; the old man or woman looking back over a (generally stunted) life; and the pattern plays/mimes. You'll certainly want to rush and read something silly just for a breath of air; there's not much of the vaunted Beckett humour here.
Nevertheless, the collection brims with Beckett's best work - the remorselessly inventive radio play, 'All That Fall'; the sublimely tragic comedy, 'Krapp's Last Tape'; the infernal farce, 'Play'; the deconstruction of nostalgia, 'That Time'; the chamber poignancy of 'Ohio Impromptu'; the great theatrical experiments, 'Footfalls', 'What Where', 'Not I', 'Rockaby', which pushed the language of theatre way past its limits, undermining its boasts of 'live performance' and the functionality of language - in these texts, 'meaning', if there is such a thing, may reside in the stage directions.
on August 4, 1999
Many of the plays in this collection move me greatly-the vision lost in "Krapp's Last Tape", the past's deafening roar(or, dying flame) in "Embers", examinations of self-awareness,memory, and one's ability to express these in "Not I", "That Time" & "A Piece of Monologue", the sadly charming lost Ireland of "All That Fall", the image of a reader literally staring an image of himself in the face while reading a memoir-like first person narative in "Ohio Impromtu". This book contains Beckett's works for theatre, radio, television, film, mimes, which may explain it's seeming unstageability to other readers. Beckett viewed his dramatic works as his break from the serious writing of his prose early in his career("Waiting for Godot" was written as a break between Molloy & Malone Dies), but as he moved on toward silence, Beckett's theatre became the medium in which he achiveed his greatest acclaim & fame. The late dramas of "That Time" & "A Piece of Monologue" anticipate the self-searching confessional style & subject of the Nohow On 'novels', and present investigations of memory, responsibility, self-identity, and expressionability that are moving and profound, as well as being intimate portraits of the individual alone. All of the plays in this collection are powerful documents of intimate moments that question not only what we call theatre but also question how we understand, experience, question & represent our "self"s, our pasts...our "moments". I can think of no other writer who portrays true moments of aloneness, moments of unself-representing(even as these are represented as farcical) so honestly. Depressing? No, these plays are life affirming, in all its breathes and cries, its cycles of memorializing and willful forgetting, its fabrications and its confessional, the blinding light and frightening countenance of the other's gaze, the silence of another's absence. Intimate moments are diverse, and they are represented here without a flinch in all their breadth. No symbols where none intended, Beckett said elsewhere, but are there not other means for expressive art than symbols? "There was a time when I asked myself, What is it./There were times I answered, It's the outing./ Two outings./ Then the return./ Where?/ To the village./ To the inn./ Two outings, then at last the return, to the village, to the inn, by the only road that leads there./ An image, like any other./ But I don't answer any more./ I open"(Cascando). Herein, the opening that constitutes a search for other roads to there.
on June 2, 2000
Beckett's shorter may shock a new reader to Beckett's works. If you are looking for something that tells an interesting story, you will not enjoy his plays. I can understand why previous reviewers feel that that there is not content in his plays. But the intention of much of his works is to provide meaning through the emptiness. Beckett is a truly great minimalist writer: some of the plays in this volume lack even speech, relying soley on stage directions. The empty, cyclic nature of human life is central to his world view. Beckett makes his readers linger on questions long after they finish reading. His writing is marked by brevity, but is nevertheless succinct.
on April 22, 1998
Beckett gives you a lot in a few lines. His shorter plays are the work of a genius. Poignant as usual and more concise than ever he gives you a lot to think about. I LOVE Not I, Come and Go and many others. The line "f*** life" in Rockaby stands for a lot, really: pity us poor human beings! We ARE doomed.