Late in 1971, when I was 16, during a visit to the Santa Ana Public Library (in Southern California), I had a dramatic aesthetic experience.
At this point I had read fairly widely. I knew Hawthorne, Twain, Thoreau, Whitman, and Melville, Kafka and Sartre, Huxley and Orwell (Down and Out in Paris and London as well as Animal Farm). I’d read (or read at) Russell and Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, and people like B.F. Skinner, Buckminster Fuller, Arthur Koestler, Lewis Mumford, Marshall McLuhan, Tom Wolfe, and Joan Didion. I’d seen paintings by Picasso and heard Stravinsky, Wagner, and Morton Subotnick.
I was always on the lookout for more, though I didn’t always have a clear idea of what I was looking for.
That afternoon in 1971, however, I did know. I had come for a copy of Molloy, which I wanted to read after having seen a PBS broadcast called Beginning to End in which the Irish actor Jack MacGowran, dressed in a thick black cloak, stands in the Mojave Desert and recites passages from the works of Samuel Beckett.