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This review is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

A DREAM DROPPED ACROSS AN INTERVAL Samuel Beckett, Dream of Fair to Middling Women (The Black Cat Press) £18.99

Beckett's Dream of Fair to Middling Women, once about as private and inaccessible as could be, entered the public domain with newspaper editors falling over themselves to be first with column inches reporting the event and the controversies surrounding it. Beckett had very stringently restricted Dream during his lifetime to those with a specialist interest in his work, and had only consented to its publication 'some little time' after his death. One does not need to read far in Dream to see why, for it is precisely the kind of 'ramshackle … bone-shaker' its chief character, Belacqua, promises himself he will write 'if ever I do drop a book'. The 'dropped' book we now have - excretion rather than parturition (as, say, in Swift's Modest Proposal) being the more fundamental need here - is also, it must be said, something of a dropped brick, and about as easily negotiated. A summary of its contents would far exceed the usual bounds, and with the best will in the world could leave a seriously misleading impression. There is, as indeed there ought to be, no substitute for actually reading it, and absorbing as much of it in the event seems, if not exactly tiptop then at least it is, well, fair to middling.

In Dream Beckett writes, as booksellers say of seriously damaged items, 'with all faults'. A profound scepticism as to his capacity to write anything worthwhile is bizarrely combined with an afflatus nourished by the belief that ...


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