Friday, August 08, 2003

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

This image comes from the James Joyce Resource Center
a nice site put together by Edward Moloney and David
Fanning of Ohio State University.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Neil Steinberg writes about reading Ulysses in his Chicago Sun
Times column . Poor man's having a bit of a hard time with
it, but not so hard that he couldn't come up with this great first paragraph:

"With potscrape, clump and a gurgle, the blackgreen was pipingily
poured into a blazing white soft cup--O joi de cafe! Noir et chaud!
--and together, cup and I, went brim-sipping, shuffling, striding,
stepping over the iceblue speckled gumsmeared carpeting back
to my officespace....Sorry. Too much time reading James Joyce."

Steinberg isn't alone. For others struggling with Ulysses keep this
in mind: you don't neccesarily have to read it from front to back,
in the order it's presented. It's fine to jump around a bit. All of
Ulysses is worth reading, of course, but if skipping
around a bit keeps you involved then go for it.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Of the many, many musical references that Joyce uses in
Ulysses, there are some that are quite significant and some
that are only briefly alluded to. One of the more significant
references, though it's appearance is much more concise than
songs like The Croppy Boy and Love's Old Sweet Song is
the traditional Irish song Suil a Run. It is used in the Ithaca
chapter. Chapter 17 of Ulysses (Ithaca) is written entirely in
question and answer form, like a catechism. At one point as
Stephen and Bloom walk back to Bloom's house, they each refer
to one song, which represents their culture. Bloom picks a
Hebrew song with which I am unfamiliar. Stephen chooses a song
which tells of a young woman who is pining for her lover, who
has fled to France. If you don't have your copy of Ulysses handy,
you can find this portion on the internet here. But this particular question
and answer are below:

"What fragments of verse from the ancient Hebrew and ancient
Irish languages were cited with modulations of voice and translation
of texts by guest to host and by host to guest?
By Stephen: suil, suil, suil arun, suil go siocair agus suil go cuin
(walk, walk, walk your way, walk in safety, walk with care).
By Bloom: kifeloch, harimon rakatejch m'baad l'zamatejch (thy
temple amid thy hair is as a slice of pomegranate). "

There are many recordings of Suil a Run. The best is on the album
All of It by the band Skylark. Instrumentally, the song is simple and
perfect and no one sings it as beautifully as Len Graham
does in this recording. Suil Arun (the spelling varies) is also
a song from Joyce's personal repertoire. Listen to it if you get
the chance. The link above provides a sample of the song.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Joyce in Village Voice Advice Column
Dan Savage mentions James Joyce in his Village
Voice column Savage Love. Joyce comes up in
response to a question from a reader named Fart.
Find it at the link above.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Portrait of the Artist

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
was my first experience with James Joyce.
I read it much too young, eleven or twelve.
I don't know if you can even call that first
time "reading";. I skimmed through a lot of it
but I was struck by one episode in the book
that for me was so true to my experience as
a child, when one first realizes that injustice
exists and unfairness abounds.

The part I'm referring to is in Chapter One,
when young Stephen accidentally breaks his
glasses. His eyesight is quite poor and the doctor
has told him not to read until the new pair comes.
Stephen is exempted from studying. Then the much
feared prefect of studies comes in the class. He
pandies a few boys (hits them over the hand with
a pandybat) and is about to leave when he notices
Stephen. What happens afterwards is sickening -
not because it's any more brutal than the norm for
that time - but because James Joyce puts the fear
and the shame and the wonder of the whole event
into his pages.

I've printed an excerpt below. You can read the full
text of Portrait here though it's the kind of book you'll
want to snuggle somewhere comfortably with. If
you've never read Joyce, Chapter One of Portrait is an
excellent place to begin.

"The scalding water burst forth from his eyes and, burning
with shame and agony and fear, he drew back his shaking
arm in terror and burst out into a whine of pain. His body
shook with a palsy of fright and in shame and rage he felt
the scalding cry come from his throat and the scalding tears
falling out of his eyes and down his flaming cheeks.
-- Kneel down, cried the prefect of studies.
Stephen knelt down quickly pressing his beaten hands to
his sides. To think of them beaten and swollen with pain
all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they
were not his own but someone else's that he felt sorry for."

Thursday, July 10, 2003

A Very Expensive Book - But Worth it

RTE reported today that a long lost presentation copy of
Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" sold at
auction for 152,000 Euros. That's $171, 750 in US dollars.
Why so much? This was a very special presentation copy,
signed by Joyce to his friend and mentor poet Ezra Pound.
It was given to Pound by Joyce in March 1917. I'd love to
know who bought it, lucky devil.

Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce and Ezra Pound, who looks
remarkably like my friend Michael Doran.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Rings on His Fingers

One of the fads in Joyce's day came from Tin Pan Alley.
(More on TPA in a later post) For a few years, the big
fad was to write songs about the Irish in exotic situa-
tions. Surely you remember that big hit "O'Brien is Trying
to Learn to talk Hawaiian". No? Well that song faded away,
as did most songs of that genre, except one that Joyce
used in Ulysses.

I think this proves he had exceptional taste in music.
Of all the exotic-Irish songs, he chose the one that
would remain well know 100 years later to include in
his works. It goes like this ( You probably won't recognize
the first, but you should know the chorus):

Tim O'Shea was cast away upon an Indian Isle
The maidens there, they liked his hair
They liked his Irish smile.
So made him Cheif Panjandrum,
The Nabob of them all
They called him jimmy-bo-shea
And rigged him up so gay
So he wrote to Dublin Bay
To his sweetheart just to say:

Sure I've got rings on my fingers
Belles on my toes
Elephants to ride upon
My little Irish rose
So come to your nabob
And next St Patricks Day,
Be Mrs Mumbo-Jumbo-Jiddy-Bo-Shea

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

A poster from our annual Bloomsday event -
this one is from 1999. This year we held our
8th annual Bloomsday. It was my least favorite,
I think.

Our Bloomsday Committee is divided into two
camps: those who want to make it more scholarly
and professional, and those who want to make it
accessible to all levels of Joyce afecionados. I’m
in the latter group.

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