amuel Beckett first came to my attention in the early fifties when friends who'd made Paris already knew of him, beyond his service as James Joyce's secretary, as an important writer. I was lucky enough for awhile to own a copy of An Exagmination Round the Factification of an Examination of a Work in Progress with an essay by him on Finnegan's Wake, the work in-progress of the title. Now, when I came back from Four Lakes to vote in he 1956 election, Waiting for Godot was playing at Actor's Workshop. It was the sensation of San Francisco.
Godot was a play that had me hanging off the balcony as I had years before at Long Day's Journey into Night. But Godot wasn't dealing on its surface with the relationships of family life. Plot was more like philosophical equations stated in a sad junkyard enactment by Vaudevillian comics. At last, there were people on a stage bare of all the goodies we were afraid of losing to the bomb, engaged in dialog that seemed to be asking the questions that concerned me and my friends. I'd seen a play that left my mind reeling with excitement.
Waiting for Godot was a work that completely suspended my disbelief. Imagination, stimulated by philosophical questions, worked, as I would soon discover, using surrealist method, to reveal that the concetto, buried in the electrical scars of our nerve calls, is as fixed as that in the stone of the quarries at Bibemus or Cararra. The dialog of Godot, very general in its terms, is as precise as philosophic propositions. It masquerades as everyday generalities. Each audience member's own psychic storehouse took a new meaning home. So rich was the experience, that repeated viewings, as in all theatre, led to multiple experiences of the a play which lent itself so to a novice theatre-goer, but meant and ultimately was seen by attentive audiences to represent the futility of such exercises. Each experience proved futile upon the next viewing, until the process of any interpretation could be seen to result from any performance, and that to interpret was as absurd as waiting for life, let alone Godot.
Now, back to San Francisco (forever, I thought). The Subterraneans is published after On The Road last year. I am taken by its spaces enclosing spaces as Jack's prose makes archway upon archway way into time. I see that he has done it with parentheses, and am reminded of the idea of Baroque as the link between Michelangelo and Einstein.
The idea of Baroque space as precursor of Einstein's equation was related to me by a young novelist during that great international flow of people following Word War II. He held the succession that arose from an unbroken chain of events beginning in Michelangelo's study of nudes and rocks recording the rout of bathing soldiers for the battle of Cascina standing as the first example in Western Art of abstraction. No one had before studied the human body so, the moment of fear in the short space between a river bath and the enemy. It is as if the muscles resonate almost in unison to sounds of the alarm tensing every muscle, making manifestation of those invisible waves the subject of the work. A pattern established within this idea is an unbroken chain of events in history: the work of art, newly risen, awakens a movement in a succeeding generation which generates an idea of space, the paintings being elevations of a new plan, so to speak, which works its way into the consciousness of those artisans of space, the architects. The buildings that result are erected over the span of a century (or more), so that succeeding generations passing through them are integrating the influence of the spatial idea into musculature, and thereby cerebellum, working its way to consciousness where it exerts cultural pressure on a next generation, refining it to philosophical proposition which asks then for codification mathematically and expresses in pure form, the view of the physical world embodied in the idea.
The example given is the ideal plan of a baroque building: a round room evenly punctuated alternately by arched openings and windows, mirrors between them. The arches open on two more arches and the mirrored space between them. Opposite the arch, a mirrored wall reflecting the view revealed, of an opening on two arches and a mirror reflecting a mirror reflecting the reflection. This is repeated around the room, as well as through the outer arches, themselves revealing more arches.
Later, as I worked in the theatre, my mind wrestled with the complexities of a world of pretense, to concretize words and the very real actions of man they signified. When part after part of the idea is enacted, each by its own actor, the great action of the play is revealed by the sum of them all. Subsequently, this great action postulates a great actor known as the 'double', ideally, of the audience, itself, and at its best, a single entity arising from the energy generated by good acting. But to the theatre worker, who must analyze what he is doing, and especially a scenic designer who is making the space within which the action occurs, it is a short step to realize that if the accumulated actions of the dramatis personae erect a double, a great actor of the play's action, then the stage before the eyes of the audience opens onto the interior of that actor's body.
From what organ of the body does the action of the play arise? The heart? The mind? The skin? (From inside, of course, as a space, a room, painted and penetrated). Not picturing such a space, but rather, relying on the the human mind's ability to connect the dots.
It was this epiphany that bore out the assertion a painting or drawing functions effectively on society as a plan of the future by inspiring other artists and then artisans to make a communal idea that forms a space describing the space our bodies enclose, our feeling and then knowledge, described in new ways by future generations.
The sounds of my friends' writings carve ideas in my ear.