Holy book neuroses

Shalom is one of the 72 names of God in Hebrew. Consequently, as a child, writer Shalom Auslander learned that everything he “put [his] name on — quizzes, book reports, Highlightsbecame instantly holy.”

All this sacredness precipitated some writerly neuroses — “when I think what I’m working on is holy I can’t write it, when I think what I’m working on isn’t holy I don’t want to” — and contempt for, among other things, the new Samuel Beckett box set:

What new freedom it is for me, to imagine books are just books. 600,000 published a year, is that the latest number? To quote Rabbi Lenny, “To is a preposition, come is a verb.” And God is a noun, and one guy wrote about dead doggies, and I wrote that I hate Jews. I also hate the Grove Centenary Editions four-volume hardcover boxed set of Samuel Beckett, but you don’t see Paul Auster (ed.) flying off the handle. Christ, it looks like a collection of fucking seforim. Dark blue clothbound hardcovers, with nothing but a few spare gold-embossed words on the spine. Absolutely sacred. If there was one guy who didn’t treat words as religion — who pretty much unholied everything he could — it was Samuel Beckett. But the set in my hands didn’t feel like Samuel Beckett; it felt like the collected Torah lectures of Reb Shmuel Beckett, shlita, the famed student of Rabbi Joyce of Dublin (the R’JAD), May His Memory Be Blessed Among the Greats of the People of Israel.

While we’re on the subject of Beckett, see “Scholars discover 23 blank pages that may as well be lost Samuel Beckett play.”

Also, the strangest centenary homage yet: Dublin’s Beckett Bridge, opening in 2008. (As my friend Bill says: “I’m pretty sure any authentic Beckett Bridge would extend out over the water halfway and then plummet to the depths of the sea.”)

Update: A local bookseller who hails from Ireland writes, “If you’ve never experienced Dublin traffic you should know that far from alleviating the city’s perennial bottleneck, the bridge will probably be a four-lane parking lot providing a suitably Beckettian experience for the poor bastards waiting for ‘go.'”


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