Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wilder's Bidet, Beckett's Hopes

Watching The Lost Weekend I found myself trying to remember an anecdote about Billy Wilder, his wife and a shower. Via the Google God, I found it. He was in Paris and his wife asked him to arrange for a bidet to be shipped back to America. This proved impossible. Wilder cabled home, 'Impossible to obtain order stop suggest you do handstands in the shower.'
This further reminded me of the importance of telegramese to artists of genius. I was once persuaded, against my better judgment, to write to Samuel Beckett in Paris - I knew him slightly - asking him about his hopes and resolutions for the new year. The telegram arrived - 'Hopes colon zero stop resolutions colon zero stop.' Christopher Ricks subsequently used this in his superb book Beckett's Dying Words as an example of Great Sam's mastery of punctuation.


  1. a bit wordy by his standards, i'd have thought "stop" or just "zero" would have sufficed.