How to Write Like Samuel Beckett

In just a few easy steps
John Hurt in 'Krapp's Last Tape'
'To make a short Beckett piece:
take some silence,
mix well with faint light
and a hint of darkness
stir in some chaos
(any arbitrary force will do),
add a breath of life,
regret it,
promise to extinguish it,
then don't.'
Merrie London, 'To make a short Beckett piece'
Working at a university library is not without its perks. There's a vast collection of music to take advantage of, not to mention the latest films and television shows on DVD. There are even books to read, should we feel inclined.

As I'm interested in the work of Samuel Beckett, I often find myself perusing volume upon volume of Modern Drama, an academic journal that critically analyzes the latest and greatest theatrical works. Every volume from the 1970s onwards appears to contain at least one article, essay, or review of a Samuel Beckett work - written from just about every theoretical angle. But the writers don't simply review specific performance aspects of the play, they take Beckett's work in a larger context in an attempt to understand its meaning, or its essence.

As I flicked through the pages of an unknown volume, I happened across Merrie London's 'To make a short Beckett piece', and it struck me that she's managed to hit the nail right on the head. In a few fines, she seemed to summarize every review and every essay I had read so far. London's article, which parodies the form of one of Samuel Beckett's short prose works, offers its reader a guide on creating their own authentic Beckett masterpiece.

The article has obviously been written in jest, as an affectionate lampoon of one of central figures in modern drama But I think in writing it, London has articulated the very essence of all literary criticism. In order to understand something, we are all compelled to rewrite it in a way that we find coherent. What is a review of Hamlet if not a summary of its plot and an organization of its major themes, or subtle nuances? 'How to write a short Beckett piece' is a reminder of that process, the attempt we all make to understand something - and of course, it offers some excellent style tips.