He believes in the cadence, the comma, the bite of word on reality, whatever else he believes; and his devotion to them, he makes clear, is a sufficient focus for the reader’s attention. In the modern history of literature he is a unique moral figure, not a dreamer of rose-gardens but a cultivator of what will grow in the waste land…
The critic Hugh Kenner on Samuel Beckett (quoted on the cover of Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works).
“The bite of word on reality”. Is there a more incisive or lucid piece of criticism than that? And one so neatly expressed at that. It evokes a certain vitality of words, which possess a visceral danger when let loose to describe our world.
The word association it provokes is insightful too. Bite. Teeth. Incisors. Incision. Cut. With words, he cuts open the world, peeling back the layers, to reveal both the glorious complexity and terrifying gore.
But most of all, contained within this quote is the suggestion that the world, that reality, will show the bite marks and forever bear the scars of its mediation through Beckett. Read him, and things won’t ever seem quite the same again.