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Dream of Fair to Middling Women


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Beckett's first novel chronicles one Belacqua's difficulties with, well, fair to middling women. It was written when Beckett was 26 but never found a publisher. Its appearance now, four years after the Nobel Laureate's death, is a literary event, but this very fact makes appraisal difficult. Much here is typical: a word-drunk prose, the treatment of the human predicament as a Punch-and-Judy show. But so too is Beckett's disdain--there is no better word--for the reader. ``As near as no matter it was a year ago now that he had been inland in another land with another girl'' runs the beginning of a not-untypical sentence. Such prose cries out to be read aloud in small snatches in a rich brogue, but on the page it can be leaden. Of interest primarily to Beckett enthusiasts. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.

Although perhaps more accessible, Beckett's previously unpublished first novel features characters, themes, and the unique style characteristic of his later prose works ( More Pricks Than Kicks , Molloy , etc.). Written in English in 1932 when Beckett was 26 and living in Paris, the clearly autobiographical Dream was roundly rejected by publishers. Beckett put it aside, later entrusting it to O'Brien for posthumous publication in order not to offend friends and peers caricatured therein. Main character Belacqua, a writer and teacher, is clearly Beckett himself, although a ``Mr. Beckett'' also appears later in the work. The fair to middling women of the title range from ditzy to abrasive, while one male friend is described as ``a persecution'' and an ``illegitimate cretin.'' Moving from Ireland to France to Germany (and from English to French to German, not to mention Italian and Latin), the novel is a literary smorgasbord. Discussions of music and writing jockey with tantalizing references to Hesse, Dmitiri Karamazov and ``George Bernard Pygmalion'' interrupted by the occasional aside from the narrator--``(Query: why do professors lack the gusts to get sons? Elucidate.)'' Compared to the Nobel Prize winner's later exquisite fiction, poetry and plays, some of the writing in this book seems immature, but it does stand on its own as a lively and thought-provoking read. ( May)

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