Today I finished reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. Maybe my expectations were too High, but I was hoping that by reading this text I would be seized with some sort of poetic, ancestral blood lust. Yes! Now, I will write epics that will survive centuries! Gold! Monsters! Mead!
No such luck.
I was glad for the change of pace, though. I had just finished reading Plato's Republic. Guilt has dictated my reading list over the past few months. You see, I managed to get a BA in English without having read any of the Seminal Texts. Sure, I've read some Shakespeare, but I never got through the whole Bible or Canterbury Tales and I've only read excerpts of The Iliad and The Odyssey. I have read the Epic of Gilgamesh, though.
I know all of these stories by reputation. Because of this I have very high expectations, tracing this lineage of Inspiration back a few thousand years.
The Repbulic was boring.
Beowulf, on the other hand, was like reading a comic book. Seriously. It's a heroic story with vengeance, drinking, fighting, dragons, terrible monsters, episodic ordeals. Who wouldn't want to read this?
Maybe I'm jaded, or perhaps I've read too many deconstructive texts, but all I could think about while reading Beowulf was Alan Moore's The Watchmen. A critic wrote about that epic something to the effect of, "The Watchmen is Alan Moore's admonishment to anyone who ever wanted a hero to save them." And isn't this a fitting parallel? Beowulf ends foreshadowing of the complete destruction of Goetaland from invaders. Because Beowulf won't be there to Save them.
Two days ago my friends and I were sitting around drinking whiskey and talking about Andy Warhol. Yes, we do that sometimes. We tried to discuss his art and his commentaries, but again and again we came back to talking about the man himself. We concluded that he was an asshole and one M pointed out that he was probably sitting up in some ostentatiously flamboyant afterlife laughing at us.
Warhol. Andy Warhol. No matter how you feel about the man, you cannot escape him. Can you? His work is Everywhere. I have no idea what he did to the discussion about Art (and Visual Art in particular), but he certainly did Something Permanent to it.
Kind of like Samuel Beckett.
A few years ago I took a digital poetics class from Dee Morris. In discussing the lineage of digital poetics, she said, "And this all comes back to the great Samuel Beckett." Dee never prefaced any other person with "the great" and it carried the same weight as the Old Man speaking of "the great DiMaggio."
I don't like Beckett. But I can't stop reading him. This goes beyond my desire to familiarize myself with the Canon (just so that I can say, "Yes, I know goddamn canon."). Samuel Beckett Haunts me. Even if his work confuses, frustrates, and bores the hell out of me, I keep coming back to it. Isn't that the best relationship to have with the Greats? To loath and to worship.
My hero, Samuel Beckett. And, in that critic's estimation, he's the best hero I could choose, because I have no wish or expectation for Samuel Beckett to come and save me (though, wouldn't that be awesome?).
If I'm ever reincarnated, I wish I could come back as Samuel Beckett's fingertips.