Tag Archives: Malone Dies

Marginalia, no.205

I know those little phrases that seem so innocuous and, once you let them in, pollute the whole of speech. Nothing is more real than nothing. They rise up out of the pit and know no rest until they drag you down into its dark.

~ Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

In the intro to his essay collection titled On Nothing and Kindred Subjects (I’ve quoted it before), Hillaire Belloc asks about Nothing: “Is it not that which Mankind, after the great effort of life, at last attains, and that which alone can satisfy Mankind’s desire?” Verbal paradox is acceptable as comedy but not as philosophy. It makes fun reading, rarely good thinking. Too liberally indulged (Chesterton is best in small portions), it stops up the bottle of intelligence.

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Marginalia, no.198

Coma is for the living.

~ Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

I was tempted to misread the word as “comma,” because if periods are for the dead then commas, too, are for the living. But then the ancient Romans (all of them quite dead) cared little for punctuation of any kind, even when they were alive. Nor did they believe in a lower case. No truly heroic society will rely on such things. Some days, therefore, I expect a sudden apocalypse, other days a long byzantine coma. Today we had a small earthquake. A sorry rain is falling, barely enough to speckle the street and raise a whiff of oil and dust. I’m sleepy and can’t seem to keep my spinal column straight: my head bobs forward like a bowling ball held up by a sapling. I feel myself slipping into a comma.

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