“I never knew how to play, till now. I longed to, but I knew it was impossible. And yet I often tried. I turned on all the lights, I took a good look all around, I began to play with what I saw. People and things ask nothing better than to play, certain animals too. All went well at first, they all came to me, pleased that someone should want to play with them. If I said, Now I need a hunchback, immediately one came running, proud as punch of his fine hunch that was going to perform. It did not occur to him that I might have to ask him to undress. But it was not long before I found myself alone, in the dark. That is why I gave up trying to play and took to myself for ever shapelessness and speechlessness, incurious wondering, darkness, long stumbling with outstretched arms, hiding. Such is the earnestness from which, for nearly a century now, I have never been able to depart. From now on it will be different. I shall never do anything any more from now on but play. No, I must not begin with an exaggeration. But I shall play a great part of the time, from now on, the greater part, if I can. But perhaps I shall not succeed any better than hitherto. Perhaps as hitherto I shall find myself abandoned, in the dark, without anyone to play with. Then I shall play with myself. To have been able to conceive such a plan is encouraging.”
—Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies
“…Look, Lieutenant, we’ve conquered half the world. We must police it for a while. You know that.”
“But the other half?” Tonder asked.
“They will fight on hopelessly for a while,” said Loft.
“Then we must be spread out all over.”
“For a while,” said Loft.
Prackle said nervously, “I wish you’d make him shut up. I wish you would shut him up. Make him stop it.”
—John Steinbeck, The Moon Is Down
I can’t say much about the fellow in red. His head was covered and he appeared to be asleep. I hope it was sleep. The tall fellow on the right was silent too, but he had a sign on the sidewalk in front of him, black sharpied letters on bright yellow paper promising that he would read the future, interpret dreams, provide spiritual succor, three services I thought might be useful. Of course those were not his exact words. I pushed a dollar bill through the slot in the box at his feet and pulled a slip of paper from the basket in his hands. It didn’t seem right to read it there in the street in front of him and the fellow in red, so I read it later, a few blocks away, over a bottled water in a corner table at a bar that claimed to be a piano bar but that lacked a piano, which was fine with me. Will you be surprised if I tell you that the wisdom it offered in a full paragraph of cramped, italicized text was neither profound nor eerily accurate, but so vague and banal that I forgot every word within seconds of reading it? I was surprised and disappointed but also somehow comforted, and although the suspense was gone and nothing remained to be revealed, almost as soon as I had dropped the slip of paper on the table beside my water bottle and my friend’s beer, the vacuity of its message, combined with the strange and disturbing circumstances by which it found its way into my hand, began to suggest new, deeper and more satisfying mysteries.