Monday, March 13, 2006
A Pint of Plain is Your Only Man
Beckett fact no. 49.
‘What’s the matter with my head, I must have left it in Ireland, in a saloon, it must be there still’ (Texts for Nothing 8)
Ten Beckettian tipples and tipplers. We had Dortmunder and Wallenstein beer before, as you may remember.
1) Still in the Texts for Nothing, in no. 3 the narrator remembers ‘potting at the invader from behind a barrel of Guinness, with my arquebuse’.
2) On-tape Krapp calculates he spends forty per cent of his waking life on licensed premises. A chastened on-stage older Krapp decides against joining in his laughter.
3) In ‘Sanies I’ Beckett sees ‘a perturbation of sweaty heroes, /in their Sunday best, /come hastening down for a pint of nepenthe or moly /or half and half.’ Whatever about moly and nepenthe, and as any good barman will know, half and half is stout and ale in equal proportions. The same passage rendered into prose turns up in Dream, while later in that book someone swills from the 'rim of a pint pot of half-and-half'.
4) Watt drinks only milk, we are told, but in Mercier and Camier he tanks up on whiskey before bringing his stick down on the bar table with a hearty ‘Fuck life!’
5) Still a prey to inexplicable urges, the Unnamable finds himself as ‘thirsting away, you don’t know what for’.
6) I think we’ve heard the ‘stout porter bitter’ joke from Murphy before. Never as good the second time, like Pozzo’s pipe, it reappears in Watt, with a dash of whiskey, when Louit, going down the stairs, ‘met the bitter stout porter Power coming up.’
7) ‘Picking grapes for a man called…’ Vladimir muses to himself after arguing whether it was in the Macon or Cackon country. The man’s name was Bonnelly, the first French text informs us. In the American Godot Macon and Cackon become Napa and Crappa.
8) 'Tis only me turd or fart', the th-dropping Mr Graves says in Watt of his afternoon bottles of stout in Mr Knott's garden.
9) What better pub scene in all Beckett than Belacqua's drink in 'Ding Dong': 'The bottles drawn and emptied in a twinkling, the casks responding to the slightest pressure on their joysticks, the weary proletarians at rest on arse and elbow, the cash-register that never complains [...] A great major symphony of supply and demand, effect and cause, fulcrate on the middle C of the counter and waxing, as it proceeded, in the charming harmonies of blasphemy and broken glass and all the aliquots of fatigue and ebriety.'
10) In 'Love and Lethe' Mrs Tough proffers Belacqua a rosiner. 'Reader, a rosiner is a drop of the hard'. Ruby takes a gloria. 'Reader, a gloria is coffee laced with brandy.'
That made eleven tipples, really. Consider the last one on a two-for-one offer, like the Bacardi Breezer’s at my local Co-op.
Since I quote Flann O’Brien in my post title, it’s only fair to add that Beckett and O’Brien met once, O’Brien referred to James Joyce as ‘that retailer of skivvies’ stories’, and the conversation went downhill from there.