a snapshot of molloy

July 12, 2013


Book: Molloy.

Chapter: A petty trick! There are no chapters in Molloy, even though Beckett numbers them I and II. There are two characters with respective monologues who are arguably one character, after all. This mystery takes you to the heart of the novel. In a pinch, I’ll call this “chapter” Moran. It’ll do, literally.

Scene: Moran and his son set off from home like Abraham and Isaac. Armed with a knife and a set of instructions he doesn’t understand, Moran sallies forth in search of Molloy. One day after sending his son to a village to buy a bike, Moran, who is sitting by a fire at camp, is surprised by a man in the forest. Moran is astonished by the man’s physical similarity to his own.

Sentence: “But all this was nothing compared to the face which I regret to say vaguely resembled my own, less the refinement of course, same little abortive moustache, same little ferrety eyes, same paraphimosis of the nose, and a thin red mouth that looked as if it was raw from trying to shit its tongue.”

Reversals and confusions are prevalent in Molloy.

Epic travelers are commonplace; journeys go nowhere; past tense is present; a hairy-faced woman might be a man; and mouths are sphincters straining to evacuate tongues—and meaning.

Is it any wonder, then, that Moran gives his son, with whom he has such difficulty talking, a forced enema? This despised hole, this other-mouth, is compelled to utter “a few fibrous shreds” floating in a confusion of yellow.

Don’t let this striking image turn you off of Molloy, though.

It’s a terrific bit of writing despite the way it befouls any attempt at summary or pat interpretation.

Trust me.

me & molloy, or molloy & me

July 10, 2013

One of the effects of reading Molloy is to despair of language. To sense, sometimes dimly, sometimes sharply, that words are as futile as acoustic blasts, emanating from this or that orifice. If you don’t feel this upon reading Molloy, you haven’t read Molloy. I don’t mean this or that idol of Molloy. I mean the real McCoy. Sorry, excuse me. A little gas. A glass of wine on an empty stomach produces an excess of language.

I am Molloy. Or Mollose. Or Moran. Or even Louse. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. You see, I’ve read Beckett’s novel (or is it mine?) and have ingested its central image and metabolized its artistic intent. A journey from A to B is really only a journey from A to A because all journeys end up where they started.

Zeno’s paradox existentially rendered. That’s Beckett’s gift. Or nettle, depending.

Get this. I started Molloy, abandoned it after one paragraph, picked it up again, read the whole damn thing. Finished it only to start it again, and then threw the infernal nest of words into the corner, where they writhed for a moment,  before I buried my hands back into the hive to read the figures I would find there dancing like bees. I’m telling you, they moved up and down, and all around.

A start that is a finish, and a finish that is a start. Beckett is feeling downright plucky, to be sure.

Something speaks, I know that much is true. It could be Molloy or Moran or Beckett or a bunch of insects. I’m just not sure what it is yet. As I said, I despair of language. And that’s why I turn to the things themselves in a good Kantian empirical sense.

To hell with words. Wait, not quite. To hell with only words. Yes, that’s more like it. To wit: “The shadow in the end is no better than the substance.” These words look something like this on Plato’s cave. A cool engraving. Handsome even.


And this, too, “Through the lofty window I saw boughs. They rocked gently, but not all the time, shaken now and then by sudden spasm. I noticed the chandelier was burning.” A less cool engraving perhaps. But it captures the gist, I think. Charming trees there in the background, Quaking Aspen in the Wasatch range. Really, no tree matches their serene mutterings. I know this from experience.

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More on Molloy later. Using only words unless I’m pykk’d. Wish me luck!

totally alloyed molloy

June 12, 2013

Finally, after years of staring at it mutely staring at me on the shelf, I freed it from the agony of other books.

Molloy by Beckett, the first of three novels. Starting late at night seemed like a fine idea. Why not.

I swallowed the first paragraph whole as an anaconda swallows a tapir. Zero indigestion, very enjoyable, a tasty little treat.

I widened my appetite and strained to consume the second paragraph. You know, the one that goes on for over 80 pages or so. No go. Something tore. It hurt.

My inner monologue began to chafe against the character’s inner monologue. Were there two inner monologues, or really only one with its own warp and woof? I couldn’t say where his thoughts and feelings ended and mine began. I was confused. I yawned, then slept. I realized this only when the book fell on me and elbowed me in the chest, rudely waking me up. A demanding mistress. I have a headache, I said.

Still, I aroused my desire and tried to read again.

Words crawled like ants over, around, and under other ants. A ticklish, writhing colony of confusion, surely what one feels when madness asserts itself. Things just didn’t make sense, like fragments of conversations overheard at a restaurant or a park, at a store or a coffee shop: “He’ll take it tomorrow for sure.” “No, over there, where the sign spins.” “She doesn’t know anything from nothing.” That sort of thing. They make just enough sense to not make any sense at all.

Reading experiences can go awry in many ways. Because I wasn’t ready for the rigors of Beckett, I apologetically stuffed Molloy back on the shelf, where it mutely suffers the throng of other books.

When my head is in the right place, I’ll return to it. I will.

For now The Killer Angels.