Books: Illuminations of the Grotesque

SAMUEL BECKETT: A BIOGRAPHY by Deirdre Bair Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 736 pages; $19.95

In 1971 a Columbia University Ph.D. candidate sent a letter to Samuel Beckett in Paris asking if she could write his biography. This was clearly a folly of youth and inexperience. Everyone knew that scholarly big guns on both sides of the Atlantic were lined up waiting for a shot at the Beckett biography, stymied only by what everyone knew: the Nobel prizewinner would never sit still for any prying into his personal life.

Yet Beckett did just that for Deirdre...

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