Reducing the Input: Gaddis and Beckett

Recently read Beckett’s Molloy and, after reading something of Marshall McLuhan’s son, Eric’s, on the role of art in human survival, can’t help but think of the two of them – Gaddis and Beckett – along similar lines, at least in some respects.

“As we grow older, we dim down the sensory responses and increase the sensory inputs, turning ourselves into robots. That is why art is indispensable for human survival… Art perpetually dislocates our usual sensory responses by offering a very abstract or meagre and selective input.”

I think it’s fair to say both Gaddis and Beckett are doing this, reducing the inputs, hacking away at thickets of information, forcing the reader to construct the novel alongside them. They go about it in different ways, but they’re both making a point of leaving things out, of demanding the reader contend with the “space between the notes”.


I call your book-length dialogues floated dialogue because while you present everything through dialogues—background information, letters, newspaper articles, radio texts, tv texts—too many outlines become blurred, persons and objects are externally undifferentiated, everything is allowed to be viewed through what is spoken only. The omniscient narrator gives insignificant, descriptive details of the physical situation in which the dialogue is carried on, but he is of no help with what the reader would be really interested in.


I will tell you something in that area, if you like a theory, which I may have come up with after I wrote the book—I’m not sure. It is the notion that the reader is brought in almost as a collaborator in creating the picture that emerges of the characters, of the situation, of what they look like—everything. So this authorial absence, which everyone from Flaubert to Barthes talks about, is the sense that the book is a collaboration between the reader and what is on the pages.

Something I find interesting is it doesn’t always work – nicely tying in with their mutual interest in failure – and I can end up picturing nothing at all… the words just words… but when it does work, I find myself confronted with something akin to the kind of flattening of affect that can come with psychedelic drugs; a bicycle or newspaper clipping takes on as much significance (or insignificance) as a character or line of dialogue, just as a mushroom trip might imbue a table leg or piece of fabric with the significance of a film or painting, and vice versa.


  1. Basic Channel, Lyot Rmx
  2. A Guy Called Gerald, Alita’s Dream
  3. Madonna, Lucky Star
  4. Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill
  5. Chief Keef, Save That Shit
  6. Chief Keef, I Don’t Know Dem
  7. Andre Cymone, Satisfaction
  8. Actress, Gershwin
  9. The Source feat. Candi Station, You Got The Love
  10. Young Thug, Iowa
  11. Bill Laswell & William S. Burroughs, Words of Advice for Young People
  12. Fleetwood Mac, Everywhere
  13. Joo Rita, Red Car Boogie
  14. Delroy Wilson, Ease Up
  15. Little Ann, Deep Shadows
  16. Red Fox, Shell Out Everything
  17. Norio Hanzawa, Stage 1 (Gunstar Heroes OST)
  18. Space Opera, Holy River
  19. Round Two, New Day feat. Andy Caine (Vocal Mix)
  20. Can, Moonshake
  21. The Loni Gamble Band feat. Lisa Warrington, I Like The Way You Do It
  22. Walter Becker, Down in the Bottom
  23. Pita, Untitled (Get Out, Track 3)
  24. Snd, Untitled (Tplay 1)
  25. Bone Skanless, Off the Streets of Saginaw
  26. Low Deep, Get Set feat. Kano, Ghetts, Big Seac, Demon and Doctor
  27. Baby, feat. Clipse, What Happened to that Boy
  28. Kodak Black, Ran Up A Check
  29. The Sleepy Jackson, Good Dancers
  30. Legowelt, Gina Flies to Space
  31. James Brown, There Was A Time (I Got To Move)
  32. Cyrus, Enforcement
  33. Mary Jane Girls, All Night Long
  34. GZA, Investigative Reports
  35. Autechre, 1 1 is
  36. Loski, Famlee
  37. Infiniti, Game One
  38. Jefferson Starship, Jane
  39. Public Image Ltd., The Order of Death
  40. Mad Mike, Hi-Tech Dreams
  41. The Rolling Stones, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
  42. Gaussian Curve, Impossible Island
  43. Maryn, Dreamboy (Reserva)
  44. Crazy Titch, When I’m Ere
  45. Madonna, Into the Groove
  46. John T. Gast, Kids C Ghosts (Bankruptcy Dub)
  47. Rod Stewart, Maggie May
  48. Mariya Takeuchi, Plastic Love
  49. John Cale, Baby You Know
  50. Morrissey, Jack the Ripper (Live)
  51. The Velvet Underground, The Gift (Instrumental)
  52. King Tubby, Zion Dub
  53. Zinc, Show Me
  54. Johnny Jungle, Johnny ’94 (Origin Unknown Remix)
  55. DJ Mayhem, Inesse
  56. Nas, Memory Lane
  57. Ghost, Come Back Again
  58. Remi, Talk About It (Steve Gurley Dub Mix)
  59. Dub War, Murderous Style
  60. David Bowie, Fame
  61. Stefflon Don, Senseless Remix
  62. Beastie Boys, Root Down
  63. AFX, .000890569
  64. Coil, The Hills Are Alive
  65. T2, Salsa
  66. Wiley & Riko, Lethal B Diss
  67. Peter Gabriel, Big Time
  68. Robert Hood, Stark Reality
  69. Lab Rat XL, Lab Rat 3
  70. John Abercrombie, Timeless
  71. Chuck Jackson, Any Day Now
  72. Chief Keef, Where’s Waldo
  73. Arthur Russell, You Did It Yourself
  74. Scarface, Born Killer
  75. K.I.D., Hupendi Muziki Wangu?! (You Don’t Like My Music)
  76. R.L. Burnside, Let My Baby Ride
  77. The Fall, Frightened
  78. XI, Dub Session
  79. Nada, Senza un Perche
  80. Miles Davis, Go Ahead John
  81. Drexciya, Hydro Theory
  82. Bay B Kane, Unfolding Perspective
  83. Thomas Newman, People Are Afraid To Merge
  84. Youngboy Never Broke Again, Run It Up
  85. Saint Etienne, Like A Motorway (Skin Up, You’re Already Dead – Autechre Remix)
  86. Dr. Dre, A N**** Witta Gun
  87. Hall of Hell, Straight Like Dat
  88. Joe Hisaishi, Sonatine II (In the Beginning)
  89. The Stooges, Down on the Street
  90. Sixpence None the Richer, Kiss Me
  91. Autechre, Eutow
  92. Break Machine, Street Dance
  93. The House Crew, Euphoria (Nino’s Dream)
  94. Carmine Coppola, Voyage
  95. Devo, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  96. Underground Resistance, The Final Frontier
  97. MC Lyte, Ruffneck
  98. Ginuwine, Pony
  99. Arvo Part, Tabula Rasa I
  100. Prince, I Wanna Be Your Lover