Monday, October 27, 2008
Breasts and Pimples
Beckett fact no. 93.
Ten references in Beckett to my own dear County Wicklow.
As I mention pimples in my title, I might add that the pimples of typos hereunder when I first posted this have now been zapped.
1) Belacqua’s snooty fit, for shame, in ‘Love and Lethe’: ‘Wicklow, full of breasts and pimples, he refused to consider. Ruby agreed.’
2) ‘But if it is merely a matter of getting me out of the way,’ said Neary, ‘while you work up Miss Counihan, why need I go to London? Why not Bray’ (Murphy). Enough said.
3) And down the coast again we find Greystones, just outside which lies Redford cemetery, ‘way out in the wilds of the country on the side of a hill, and too small, far too small, to go on with. Indeed it was almost full, a few more widows they’d be turning them away’ (First Love). Odd this, given that sixty years on it remains anything but full, small though it is, raising the ghoulish possibility of evictions in the interlude.
4) ‘great granite rocks the foam flying up in the light of the lighthouse and the wind-gauge spinning like a propeller, clear to me at last that the dark I have always struggled to keep under is in reality my most – ’ Good old Dun Laoghaire pier, site of Krapp’s epiphany. Except it wasn’t Dun Laoghaire at all, Beckett told Eoin O’Brien, it was Greystones. Greystones pier has neither lighthouse nor anemometer. But maybe, as the footnote goes, ‘not in this work’. Krapp has fond memories of walks on Croghan. But that’s on the Wicklow/Wexford border. What brought him down there, I wonder?
5) South of Greystones squats, lies, or comatosely sprawls the unremarkable village of Kilcoole, which gives seven eighths of its name (the e was a conscientious objector) to the unpublished play Kilcool, whose central character takes a train south through Bray Head to visit her childless, widowed aunt. Though dating from 1963 and abandoned, the play was successfully quarried for the dramaticules of the 70s, in particular Not I. The curious are directed to Gontarski’s The Intent of Undoing.
6) And further down the coast again, Belacqua and the Alba have a tryst on the Silver Strand, or Jack’s Hole, in Dream of Fair to Middling Women, from which name the narrator recoils in a spasm of finer feelings.
7) And so up into the mountains. ‘Standing on the Big Sugarloaf, it may well be objected, or Djouce, or even a low eminence like the Three Rock, the Welsh Hills are frequently plainly to be discerned’ (Dream again). The first two of those are in Wicklow, but the last is in Dublin, so enough about that.
8) Similarly with Malone’s stonecutters in Glencullen, and Watt’s Glencullen Hacketts (Dublin), but Prince William’s Seat, also from Watt, on which Mr Hackett remembers breaking stones during his wife Tetty’s labour, that’s on the Wicklow side, isn’t it?
9) How not give pride of place to that marvellous paragraph in Mercier and Camier beginning ‘A road still carriageable climbs over the high moorland.’ This is Glencree again and the Military Road, into which the pseudocouple descend from the Featherbed Mountain (of Proteus fame), passing the Lemass memorial and its misspelt reference to Terence MacSwiney, the mayor of Cork mentioned in passing by Malone. The fork in the road leading down to Powerscourt waterfall or on to Sally Gap, blessed terrain, featured on the dustjacket of Mary Bryden’s Samuel Beckett and the Idea of God, readers may recall. M&C take the previous left, past the former borstal (another Joyce reference: Molly Bloom gave a concert there) and the German war cemetery. Oscar Wilde was baptised in Glencree’s small Catholic church by an over-zealous nanny, I believe. This is also, I would have thought, the territory of the opening Text for Nothing, but here as in other examples I might have peddled, Beckett has chosen to eschew topographical giveaways.
10) The ‘Avoca bag’ in Eh Joe. Thomas Moore’s ugly effigy on College Green, whose symbolic congruence with the Avoca-inspirted ‘The Meeting of the Waters’ (there used to be a gents’ toilet under it) is remarked on by Leopold Bloom, also features in More Pricks Than Kicks. I plead ignorance of what an Avoca bag is, since Ireland was (for the moment at least) still safe of perennial Sunday daytrippers’ favourite, Avoca Handweavers, back in Eh Joe’s time. But since we’re passing, why not slip in for a grotesquely overpriced cappuccino and a twenty minute wait among your fellow negative equity-afflicted N11 commuters. Ah, Wicklow, wild, wet and wonderful as ever.
Photo of Glencree found here.