Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Fail Better

"Fail better" is a phrase that has escaped its original context and now goes about the world-like a benevolent little gnome- doing good.

I was going to use it in my last (brief) post but I thought Id' better remind myself who said it first and where and why- and when I had the answer I decided it wasn't so appropriate after all.

Author: Samuel Beckett.

Original context: a short (little read) piece about gloomy people visiting a graveyard called "Worstword Ho!" 

Beckett was one of those mid- 20th century artists I fell in love with at university- who have little good to say about the human experience and whose most positive message is that we may, perhaps, have the strength to endure it. They were atheistical, nihilistic- and as a friend of mine put it- "miserable on purpose" They suited the Cold War era- giving expression to its doominess- but no longer serve us as they once did. (Let leaves fall on them. Let them become history. Let them become mulch.) Hitchcock was another and (in some of his moods) so was my beloved Ingmar Bergman. At their best they leaven their negativity with humour.  Beckett was famously controlling about his work- and wouldn't allow productions of his plays to go ahead if they departed from his original mise en scene. How would be feel about a grim little phrase from a grim little novella  breaking free and making like a sunbeam. Would he kick the cat or laugh? I like to think he'd laugh.

As a greater writer put it, "The whirligig of time brings in his revenges."

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