Samuel Beckett,
Thomas Wolfe


I just discovered your website --- beautifully designed, it is.

I have a question --- a literary one, of course.

At the bottom of the various screens is the clickable, highlighted phrase:


According to T. Wolfe, one can't go home again. Have you hit upon something new re this long-held assumption?

Congratulations again on this lovely site.

--- Martha Sachs, Curator
Special Collections
Penn State Harrisburg Library

Dear Ms. Sachs:

Interesting. We've been around all these years, and you are the first one to comment on the design of RALPH.

We spent months learning HTML by trial-and-error, making up colors, leaning the hard way the difference between div align=left and div align=right. It is fascinating...if one has the desire, as we do, to be a 21st Century Blake (which we could define as control, as much as possible, over the means of production).

Finally, after a year or so of mistakes --- mistakes that appear immediately when the page is called up in hyperspace --- we figured out how to get, on a limited screen, what we wanted.

Simplicity was our goal: not too much crowding; black-and-white photographs, especially old ones, especially old cuts. Lots of space. Nice --- not obscene --- colors. Appropriate contrast between type and background.

Knowing all the while that unlike movies or books or magazines (and like TV and radio), we are dependent on the machinery that our visitors bring with them. Thus if they have lousy color definition and ratty screens, no matter how good we are, they won't get what we are striving to give.

In that way it's like early television: go to the lowest common denominator. The difference is that those early programs were, in the McLuhanesque sense, form being moulded by function. In contrast, we saw the chance to give some art to one of the oldest literary genres --- that is, a mix of essay, review, poetry, and fun.

In regards to your second question...

We don't believe Wolfe, anyway. He was so prolix that he most probably wrote somewhere, You can go home again. He was a master at contradicting himself because he was a writer who specialized in writing too much.

We much prefer the words of J. R. Payne,

    Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home
    Home, home, sweet, sweet home!

Perhaps we will begin to use this at the bottom of our electronic pages.


§     §     §


REF: Paradox-of-the-Month

Dear Lolita Lark:

Say, I was wondering. Is this for real? ---

    Oh, I know I too shall and be as when I was not yet, only, all over instead of in store. That makes happy, often now my murmur falters and dies and I weep for happiness as I go along and for love of this old earth that has carried me so long and whose uncomplainingness will soon be mine. Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first then separate and drift through all the earth and perhaps, in the end, through a cliff into the sea, something of me.

--- Samuel Beckett

In other words, did Samuel Beckett really write it, or is it just a hoax, so to speak, somewhat similar to " All That Spring."

Thank you in advance for clearing up this thorny dilemma, namely, whether or not I should post a link to "Death."

--- Donald M. Wilson
The Samuel Beckett
On-Line Resources and Links Pages

Dear D M Wilson:

Thank you for your enquiry.

My friend Nancy Keith assures me that the quote is accurate as it stands. It comes from one of Beckett's early novels. She has it posted on her refrigerator door, so that each day, as she reaches for the milk, she can contemplate her mortality.

Since she doesn't do computers (a true Beckettonian) --- I will send her a post card today, and ask that she give the specific reference, which I will then send to you. If you give me a real, as opposed to an electronic, address, I can mail it to you. And I assure you, her handwriting is not as craggy as Beckett's.

By-the-bye --- I find no reference in your pages to the production of "All That Fall" as mounted by the BBC Third Programme in 1956 or 1957, directed by Donald McWhinney. I used to work as a volunteer for KPFA in Berkeley back in its salad days, when it was trying to be a cultural --- rather than a political --- force. They had a BBC transcription of the play and I was the engineer/announcer who put it on the air that fateful Sunday night.

I had studied Beckett in college, seen productions of "Waiting for Godot" and whatever-it-was, that lone guy on the stage, playing tapes to himself, and intoning "spool" and "spoooool!" But "All That Fall" seemed to me to be in another world --- one connected firmly to time and getting old and bitterness and loneliness and the tragedy of it all. To this day, I can hear in my head the voices (voices in my head!) of Mrs. Rooney and Miss Fitt and Mr. Rooney and Mr. Slocum and that very sad child at the end, telling of the boy "who fell to his death." And each time I think on it, I get yet another pun, one of the thousands that Beckett planted in his words and word pictures, some just regular word puns, some quite on the edge, to twit the puritans who ran The Beeb at the time.

I am a radio man, and I am convinced it is one of the greatest radio plays of all times. McWhinnie, I believe, read the soul of Beckett, and put into his sound effects and timing exactly what I suspect Beckett had in mind. The noise of Mr. and Mrs. Rooney walking (sort of a "whoosh-clang") accompanies me today as I get about, as slowly now as they from then.

I made a tape copy of it and as I was in the business of starting radio stations in other cities, would always play it on the air first thing (highly illegal --- the BBC had specific expiration dates, and allowed no unauthorized playings of their disks. I got away with it because so few people knew or cared).

Surprisingly, the most interesting comment I got in Dallas, of all places, was from a woman who was from France. She told me that the difference between the BBC version and the one put on by the French Broadcasting System, was in the ending. Mr. Rooney had murdered the boy who "fell from the train," and it was far more carefully spelled out in the RDF version of the play.

There were three things that flowed from that play and my love for it. When I was in England, in 1959, I looked up Donald McWhinney, made a special visit to him at the BBC, to compliment him on his wonderful work. He was solemn and taciturn and busy; it was an awkward visit; it lasted, I suspect, no more than five minutes; very Beckett-like, that visit.

Then, at one point, in 1975, I wrote to Beckett %The BBC and asked for his permission to play "All That Fall" over the air. He wrote me back an aerogramme which was damn near indecipherable, telling me that he would do it but that the "Queen's Charter of the BBC," whatever that is, forbid such. He also thanked me for my kind words.

I treasured that aerogramme, even though I suspected that he wrote in hand in such a crabbed fashion so that his letters would be as mysterious as his plays and novels. I framed it, and carried it about whenever I moved, but one move proved fatal --- it disappeared, along with several treasured drawings from friends of mine who, too, were eccentric artists. The tape, as sound tape will, stretched and faded, and finally it, too, to my great sorrow, disappeared.

I drive a lot, often with the radio off --- American radio is so dismal. On occasion, bits and pieces of "All That Fall" will pop into my head:

"What are you doing, Mr. Slocum?"
"Nothing, Mrs. Rooney. Peering through the windscreen, into the void."


[Slocum, speaking of the malfunction of the car]: "She was getting too much air. I had to choke her."


"There goes the strange Miss Fitt. I wonder if she'll speak to me."


"Don't bustle me!"(Giggles)


"If you see my poor blind Dan, just tell him that it came over me, like a wave."[Some of these quotes are inaccurate --- I can't find my Grove Press edition of the play; but that's all right, the variations probably mean that the play has become my own, as all works of art should.]

Several years ago, I wrote a book on family therapy, I included one of my most favorite on the title page,

Mrs. Rooney: I remember once attending a lecture by one of these new mind doctors, I forget what you call them. He spoke...

Mr. Rooney: A lunatic specialist?

Mrs. Rooney: No no, just the troubled mind. I was hoping he might shed a little light on my lifelong preoccupation with horses' buttocks.

Mr. Rooney: A neurologist?

Mrs. Rooney: No no, just mental distress, the name will come back to me in the night. I remember his telling us the story of a little girl, very strange and unhappy in her ways, and how he treated her unsuccessfully over a period of years and was finally obliged to give up the case. He could find nothing wrong with her, he said. The only thing wrong with her as far as he could see was that she was dying. And she did in fact die, shortly after he washed his hands of her.

Mr. Rooney: Well? What is there so wonderful about that?

Mrs. Rooney: No, it was just something he said, and the way he said it, that has haunted me ever since. When he had done with the little girl he stood there motionless for some time, quite two minutes I should say, looking down at his table. Then he suddenly raised his head and exclaimed, as if he had had a revelation, "The trouble with her was that she had never really been born." [Pause] He spoke throughout without notes. [Pause] I left before the end... [Sobs] There's nothing to be done for those people!

Mr. Rooney: For which is there?...

--- L. W. Milam

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