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More Pricks and More Kicks: Beckett’s ‘Echo’s Bones’

By Harriet Staff

Samuel Beckett

At the New York Times, Dwight Garner takes a stab at reviewing the much belated appearance of Samuel Beckett’s 1933 story, “Echo’s Bones,” which Beckett intended to include as the capstone to his first book of short stories, More Pricks Than Kicks. Unfortunately for readers of the 1930s, Beckett’s editor, Charles Prentice, decided not to include the story. “‘It is a nightmare,’ Prentice wrote to Beckett. This was the start of one of the great rejection letters in literary history. ‘It gives me the jim-jams.’ He declared: ‘People will shudder and be puzzled and confused.'” No, not the jim-jams!! More from the review:

Eight decades later, Grove, Beckett’s stalwart American publisher, is issuing “Echo’s Bones” for the first time. This is a handsome book, and a well-padded one. The 49 pages of Beckett’s story are tucked, and nearly lost, inside acknowledgments, an introduction, a note on the text, a scan from the original typescript, a selection of letters from Prentice to Beckett, a bibliography and 57 pages of (excellent) annotations from this volume’s editor, Mark Nixon.

It’s worth cleaving this oyster to get at the pearl. “Echo’s Bones” is a relatively minor work, but it’s pungent early Beckett, written while he was still under the sway of his mentor, James Joyce, but with a soundscape all its own: rude, surreal, death-haunted, sex-addled, dry as bone. It helps to have read “More Pricks Than Kicks” before consuming it, but the story stands on its own.

Its pleasures border on the painful; you will have to like the sound of breaking glass. You may wish to exclaim about “Echo’s Bones,” as Belacqua does about his re-emergence on earth, “My soul begins to be idly goaded and racked, all the old pains and aches of me soul-junk return!”

Head over the NYTs for more of Garner’s reading and to see what other adventures our friend Belacqua gets into.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, July 7th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.