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Found Beckett Lost

August 17, 1986|ELIZABETH MEHREN

NEW YORK — Over at Grove Press, the lawsuits and hard feelings continue to fly between founder Barney Rosset and new owners Ann Getty and Lord George Weidenfeld. Fired from the top job, Rosset not only finds himself out of a job, but in possession of previously unpublished manuscripts by longtime Grove author Samuel Beckett. First to reach Rosset was "Eleutheria," a full-length play Beckett wrote in French around 1946, roughly the same time he wrote "Waiting for Godot." At first telling old pal Rosset he would do the translation himself, Beckett apparently changed his mind. "He said he just couldn't face doing the translation," Rosset said. Instead, Rosset opened his mail the other day to find a kind of consolation prize: a short ("by some stretch of the imagination it might be 16 pages," Rosset said) original prose piece Beckett wrote last month and, said Rosset, "very graciously dedicated to me" called "Fragments." And, said Rosset, laughing heartily, "I don't know what to do with it." Ideally, he said, "what my plan would be if I were to publish it would be to use it in a lead piece in a book. There are some other short Beckett prose pieces which have not been published in this country, and my idea would be to publish it together and call it ' "Fragments" and Other Pieces by Samuel Beckett,' and this would replace 'Eleutheria' for the moment." Rosset said, however, that his dispute with Getty and Weidenfeld makes publication difficult. "I honestly don't know what to do," Rosset said. At Grove, a company spokesman said only, "At present time there is no new (work by) Beckett on the list."

ON THE OTHER HAND, what Grove Press is talking about, and eagerly, is "Tongues of Flame," a first novel by 32-year-old British author Tim Parks. Rejected by 20 British publishers (including its present publisher, Heinemann) as well as six agents, the work was submitted--"as an afterthought," Grove says--by its author to Great Britain's prestigious Sinclair Awards Committee. When voting was in on the 1986 award for writers under 35, "Tongues of Flame" was selected as a runner-up for the top prize. Next the book went on to win the Somerset Maugham Award, Britain's leading prize for writers under 35, thus joining the ranks of Doris Lessing, V. S. Naipul, John Le Carre, Angela Carter, Maqrin Amus and Peter Ackroyd. The same evening, at the Society of Authors' award night, "Tongues of Flame" won the Betty Trask award, the country's highest-paying (Parks earned 13,500) book award. Grove Press will publish the book, the story of an upper-middle class British family whose lives are taken over by charmismatic religion, in January.

THE VERDICT: San Francisco writer and child-care specialist Stevanne Auerbach has been awarded $5,000 in a copyright infringement action against the U.S. government. The judgment gives the government non-exclusive use of Auerbach's 1976 book, "Choosing Child Care: A Guide for Parents." Auerbach had charged that the government had published a child-care guide similar to her book without compensating her or crediting her work.

SOURCE MATERIAL: When you've walked off with a $350,000 advance for a first novel, and when that work is being billed as "this season's blockbuster first novel by an unknown," you probably don't need to explain yourself. Still, an advance glimpse of Karleen Koen's "Through a Glass Darkly" (Random House, Sept. 2) comes equipped with a five-page bibliography. Among Koen's references: "Windsor Castle," a handbook; "Sex in History," by Reay Tannabill; "World Furniture" (no author); "Cottage Flowers" by Marie Angle; "The History of the Parson's Wife," by Margaret Watt; "A Book of Common Prayer" and "The Holy Bible."

WINNERS: A 29-year-old resident of Baltimore, Julie Agoos, has won the 1986 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Her winning manuscript, "Above the Land," will be published next spring by Yale University Press. For her book "The Minute Hand" (to be published next spring by the University of Massachusetts Press), poet Jane Shore has won the Academy of American Poets' 1986 Lamont Poetry Selection.

Philip Simmons, 28, of Washington University, will be awarded $3,000 for his winning entry, a short story called "Night Vision," in the 1985 Playboy College Fiction Contest. The story will be published in the magazine's October issue.

Awarded annually to a work published in America "judged to be the most significant contribution to religious liberalism," the 1985 Frederick G. Melcher Book Award has been presented to Edward Harrison, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Massachusetts. Harrison won the $1,000 prize for his book "Masks of the Universe" (Macmillan).

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