About The Book
Marking Beckett’s ninetieth birthday, this is a revelatory book of conversations with this famously reticent author—and with his chief collaborators.
“The Café Francais is sleekly modern, the kind of place one would not expect to find Samuel Beckett, and therefore exactly the kind of place where one should expect to find him….He was already there, a tall, dour figure sitting in a far corner. He was having an espresso and smoking a thin black cigar….”
And so Mel Gussow, drama critic for The New York Times, first meets Beckett in Paris in 1978. They meet virtually once a year for the next ten years, the last time being in 1989 in the French nursing home where Beckett would die later that year.
This book is a record of those encounters. When they meet, it is often just after the playwright has directed—or Gussow has reviewed—one of Beckett’s plays, so the talk is of actors and directors, the success or otherwise of various productions, and the general state of the theater, art, life—and tennis. None of these conversations has been published before, and they serve to show the reputedly austere author as modest, humorous, and open-minded but always precise and frequently revealing about his own work, which he discusses with great acuity.
Rounding off the book are interviews with Beckett’s chief collaborators and interpreters: among them Bert Lahr, Gogo in the first American Godot; Jack MacGowran and Billie Whitelaw, Beckett’s own favorite actors; directors Mike Nichols and Deborah Warner; and Edward Beckett, his nephew and literary executor.
“A cogent defense of the directors’ textual deviations and appeals for an infusion of new energy into performances of Beckett’s plays….A triumph of mood, a devoted critic’s farewell and public “God Bless’ to an author who has deeply touched his life.” –St. Petersburg Times
“Mel Gussow has pulled together rich and provocative highlights from conversations with Samuel Beckett (and those who knew him well)…[The] highly charged work reveals Beckett as a private, deep, yet surprisingly ordinary individual.” –Upstage
“[Gussow] draws on his interviewing skills to crack the tough nut that was Samuel Beckett….[The] volume seems especially valuable for its inclusion of other perspectives, including wide-ranging opinions and perorations from Beckett’s collaborators and others who have aroused his famous wrath.” –American Theatre
“For the director or actor wanting greater insight . . . Gussow’s book should be welcome indeed.” –Stage Directions