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Nick Clegg and Samuel Beckett

By Matthew Yglesias on May 3, 2010 at 12:14 pm

"Nick Clegg and Samuel Beckett"

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I guess the Guardian asked the party leaders in the UK to write about who they admire most, and Nick Clegg offered Irish playwrite Samuel Beckett as his choice. Three reactions. One is that, as Michael Tomasky says, it seems inconceivable to imagine this happening in the United States:

You British folks understand, don’t you, that if an American presidential candidate said his hero was Samuel Beckett, he’d be finished. I mean totally finished. He couldn’t even get away with an American equivalent. It’d be one thing for a US pol to say Mark Twain. That’s about the only serious writer in history a pol could name and survive.

The second is that even though it seems inconceivable, I think Tomasky is actually wrong that it would be deadly. Presidential elections are overwhelmingly determined by the fundamentals. I think people used to think that you couldn’t win a presidential election while being a black man named “Barack Hussein Obama” whose autobiography admits to cocaine use and who used to represent Hyde Park in the State Senate while attending a black nationalist church. It just turns out that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our narrow conventional wisdom. So I wish someone would say the person he admires most is an avant-garde writer, if only to break the taboo which might, in turn, help us build a less relentlessly anti-intellectual public culture.

Third: I won’t try to claim that Beckett is the person I admire most, or even my favorite dramatist (Ibsen, I guess), but I do like him. Titling the link roundup posts “Endgame” is supposed to be a reference to his play. I won’t claim to be a brilliant expositor of this enigmatic work, but I think its themes tie in niceless with the link roundup concept—it’s an end, but utterly lacking in finality and merely doomed to be repeated again and again ad nauseam.

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