Happy two year anniversary to the blog! And thanks to you who read it avidly or from time to time or even once in a while. Much appreciated!
The following post is from June 16, 2020. The 16th of June is the day in the year 1904 that Joyce set his famous book Ulysses. The day is called Bloomsday after one of the principal characters in the novel named Leopold Bloom, and it is celebrated the world over with readings and costumes and songs (along with stops at the local pubs). I will be celebrating in Philadelphia, where the most complete manuscript of Ulysses is gathered, having been sold by Joyce to Mr. Rosenbach, a rare book collector, whose home in Philadelphia is now a museum. More about that in the weeks to come.
I am hereby putting up the very first ever post in writing4godot, unedited and unabridged!
Monsieur Godot has been a friend of mine for many years, and I dare say a friend of yours as well. You might be, like, Godot? He’s that guy that two men are waiting for in a French play, some important person who doesn’t show? Yes. So why do we care?
Via this blog, I hope to have conversations with a whole range of people, like folks are doing today, particularly in Ireland, but also in many countries. Everybody is celebrating the one day on which the novel Ulysses took place in Dublin in 1904. June 16th is called Bloomsday, after the main character in the story, and people dress up in costume and hit the bars (for better or worse). So it’s a grand day to talk about books and writing and your gran or your love life. (And Covid 19 and black lives under threat.)
But why bring Godot into the mix? I’d like to introduce you to what I call a Godot vibe that I think you’ll like. And what better day to do that than Bloomsday? Let’s start by way of a story.
A young man went up to a chipped statue of St Jude, in his local church. “St Jude,” he prayed on his knees, “Patron Saint of lost causes, help me win the lottery.” Every Friday this was the man’s prayer in a dusty corner of his small church. “Help me, St Jude, to win the lottery.” Unfortunately, the man never won the lottery. Weeks turned into months, and still the man returned with his heart-felt, confident prayer, “Help me, St Jude, patron saint of lost causes, to win the lottery. “
One day, after a very long time of sending his prayers heavenward, a surprising thing happened to the young man. The statue stepped down from its pedestal. “My son,” the saint said. “You must first buy a lottery ticket.”
I especially like this little parable because all the Godot ingredients are there. We long, don’t we, for things that don’t materialize. A fortune, a lover, a mate, a child, happiness. We may despair over this outcome (or lack of outcome). But the obvious step to make that happen, we don’t do! The focus in this story is on St Jude’s advice, and not on the absurdly wonderful idea that the saint will take your cause so to heart that he will inhabit his plaster image and speak.
All right, so on to Godot. The premise in this play and in the theatre of the absurd is that the world doesn’t really make sense. While sometimes this is depressing–and quite depressing it can be, like World War II was to Beckett, and yet despite this, the absurd is also quite freeing for you. But that is a big you, because after all, the tramps in Beckett’s play, Vladimir and Estragon, are in this crazy/sad, crazy/ funny crazy/violent world together.
You might now ask why call a blog, “writing4godot?”
I hope you are intrigued by this question. And I hope you will turn to the weekly posts to see the answer unfold. My first interest in Godot comes from a famous exchange in the play. One character says, “Let’s go.” The stage directions say, “They do not move.” All the synonyms for “going” are at play here: striving, achieving, growth for the stockholders. Not moving is a kind of short circuiting of all that effort. What happens if we don’t go? Many of us have been sheltering at home during the virus pandemic, and maybe have more of a taste for what happens when we don’t go, although there can be a lot of effort at home with family, especially young children!
The play is called Waiting for Godot, written by Samuel Beckett, an Irish Frenchman, who first put this play on in the 50’s. The blog, writing4godot, also up-ends the idea of destination writing. Ah, the ends we seek: fame, fortune and publication. I’d like to think of this as a blog for people who like to laugh, who like books, who are interested in the writer’s life which is a jazzed up (and often poorer version) of everybody’s life. The play has a big reach, where stasis, pointlessness, disappointment and violence are held up and examined. We need that kind of reach when we try to make sense of this world. And we also need the joy.
A little FYI about how I came up with this idea. I have just returned to rural New York—home, in fact—after a very long sojourn in France. I lived, wrote and taught just outside of Paris for 20 years. Initially I worked as a copy editor for the texts of a Sufi musician. I descended from those arcane heights and taught English and Social Studies, first at the American School of Paris and then at a local French school, which had an option in English lit. Ah Paris, where Godot is most present and most absent, two quirky cousins paradoxically on the same stage, in the same blog.
I am working on a novel in linked stories, focusing on the way a neighbor’s tragedy can ripple through the lives of a community, stalling the lives of some people and creating unexpected connection in others. These stories are clear-eyed about the wreck of disaster, but also suggest that while life is hard, with its sadness and absurdities, there are flickering moments of grace.
And thus ends the blog, first posted on Bloomsday, June 16, 2020!!
CONTESTS, FUN, AND PRIZES
Anne Marsella published a book in Paris called The Baby of Belleville. To celebrate, she gathered us all together and we solved riddles and won prizes. In the name of similar fun, I propose some contests and prizes to celebrate the second anniversary of writing4godot. (More about Anne in another post.)
Contest Número Uno: get the most new readers for the blog.
This helps build a platform to persuade an agent that people are already engaged in your writing. Have your friends sign up and e-mail you.
Prize: a painting from award-winning Utah painter Vaughn Emett.
Contest Número Dos: writing4godot needs business cards.
Something with bowler hats? Win a prize for the best design.
Prize: either Waiting for Godot bilingual edition or Ambassador Mulhall’s guide to reading Ulysses called A Reader’s Odyssey, dedicated to regular readers, giving them a tour of Ulysses outside of reading the book itself.
Contest Número Tres: if you could choose any two of the characters in Beckett’s play to hang out with, who would they be? (Estragon, Vladimir, Lucky, Pozzo, a boy.)
Beckett has never been very forthcoming about his play, except to say that the men wear bowler hats! But take him on! Maybe you could get him to say something! Win a prize for the most Godot-like conversation. Think of it as a tiny new scene in the play.
Prize: either Waiting for Godot bilingual edition or Ambassador Mulhall’s guide, A Reader’s Odyssey.
Contest Número Cuatro: share your most Godot-like story.
Prize: either Waiting for Godot the bilingual edition, or Ambassador Mulhall’s guide, A Reader’s Odyssey.
Midnight 14 July, which is Bastille Day, the French fourth of July.
Enter all contests! Go for broke. Contesting4godot!
More about Joyce and Bloomsday in Philly to follow. Those leaves on Beckett’s tree are turning green for Bloomsday!