Musing on Hopkins, Beckett and Louis C. K.

Larry was getting ready last night to get up at 5:30 am and head out for his weekend softball tournament. Now that he’s turned 70, he’s moved up from the over-65 to the over-70 tournament team, and as one of the youngest players, he’s in demand. He mentioned that he had to lay out all his gear, and I quoted “gear and tackle and trim,” referencing Hopkins’ Pied Beauty. It turns out Larry doesn’t care for Hopkins, and though I brought up The Northon Anthology of English Literature, Volume II, and did my best, he was unmoved. Nonetheless, the echoes of memorized lines enrich my encounter with the world in a delicious way.

And in the process, I realized how rare it is now to take down a doorstop of a volume, look through an index, and find a poem. Mostly, it’s just Google. But having the anthology open on the kitchen table led to my reading a snippet from Beckett’s Molloy:

“However that may be, I mean whether he saw me or whether he didn’t, I repeat I watched him recede, at grips (myself) with the temptation to get up and follow him, perhaps even to catch up with him one day, so as to know him better, be myself less lonely. But in spite of my soul’s leap out to him, at the end of its elastic, I saw him only darkly, because of the dark and the because of the terrain, in the folds of which he disappeared from time to time, to reemerge further on, but most of all I ¬†think because of other things calling me and towards which too one after the other my soul was straining wildly.”

I’ve always found Beckett difficult but rewarding. I love the idea of the soul leaping at the end of its elastic. But the point is that I wouldn’t have found this online, without the physical book open in front of me. I wonder if this will be lost soon, this ability to blunder into unexpected pleasure because of the physical presence of books. As when browsing the shelves of a used bookstore, for example

Of course, the internet is a different and equally rich world, and a friend directed me yesterday to this wonderful riff of Louis C. K., which itself is about (to some extent, Beckett would insist I clarify) the relationship of people to technology and change.


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