Readers’ Corner: Samuel Beckett’s Boat

beckett1Well, not literally. A cursory glance at Samuel Beckett’s biography does not indicate any particular love for sea or boats, though there is an annual Beckett festival in Enniskillen where at least one performance can only be reached by boat.

But never mind, because even though Beckett was no great joiner or lover of institutions, the Irish government has gone ahead and named a warship (OPV, or offshore patrol vessel, technically) after the author of Waiting for Godot.

According to the Irish Times, the LE Samuel Beckett was completed in April and was commissioned at a special ceremony in Dublin in May. It will eventually be joined by a second patrol vessel, the LE James Joyce. Hopefully the two can prowl the Irish Sea together in elegant futility, crews pensively pondering the waves and composing quatrains in dead languages…

Writer’s Corner: Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

goldennotebook1

Born in Iran, raised in Rhodesia, and schooled in London, novelist Doris Lessing was a Nobel Prize-winner, inescapably brilliant, unclassifiable, and a world-class grump. Lessing passed away in mid-November and would have hated all the fuss being made about it. Not because she was necessarily modest, she just didn’t see the point.

There are many writers, particularly those who have received as many plaudits as she had over the years, who would have reacted with much more self-puffery than she did when hit with the news of her Nobel. From The Economist:

As she climbed slowly out of the taxi with her shopping, her grey bun coming down as usual, Doris Lessing noticed that the front garden was full of photographers. They told her she had won the 2007 Nobel prize for literature. She said, “Oh, Christ.” Then, picking up her bags, “One can get more excited.” And then, having paid the cab man, “I suppose you want some uplifting remarks.” She supplied a few later for her official Nobel interview, but still on her own terms: wearing what looked like a dressing gown and a lopsided, plunging camisole at a kitchen table overloaded with open packets of crackers and messy jars of jam.

Although Lessing’s greatest work probably came later, with novels like The Good Terrorist, she was best known for 1962′s The Golden Notebook, which was seen as something of a feminist statement at the time. This from an author who had always lived as a feminist, on her own terms, but didn’t cotton to statements and pronouncements.

Again, The Economist:

As she plumped herself wearily down on the doorstep to answer questions, that Nobel morning in 2007, she seemed to show an authentic, unbrushed side to the world’s press. But the real Doris was saying, as she had every day for decades, Run away, you silly woman, take control, write.

Reader’s Corner: Authorial Garbage

kenlopezFor writers who are looking for another reason why they never ever need to clean up after themselves, now they have something to work with besides: “I just need to polish this chapter.” The success of literary estate bloodhounds like Ken Lopez has proven the strange marketability of all kinds of marginalia (especially “interesting paper piles”) that nobody would ever have thought made sense to hang on to. Norman Mailer sold over a thousand boxes of his odds and ends in 2005 for $2.5 million.

Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, sometimes the buyers of this margnalia (university libraries, normally) can help function as a kind of executive assistant:

In 2006, for an undisclosed amount, Salman Rushdie sold [Emory University] 200 “falling apart, crappy cardboard boxes,” as he said at the collection’s opening in 2010. After Emory’s archivists put his “mess” in order, Mr. Rushdie capitalized on their tidiness to research his own 2012 memoir.

All authors need now to ensure that their various scribblings, laundry lists, and whatnot will fetch a pretty price in the future is to become wildly beloved by critics and preferably sell a million or so copies of their work in order to achieve a profitable literary immortality. Cake.