Redheaded Ramblings: Sheila A-stray  

"This race and this country and this life produced me, he said. I shall express myself as I am." -- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

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It is the 4th or 5th straight day of rain. I am in heaven. Everybody else appears to very annoyed.

At midnight tonight, the next Harry Potter book is being released. I know a couple of people who are going to random Barnes and Nobles' to get in line at circa 9 pm. Good on ya!

I love mania like that. Member people wrestling over the one remaining Cabbage-Patch doll?

  contact Sheila Link: 6/20/2003 02:00:00 PM

Friday, June 20, 2003  



Here is another entry from the devastatingly embarrassing journal I kept during my time in Ireland as a 14 year old girl. I enjoy torturing myself by making this all public. I was laughing so hard on the bus this morning reading over some of this stuff I had to put the thing away.

April 20, 1982
We left bright and early for Cork. I was so exhausted I slept the whole way.

Today is sort of grey but not bad. We are staying in the St. Kilda's B&B, a huge brick house in town. Cork - oh, I have been waiting to be in a really big city for a long time. The bustle -- the drive -- I love it. Our rooms are really large and I have a double bed all to myself. To be truthful, though, the view from the window stinks. An alley with clothes hanging out on lines. Oh, well. I love the city.

After we settled down and I relaxed, we walked into town to find a coffee shop. I watched all the kids in uniforms come flooding out of the schools for lunch. It took us a while to find a place but we spotted a cafe in this huge internal mall that sold sugar doughnuts. The stools were really high. The doughnuts were all right, to say the most. Since it was lunch hour, 1000s of kids were in every coffee shop we passed and sitting out on steps and benches. They practically take over Cork for an hour.

After a while, we got up and started to look around the mall. They had a great bookstore and a great poster store with posters of Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and ... drumroll ... HARRISON FORD!!! Oh, I wanted it so much, and I still can't figure out why I didn't ask Mum. Probably because she would have said, "Well, we don't have to get that in Ireland." But that's why it would have been so special.

We went outside and while Mum and Jean went to the Tourist Office, me, Dad, Bren, and Siobhan sat down beside the river (very polluted). It was so so sunny and bright. Everything glared and we had to squint. The park was quiet, in great contrast to the mad rush of millions of kids a quarter of an hour ago. Siobhan got big thrills by throwing rocks in the water and all that sun on my back was starting to make me drowsy. I put my head down and dozed off until Mum and Jean came back. They had a few pamphlets on tourist things in Cork. Dad wanted to go back to some bookstores and Jean and Siobhan were dying to go on a double-decker bus.

And so we went back to the Tourist Office, a cool soft place with no blaring lights to find out where to get on the bus. So we went back out. Oh, I love the city. There was a big fountain and everything on the go. Stripes is playing at the cinema. Bill Murray's face makes me laugh. We found the bus stop and just in time. A big shiny green double-decker was waiting. We ran on, went up the stairway, and sat down up front. I wasn't really sweating in the thrill of it all, but it was neat to be so high.

But we had to get off two bus-stops later, right after the conductor collected our fare.

We came back up to our rooms and I studied English for a while, so I could watch Trapper John, M.D., with gorgeous Gregory Harrison. I really got a lot done, so I drew for a while while Mum and Dad went out to supper. When it was 7:55 (TV shows are always on at the strangest times here), we all trooped down the stairs to the lounge, a nice comfy room with a big heater. A girl, Paula (13) was there doing her homework. I liked the look of her at first, but then when Gregory came on and I said, "Oh, I like him", she snorted and covered her mouth. And through the whole show, she kept groaning and flipping through all her school books, wanting us to think, "Oh, my, what a lot of hard work she has. Irish kids have so much homework." We didn't say a word.

Dad found a bookstore with all these second-hand Enid Blyton's for only 35p each. So he's going to let me buy them all!! YAY!

  contact Sheila Link: 6/20/2003 10:21:00 AM


I had a second date with the man from Massachusetts who shall remain nameless. (Description of first date here) I'm just keeping him nameless because I respect at least that little bit of his privacy. He doesn't even know what a "blog" is, though, so I could shout his social security number to the moon and he would never know.

We met up last Friday. It was a date. We met first at Willie McBride's, the pub where we met. We met there for a drink. I said when I sat down next to him, "I think you and I are in a rut." He looked very nice, once again. Was in a suit ... a very cool suit. No tie. I, however, was wearing a black biker's jacket, blue jeans, and big black boots. My hair down and wild. I took one look at him and said, "Once again, you look very nice, and I look like I have come off the back of a Harley." He glanced sideways over at me, and commented flatly, "You're hot."

"Hot." It struck me as a funny word. Juvenile. "Hot."

The man has never had Thai food in his life (how the hell is that possible?) so we went for Thai food. He's a math geek. And I wish I was a math geek. So it works out well. He explained the relevance of John Nash's theories (because I asked him to: "Basically, what is the big deal with game theory? Why did he win the Nobel?") ... so we have interesting conversations.

I am always intrigued by men with INFORMATION. I like men who KNOW things. Who are not, perhaps, openly emotional, but can answer questions, and who can TELL ME THINGS. I like information better than emotion.

After Thai food, we walked through the light drizzle to a nearby pub, for a drink. It was a beautiful night. Blue, dark, rainy. I was on a date. On a Friday night. I'm never on a date on Friday night. It was 10 pm or so. We took about 3 sips of our beers, and then he said, "You want to go to Atlantic City?" I said, thinking he meant "someday" or "this summer", and said, "Sure!" There was a long frozen pause, where neither of us said a word, or moved, and then I said, "You mean right now?" He said, "Yeah. Right now."

This is where my age shows. It was 10 pm. In an hour or so, it would be about time for me to hit the sack. It's a two and a half hour drive to Atlantic City. So if I said yes, that meant that I had to accept the fact that I would not get to bed until, oh, three, four, five o'clock in the morning. I am a fascist when it comes to my sleep. Do not try to mess up my REM cycles. I hesitated for about a second, and then decided, Oh, what the hell. Life's short. "Sure. Let's go to Atlantic City."

We left our unfinished beers there, and walked to his car through the drizzle which was actually no longer drizzle, but a torrential downpour, with thunder and lightning booming through the sky. We drove to Atlantic City through a literal monsoon.

I called it a "monsoon" and he kindly informed me that "monsoons" only happen in the Pacific. See what I mean? INFORMATION.

We drove for 2 and a half hours. We basically had a road-trip on our second date. We talked about fractals. And schizophrenia. I told him I had briefly dated a schizophrenic, and his response was: "And how were they?" We talked about mathematicians. And music. We listened to music. We were going to Atlantic City. I don't even KNOW this person.

By the time we arrived at the sinful neon city on the sea, it was 12:30 at night, and I was positively exhausted. I actually got a bit alarmed. How the hell am I going to last through this? I need to go to bed. My eyeballs are drying up. This is an hour past my bed-time. Mr. Nameless Man was on a mission to find me Visine. I was losing it. "I can't see! My lenses! I have to go to bed!" We went to Caesar's, which is over-the-top cheese-ball. I was laughing out loud looking at the faux Roman decor. It must be the oxygen they pump into the air of the casinos, because within 20 minutes, I perked up.

Not only did I perk up, but I sat down at a slot machine, and won 50 dollars in 10 minutes. I only put in two bucks ... and suddenly, 50 dollars came pouring into my cup. I was exhilarated. Like a little kid. "I'm gonna buy sandals! Maybe a CD or two!"

Mr. Nameless Man is not a slots kind of person. He sat at a blackjack table, and ended up walking away with 400 dollars. I don't know how much he gambled. To be perfectly honest, I don't like gambling. It makes me nervous. Money is not something to risk, to toss around, to play with. Money is to be SPENT. Or to hold onto, to save up for. So it's not really my thing. However, I loved winning 50 dollars. I'll tell ya that.

By now it was two o'clock in the morning. We cashed out. I wanted to go see the beach, and the boardwalk, but the monsoon continued to rage, so it was not condusive. I love knowing the ocean is close, though. I love love love it.

And then, we hauled ass back to Hoboken. I slept for most of the way home. He dropped me off at 4:45 in the morning.

It's good, occasionally, to say Yes to things which, at first, may seem anathematic to you ... I'm very rigid with my sleep, and with my time. But ... being too rigid is no good.

And we HAD a date for tonight ... he invited me to the dinner cruise his company was throwing ... I was kind of panicking about what to wear. Then last night, he called me twice. I was deeply deeply involved in the VH1 "Greatest Moments in Rock" and didn't feel like talking, so I didn't pick up. I also didn't listen to the messages, assuming he was just seeing what I was up to, if I wanted to get together. But: please don't call me twice, was (and still is) my attitude. He called me once at about 7:30, and then later at 11:15. I wasn't too wacky about that. Don't stalk me. It's too early for stalking.

But it turns out, his grandmother died and he was calling me to let me know he couldn't take me to the cruise thing-y.

Damn. I felt kind of like a jerk, truth be told. Thank the Lord I didn't pick up on that second call and say to him, in true Sagittarian-style, "Listen: please don't call me twice in one night. If you don't hear from me right away, it means I'm busy. I'll get back to you when I get back to you."

Phew. That would have been real bad.

Redheaded Sheila is still watching the news, still involved, still keeping herself informed ... but I am not feeling like writing about it at the moment. It's exhausting. I'll get back to it. But I've got other writing projects going on now, too: fiction, essays, etc. A lot of time, new muscles being used. It's all good stuff.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/19/2003 12:03:00 PM

Thursday, June 19, 2003  

It's a rainy rainy morning.

I've been a wee bit ill. Last night, my roommate and I had a wonderful and funny night watching VH1's 100 Greatest Songs in the Past 25 Years. Great program. We sang along. We had bouts of nostalgia and love for songs we hadn't thought of in years.

Hungry like the wolf.
I can't go for that (no can do) - GREAT SONG
Enter sandman
Tainted love
You gotta fight --- for your right -- to paaaaaaarty

One of my favorite parts about the program were the mini-interviews with other artists about each song in question. The generosity of artists towards one another. Big stars talking about how such and such a song had such a huge influnce on them, how lives can be changed by hearing a SONG. So true.

Also, dammit, the lead guy from the Goo Goo Dolls is a fox. I could barely deal with him at all. He is ... kind of scary gorgeous, actually. A freak of nature.

Jen and I sang at the tops of our lungs.

"Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry?"

Lyrics returning to our consciousness 20 years later. Hilarious how that happens. Some things never go away.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/18/2003 07:22:00 AM

Wednesday, June 18, 2003  


Friend Aedin called me yesterday, late in the afternoon, in the middle of my own James Joyce mania, and invited me downtown (wayyyy downtown) to the opening of a new bar called Ulysses, where a Bloomsday celebration was in full swing. Twas fortuitous.

So I found my way there, which was a bit arduous. I had to get to Hanover Square, a teeny little park squashed down between towering Wall Street buildings. Closer to the East River than the Hudson. As a matter of fact, Hanover Square was so far east that to my left, as I walked there, I could see the gleaming river a block away, and the buildings in Brooklyn on the other side. It felt a bit like Chicago: being in a large city, but always being aware of the nearness of a large body of water just blocks away. It changes the feeling of a city. Opens it up, lets in possibility, excitement. It was significantly chillier downtown, because of the wind tunnels created by all those tall buildings crowded in upon one another. The night was beautiful, perfection. It was only six o'clock, so the sun still was up, but again, because it's all very tall buildings down there (as opposed to Chelsea or the Village) it felt like night-time.

Because I didn't know exactly where I was going, and because I wasn't clear on the A to B route on how to get there (and neither was Aedin, all she said was, "It's really far down"), I took the C train to Chambers.

New Yorkers will hear me say "I took the C train to Chambers" and will know what that means. It's the World Trade Center site. It's the train I used to take for my Monday night classes at the World Trade Center. It's the train I would take to go see my sister Siobhan play at a bar called The Orange Bear, a block away from the World Trade. I never have a reason to go that far downtown anymore, so any time I do, like last night, what the f*** has happened hits me in the face all over again.

The Chambers Street subway stop is huge. The platforms in between the trains are enormous, to handle the once-massive throngs of commuters pouring into the WTC on a daily basis. Also, subway platforms usually have concrete floors, stained, damp in spots, kind of gross, whatever, it's a subway. But not at Chambers. Not for the white-collar commuters and tourists. It's a tile floor down there. Shiny, immaculate. So the whole place looks different. For the most part, before September 11, the only time I was in that subway station was at around 6:30 pm, racing down to the WTC for my class, just as everybody else was pouring OUT of WTC to go home. I had to literally beat my way through the crowds. The words "sea of people" would be appropriate. Making my way thru the turnstile to get OUT of the subway station was like going into battle. I would have to negotiate with the 50 people lined up to come through the same turnstile going INTO the subway station. It was absolutely insane. I never got used to it. Even as a New Yorker. That many people. At rush hour.

Now, of course, the Chambers Street station is very different. People still work downtown, obviously, but not at all to the degree when the WTC was still standing.

The second you step out of that train, you feel the difference.

You feel what has happened. You feel the impact, all over again.This is not an intellectual thing, this "feeling" does not come from your brain, or your memories of September 11, or from cerebral consciousnss, or anything like that. It has nothing to do with anything that is WITHIN you. It is in the air down there. It is external. It is like how people describe what it feels like to visit Auschwitz, or Dachau. You are in the presence of something horrific. Something beyond belief. It is haunted. I am not speaking metaphorically, or new age-y. I am speaking of reality. It is a place filled with ghosts. It has not recovered. The space, the air, the ground itself has not recovered from what occurred there.

First of all, it was 6:15, 6:30, when I got out of the train. My normal time to be down there, from the old days when I was at the WTC once a week. But the tiled clean subway station was nearly empty. Maybe 10 people got off the train with me. Nobody. The place echoes with only a couple of footfalls. I am not used to the emptiness. I will never be used to the emptiness. I still thought to myself, "Wait a second...where is everybody?" And in the next second comes the impact. All over again.

It is a collective experience. I am not an individual when I go down to that area of town, the few times I have been down there since. You are no longer yourself, your individual self. You join some kind of wider human family. That feeling which pulsed insistently through New York City in the weeks after September 11, before dissipating into normalcy (or: an aftermath which masqueraded as normalcy: rude cab drivers, people bitching each other out on the street, etc.), is still alive downtown. The feeling of collective pain, of the importance of memory, the necessity of loving one another, of being kind and helpful to one another because we are all in this HELL together ... All of that is felt, palpably, the second you get off the train. People speak in lowered respectful voices. You are in church.

Or, if not church, then a more generalized holy space. You hear people talk about the World Trade Center site as hallowed ground, and again, this is not an intellectual concept. It is reality. It is FELT, and palpably, in the air you breathe.

It is devastatingly sad. Too sad for tears. No response but silence is appropriate..

Everything is different.

Nobody has recovered. Recovery? What a friggin' JOKE.

You emerge from the subway, and you are on the corner across the street from the big hole in the ground. St. Paul's Church is right there, right beside you as you climb the stairs. The iron gates, wreathed with memorabilia, notes, flowers, flags, patches from firehouses all across the country, and the world. A firehouse from New Zealand, from Germany. The church is a miracle, as everybody knows. The story is well-known. It is wreathed in significance. It's not a holy place because it is a church. It's holy ground, holy air.

The hole across the street still shocks with its enormity.

The iron cross found in the rubble stands alone, behind the fence. People mill around. Tourists. But there is a pall over everything. You can feel it. It draped over you like a blanket. You can kind of forget about all of this uptown. But not down here. Never down here.

Later, Aedin said, "The souls are still here. I saw the bodies fall. The souls fall. And they're still here."

That is what is in the air. Not just memories of that day, but the actual souls of those who were lost.

There is nothing casual down there. I started south, looking for Hanover Square, but my thought-process was no longer of the normal going-to-meet-someone variety (as in "Okay, so it's 6:15 ... I think Hanover Square is off Liberty Street ... Should I call Aedin and let her know I'm close?") None of that. There was no thought-process at all. Just solemn awareness of the hallowed ground I was walking on.

The other thing I notice when I'm down there is: that the buildings surrounding, the ones that survived ... it's hard to really see them for what they are, just buildings, black glass, concrete, windows ... because laid over them is an afterimage of what they looked like for weeks following the attack. Everything down there was covered in dust. The air was white with dust. You scuffed through it on the street. It covered your clothes, got in your throat. The buildings were veiled in white, blasted by the dust from the rubble. They looked completely different than the normal workaday buildings I saw before me. It is hard to put together the two images. It is hard to realize they are the same buildings.

It seems absolutely inconceivable that they are the same buildings.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for the people who still work down there, who deal with walking by that hole every day. I suppose anything can become relatively normal, with enough time. You get used to only having one leg, although you always miss having two.

By the time I found the bar "Ulysses" (which was hopping, it was the day of its opening) I was far enough away from the hole, I couldn't see it anymore, that I was able to leave it behind. Momentarily.

The Bloomsday celebration was in full swing.

I sat on a barstool, with Aedin, and her friends, all Irish, (no hyphens for them) and listened to people read excerpts from Ulysses, poems by Joyce, his broadsides. There were a couple of singers there. An incredible Irish soprano, who sang "Danny Boy" with such a full and open throat that everybody was in tears. Another singer sang "The Lass of Aughrim", and we all sang along. There were duets. An Irish woman read from "The Citizen" in Ulysses, the section where two pages of names are rattled off. She plowed through, with her thick brogue, chewing up the names, spitting them out. As the list went on and on and on, and she never faltered and never paused, it got funnier and funnier and funnier. When she finished the list with a "take THAT" nod of her head, the place erupted into cheers. Aedin read a bawdy poem with gusto.

Frank McCourt was there. And other illustrious Irish citizens of New York. Actors, musicians, writers. Every single person, including myself, had their copy of Ulysses. The table was strewn with Xerox-ed pages from Ulysses, certain parts highlighted, written on, sections crossed out.

I felt like everybody was absolutely insane, and I felt like I was in the perfect company.

All day long I had felt lonely for Ireland, lonely for people who were Irish, and then lo and behold, there I was, surrounded by more Irish-ness than I thought I could stand, singing "Danny Boy" at the top of my lungs with 30 other people, everybody wiping away tears.

Afterwards, I walked across lower Manhattan, through the wind tunnels, to take the ferry home. The way I used to do after my Monday night classes. One of my favorite rituals. Sitting on the roof deck of the ferry boat, watching Manhattan pull away from me. This is another thing I have not done since September 11. Then, what had been most spectacular and overwhelming about the receding skyline, was obviously the World Trade. Impossibly high. Impossibly high and lit-up. Dwarfing everything else. If the roof-deck was empty, I would lie on my back, and watch the towers move, float away, dizzying myself.

I was the only one up on the roof, last night. I was feeling very Irish, the sounds of the brogues resonating through my head. Something in me had been completely satisfied.

But the floodlights from Ground Zero were sobering ... You never forget. You never forget.

And now, when the boat pulled away, all I saw was empty dark sky above me. It didn't make me dizzy at all.

I'm not used to it. I'm used to getting dizzy when that ferry first pulls away.

What comes to mind is a poem by Auden - "The More Loving One". I know he's not Irish, but that's no matter. I can feel the poem's ultimate truth ... but it's such a difficult truth. One of the hardest. Oh, I fight with this poem. I fight tooth and nail. It was the last stanza which came to my mind as the ferry pulled away, and the sky seemed so empty.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

God bless Ireland. God bless New York City. And happy Bloomsday.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/17/2003 07:25:00 AM

Tuesday, June 17, 2003  



All of the Joycean quotations below are in honor of Bloomsday, in case you just arrived here and wondered what the hell was going on.

This is the meaning of Bloomsday.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/17/2003 06:57:00 AM

Interviewer to Joyce: Whom do you consider the greatest writers in English today?

Joyce: Aside from myself, I don't know.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 05:02:00 PM

Monday, June 16, 2003  

Joyce hated monuments of any kind. Joyce and Valery Larbaud were driving in a taxi past the Arc de Triomphe, with its eternal burning flame.

Larbaud: How long do you think it will burn?

Joyce: Until the Unknown Soldier gets up in disgust and blows it out.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:57:00 PM

"I respect Mr. Joyce's integrity as an author in that he has not taken the easy part. I never had any respect for his common sense or for his intelligence, apart from his gifts as a writer."

-- Ezra Pound

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:55:00 PM

"With me, the thought is always simple."

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:54:00 PM

"I confess that it is an extremely tiresom book but it is the only book which I am able to write at present."

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:53:00 PM

"A writer should never write about the extraordinary. That is for the journalist."

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:52:00 PM

"A German lady called to see me today. She is a writer and wanted me to give an opinion on her work, but she told me she had already shown it to the porter of the hotel where she stays. So I said to her, 'What did your hotel porter think of your work?' She said, 'He objected to a scene in my novel where my hero goes out into the forest, finds a locket of the girl he loves, picks it up and kisses it passionately.' 'But,' I said, 'that seems to me to be a very pleasing and touching incident. What did your hotel porter find wrong with it?' And then she tells me he said, 'It's all right for the hero to find the locket and to pick it up and kiss it, but before he kissed it you should have made him wipe the dirt off it with his coat sleeve.' And I told this [German lady], and I meant it too, to go back to that hotel porter and always to take his advice. 'That man,' I said, 'is a critical genius. There is nothing I can tell you that he can't tell you.' "

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:50:00 PM

"To me, an Irish safety pin is more important than an English epic."

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:45:00 PM

Quote from Ellmann's biography of Joyce:

...Joyce plunged back into work on Ulysses.

The early chapters had been brought to the point where they could be published. He entered into correspondence with Miss Weaver and [Ezra] Pound about the possibility of printing the book first in serial form ... Miss Weaver was more than willing, and offered 50 pounds for the rights. In December and January Joyce sent the three opening chapters to Pound, who was delighted with them. After reading the first, he complimented Joyce on December 18 with the dreary humor of his pseudo-American lingo, 'Wall, Mr Joice, I recon your a damn fine writer, that's what I recon'. An' I recon' this here work o' yourn is some concarn'd literature. you can take it from me, an' I'm a jedge.' Pound was then in the course of shifting his primary American allegiance from Harriet Monroe's Poetry to the Little Review of Margaret Anderson and Jane heap, which was more avant-garde in its interests ... The two women were interested in Joyce but were not allowed to communicate directly with him; Pound, acting as intermediary, discouraged such an approach and, as they later complained, treated Joyce like a private possession.

They were none the less delighted when Pound sent them the Telemachiad in February. No sooner did Margaret Anderson read the opening words of the Proteus episode, "Ineluctable modality of the visible; at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide ...' than she cried, 'This is the most beautiful thing we'll ever have. We'll print it if it's the last effort of our lives.'

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:44:00 PM

When Portrait of the Artist came out, Joyce sent a copy to Ezra Pound, one of his loudest champions. Joyce had signed it with a limerick:

There once was a lounger named Stephen
Whose youth was most odd and uneven.
He throve on the smell
Of a horrible hell
That a Hottentot wouldn't believe in.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:36:00 PM

Joyce tutored two young women in English, while living in Zurich. He read to them from Ulysses, of all things. He did this to demonstrate to the girls that English was also inadequate at times.

The girls asked him: Aren't there enough words for in English?

Joyce replied: "Yes, there are enough, but they aren't the right ones."

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:33:00 PM

"I'd like a language which is above all languages, a language to which all will do service. I cannot express myself in English without enclosing myself in a tradition."

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:31:00 PM

"If I knew Ireland as well as R[udyard] K[ipling] seems to know India, I fancy I could write something good."

-- James Joyce, 1907

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:10:00 PM

"It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass."

-- James Joyce, responding to a potential publishers objections to material in The Dubliners

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:08:00 PM

"Ireland remains the brain of the United Kingdom. The British, judiciously practical and ponderous, furnish the over-stuffed stomach of humanity with a perfect gadget -- the water closet. The Irish, condemned to express themselves in a language not their own, have stamped on it the mark of their own genius and compete for glory with the civilized nations. This is then called English literature."

-- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:04:00 PM

"Dubliners, strictly speaking, are my fellow-countrymen, but I don't care to speak of our 'dear dirty Dublin' as they do. Dubliners are the most hopeless, useless and inconsistent race of charlatans I have ever come across, on the island or the continent. This is why the English Parliament is full of the greatest windbags in the world. The Dubliner passes his time gabbing and making the rounds in bars or taverns or cathouses, without ever getting 'fed up' with the double doses of whiskey and Home Rule, and at night, when he can hold no more and is swollen up with poison like a toda, he staggers from the side-door and, guided by an instinctive desire for stability along the straight line of the houses, he goes slithering his backside against all walls and corners. He goes 'arsing along' as we say in English. There's the Dubliner for you." -- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 04:03:00 PM

"What is wrong with all these Irish writers -- what the blazes are they always snivelling about?" -- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 03:57:00 PM


Joyce wrote the following letter to Nora, on September 16, 1904, shortly before he and she fled Ireland together (without getting married).

When I was waiting for you last night I was even more restless. It seemed to me that I was fighting a battle with every religious and social force in Ireland for you and that I had nothing to rely on but myself. There is no life here -- no naturalness or honesty. People live together in the same houses all their lives and at the end they are as far apart as ever ... The fact that you can choose to stand beside me in this way in my hazartdous life fills me with great pride and joy ... Allow me, dearest Nora, to tell you how much I desire that you should share any happiness that may be mine and to assure you of my great respect for that love of yours which it is my wish to deserve and to answer.
  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 03:55:00 PM


James Joyce wrote this to Stanislaus, his brother, as he was working on Dubliners, beginning to find his own form:

Don't you think there is a certain resemblance betwen the mystery of the Mass and what I am trying to do? I mean that I am trying ... to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure or spiritual enjoyment by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own ... for their mental, moral, and spiritual uplift.

Also, to Stanislaus:
Do you see that man who has just skipped out of the way of the tram? Consider, if he had been run over, how significant every act of his would at once become. I don't mean for the police inspector. I mean for anybody who knew him. And his thoughts, for anybody that could know them. It is my idea of the significance of trivial things that I want to give the two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 03:50:00 PM


"You can't imagine what it was like for me to be thrown into the life of this man." -- Nora Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 03:46:00 PM


"Paris amuses me very much but I quite understand why there is no poetry in French literature; for to create poetry out of French life is impossible. I have no sympathy with the 'gallant' French. I am glad the Germans beat them and hope they will beat them again. But heaven forbid the French should perish and the world lose such cooks and dancing masters." -- James Joyce, in a letter to Lady Gregory

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 03:45:00 PM

Oh, by the way, most of any understanding I have about Ulysses came from my dad. I read it last summer, and my dad coached me through the experience. I could definitely get the startling genius of the language, but any sense of the underlying pattern (which is where the REAL genius of the book lies) was given to me by him.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 02:41:00 PM



PART I: TELEMACHIA - Ulysses' departure - This section of Joyce's book has 3 parts, Telemachus, Nestor, and Proteus -- Of course, NONE of them are labeled in the book ... You have to get a guide book to figure out what the hell Joyce is up to. It also helps to read the Odyssey again, or in conjunction with Ulysses.

TELEMACHUS episode- which has to do with theology, as far as I can tell, not knowing all of Joyce's "code words"
He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly.

-- God, he said quietly. Isn't the sea what Algy calls it: a grey sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look.

Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft by a crooked crack, hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too.

-- I pinched it out of the skivvy's room, Buck Mulligan said. It does her all right. The aunt always keeps plain-looking servants for Malachi. lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula.

Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen's peering eyes.

-- The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you.

Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness:

-- It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.

The nickel shaving-bowl shone, forgotten, on the parapet. Why should I bring it down? Or leave it there all day, forgotten friendship?

He went over to it, held it in his hands awhile, feeling its coolness, smelling the clammy slaver of the lather in which the brush was stuck. So I carried the boat of incense then at Clongowes. I am another now and yet the same. A servant too. A server of a servant.

The doorway was darkened by an entering form.

-- The milk, sir.

-- Come in, ma'am, Mulligan said. Kinch, get the jug.

An old woman came forward and stood by Stephen's elbow.

-- That's a lovely morning, sir, she said. Glory be to God.

-- To whom? Mulligan said, glancing at her. Ah, to be sure.

Stephen reached back and took the milkjug from the locker.

-- The islanders, Mulligan said to Haines casually, speak frequently of the collector of prepuces.

-- How much, sir? asked the old woman.

-- A quart, Stephen said.

He watched her pour into the measure and thence into the jug rich white milk, not hers. Old shrunken paps. She poured again a measureful and a tilly. Old and secret she had entered from a morning world, maybe a messenger. She praised the goodness of the milk, pouring it out. Crouching by a patient cow at daybreak in the lush field, a witch on her toadstool, her wrinkled fingers quick at the squirting dugs. They lowed about her whom they knew, dewsilky cattle. Silk of the kine and poor old woman, names given her in old times. A wandering crone, lowly form of an immortal serving her conqueror and her gay betrayer, their common cuckquean, a messenger from the secret morning. To serve or to upbraid, whether he could not tell: but scorned to beg her favour.

-- It is indeed, ma'am, Buck Mulligan said, pouring milk into their cups.

-- Taste it, sir, she said.

He drank at her bidding.

-- If we could only live on good food like that, he said to her somewhat loudly, we wouldn't have the country full of rotten teeth and rotten guts. Living in a bogswamp, eating cheap food and the streets paved with dust, horsedung and consumptives' spits.

-- Are you a medical student, sir? the old woman asked.

-- I am, ma'am, Buck Mulligan answered.

Stephen listened in scornful silence. She bows her old head to a voice that speaks to her loudly, her bonesetter, her medicineman; me she slights. To the voice that will shrive and oil for the grave all there is of her but her woman's unclean loins, of man's flesh made not in God's likeness, the serpent's prey. And to the loud voice that now bids her be silent with wondering unsteady eyes.

-- Do you understand what he says? Stephen asked her.

-- Is it French you are talking, sir? the old woman said to Haines.

Haines spoke to her again a longer speech, confidently.

-- Irish, Buck Mulligan said. Is there Gaelic on you?

-- I thought it was Irish, she said, by the sound of it. Are you from west, sir?

-- I am an Englishman, Haines answered.

-- He's English, Buck Mulligan said, and he thinks we ought to speak Irish in Ireland.

-- Sure we ought to, the old woman said, and I'm ashamed I don't speak the language myself. I'm told it's a great language by them that knows.

-- Grand is no name for it, said Buck Mulligan. Wonderful entirely.

NESTOR episode - which has to do with history, catechism
-- Where do you begin in this? Stephen asked, opening another book.

-- Weep no more, Comyn said,

-- Go on then, Talbot.

-- And the history, sir?

-- After, Stephen said. Go on, Talbot.

A swarthy boy opened a book and propped it nimbly under the breastwork of his satchel. He recited jerks of verse with odd glances at the text:

-- Weep no more, woful shepherd, weep no more
For Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead,
Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor. . .

It must be movement then, an actuality of the possible as possible. Aristotle's phrase formed itself within the gabbled verses and floated out into the studious silence of the library of Saint Genevieve where he had read, sheltered from the sin of Paris, night by night. By his elbow a delicate Siamese conned a handbook of strategy. Fed and feeding brains about me: under glowlamps, impaled, with faintly beating feelers: and in my mind's darkness a sloth of the underworld, reluctant, shy of brightness, shifting her dragon scaly folds. Thought is the thought of thought. Tranquil brightness. The soul is in a manner all that is: the soul is the form of forms. Tranquility sudden, vast, candescent: form of forms.

Talbot repeated:

-- Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves,
Thorough the dear might . . .

-- Turn over, Stephen said quietly. I don't see anything.

-- What, sir? Talbot asked simply, bending forward.

His hand turned the page over. He leaned back and went on again having just remembered. Of him that walked the waves. Here also over these craven hearts his shadow lies and on the scoffer's heart and lips and on mine. It lies upon their eager faces who offered him a coin of the tribute. To Caesar what is Caesar's to God what is God's. A long look from dark eyes, a riddling sentence to be woven on the church's looms. Ay.

Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved his weak watery blood drained from her own.

Mr Deasy stared sternly for some moments over the mantelpiece at the shapely bulk of a man in tartan fillibegs: Albert Edward Prince of Wales.

-- You think me an old fogey and an old tory, his thoughtful voice said. I saw three generations since O'Connell's time. I remember the famine. Do you know that the orange lodges agitated for repeal of the union twenty years before O'Connell did or before the prelates of your communion denounced him as a demagogue? You fenians forget some things.

Glorious, pious and immortal memory. The lodge of Diamond in Armagh the splendid behung with corpses of papishes. Hoarse, masked and armed, the planeters' covenant. The black north and true blue bible. Croppies lie down.

Stephen sketched a brief gesture.

-- I have rebel blood in me too, Mr Deasy said. On the spindle side. But I am descended from sir John Blackwood who voted for the union. We are all Irish, all kings' sons.

-- Alas, Stephen said.

-- History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

PROTEUS episode - which is an inner monologue ... it has to do with philology ... It is also very interesting because it is from the point of view of Stephen, who, Joyce tells us ONCE in the 800 page book, has broken his glasses ... So from inside Stephen's world, everything is very blurry and introspective, because he cannot see clearly. But God forbid that Joyce would remind us of this and say, "What with having a pair of broken glasses, Stephen squints down the shoreline" -- You are just left in this blurry subjective world. The first paragraph of the Proteus section is rightfully famous. I will lead off with it below.

Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot, Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: colored signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.

Now I realize I am biased (OBVIOUSLY), but the genius of that kind of takes my breath away, I must admit. Read the sentence below, and see what Joyce is doing. He never states the obvious: "I have lost my glasses, I can't see".

The dog's bark ran towards him, stopped, ran back.

I am blind as a bat myself, and that is a perfect description of the experience of sound, when I am sans glasses or lenses.

His shadow lay over the rocks as he bent, ending. Why not endless till the fartheset star? darkly they are there behind this light, darkness shining in the brightness, delta of Cassiopeia, worlds. Me sitst there with his augur's rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet night shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back. Endless, would it be mine, form of my form? Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words? Signs on a white field. Somewhere to someone in your flutiest voice. The good bishop of Cloyne took the veil of the temple out of his shovel hat: veil of space with coloured emblems hatched on its field. Hold hard. Coloured on a flat: yes, that's right. Flat I see, then think distance, near, far, flat I see, east, back. Ah, see now. Falls back suddenly, frozen in stereoscope. Click does the trick. You find my words dark. Darkness is in our souls, do you not think? Flutier. Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins, cling to us yet more, a woman to her lover clinging, the more the more.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 01:54:00 PM


Here are what other people have to say about James Joyce and Ulysses:

-- "Ulysses towers over the rest of Joyce's writings, and in comparison to its noble originality and unique lucidity of thought and style the unfortunate Finnegans Wake is nothing but a formless and dull mass of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next room, most aggravating to the insomniac! I am. Moreover, I always detested regional literature full of quaint old-timers and imitated pronunciation. Finnegans Wake's fa├žade disguises a very conventional and drab tenement house, and only the infrequent snatches of heavenly intonations redeem it from utter insipidity. I know I am going to be excommunicated for this pronouncement." -- Vladimir Nabokov

-- "That James Joyce is indeed a black Irishman, wreaking a vengeance, even wilder than the I.R.A.'s, on the English language from within, invading the territory of its sanitary ego-presumptions with a flood of impure, dark languages flowing from the damned up sources of collective speech, savagely drowning the ego of the traditional speaker and depositing the property of words in everybody, in the total human community of those who speak and have spoken and shall speak." -- Carlos Fuentes

-- "If our society should go to smash tomorrow (which, as Joyce implies, it may) one could find all the pieces, together with the forces that broke them, in Finnegans Wake." -- Joseph Campbell

-- "It's a miserable ritual, a magical procedure. . . a homunculus of the consciousness of the new world -- our world passed away and a new world has arisen." -- Jung, on Ulysses

-- "In respect to the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring." - -Judge M. Woolsey writing on the "obscenity" in Ulysses, 1933

-- "The first spectre of the new generation has appeared. His name is Joyce. I have suffered from him and I would like you to suffer." -- George Russell to Yeats, in 1902

-- "He had not taste, only genius." --Madame Yasushi Tanaka

-- "He was inclined to be testy, and I believe that just that irritation produced the power for his inner turmoil and productivity. His resentment against Dublin, against England, against particular persons became converted into dynamic energy and actually found release only in literary creation. But he seemed fond of his own asperity; I never saw him laugh or show high spirits. He always made the impression of a compact, somber force and when I saw him on the street, his thin lips pressed tightly together, always walking rapidly as if heading for a definite objective, I sensed the defensive, the inner isolation of his being even more positively than in our talks. It failed to astonish me when I later learned that just this man had written the most solitary, the least affined work -- meteor-like in its introduction to the world of our time." -- Stefan Sweig

-- "Joyce -- pleasing; after the first shell of cantankerous Irishman, I got the impression that the real man is the author of Chamber Music, the sensitive. The rest is the genius; the registration of realities on the temperament, the delicate temperament of the early poems. A concentration and absorption passing Yeats' -- Yeats has never taken on anything requiring the condensation of Ulysses." -- Ezra Pound

-- "James Joyce in his Ulysses has described, with a fidelity so ruthless that the book is hardly bearable, the life that Dublin offers to its young men, or, if you prefer to put it in the other way, that its young men offer to Dublin. No doubt it is much like the life of young men everywhere in modern urban civilization. A certain flippant futile derision and belittlement that confuses the noble and serious wiht the base and ludicrous seems to me peculiar to Dublin." -- George Bernard Shaw

-- "I have read several fragments of Ulysses ... It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilization; but it is a truthful one; and I should like to put a cordon round Dublin; round up every male person in it between the ages of 15 and 30; force them to read it; and ask them whether on reflection they could see anything amusing in all that foul mouthed foul minded derision and obscenity...It is, however, some consolation to find that at last somebody has felt deeply enough about it to face the horror of writing it all down and using his literary genius to force people to face it. In Ireland they try to make a cat cleanly by rubbing its nose in its own filth. Mr. Joyce has tried the same treatment on the human subject." -- GB Shaw

-- "I wish, for my own sake, that I had not read it." -- TS Eliot, on Ulysses

-- "How could anyone write again after achieving the immense prodigy of the last chapter?" -- TS Eliot

-- "He's a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples." -- Virginia Woolf, who was unimpressed with Ulysses

-- "Joyce is good. He is a good writer. People like him because he is incomprehensible and anybody can understand him. But who came first, Gertrude Stein or James Joyce? Do not forget that my first great book, Three Lives, was published in 1908. That was long before Ulysses. But Joyce has done something. His influence, however, is local. Like Synge, another Irish writer, he has had his day." -- Gertrude Stein, following the uproar of the publication of Ulysses in Paris. Joyce heard about her comment, and said, "I hate intellectual women."

-- "Joyce has a most goddamn wonderful book. It'll probably reach you in time. Meantime the report is that he and all his family are starving but you can find the whole celtic crew of them every night in Michaud's where Binney and I can only afford to go about once a week...The damned Irish, they have to moan about something or other..." -- Ernest Hemingway in a letter to Sherwood Anderson

-- "Ulysses is hopeless; it is absurd to imagine that any good end can be served by trying to record every single thought and sensation of any human being. That's not art, it's like trying to copy the London Directory." -- George Moore

-- Here are two consecutive quotes from Yeats. He read a chapter or two of Ulysses, which had been serialized in the Little Review from Paris. He commented: "A mad book!" But then later, not much later, he said, "I have made a terrible mistake. It is a work perhaps of genius. I now perceive its coherence ... It is an entirely new thing -- neither what the eye sees nor the ear hears, but what the rambling mind thinks and imagines from moment to moment. He has certainly surpassed in intensity any novelist of our time."

And here's a quote from a letter of Katherine Mansfield:

-- "Joyce was rather ... difficile. I had no idea until then of his view of Ulysses -- no idea how closely it was modelled on the Greek story, how absolutely necessary it was to know the one through and through to be able to discuss the other. I've read the Odyssey and am more or less familiar with it but Murry [Mansfield's husband] and Joyce simply sailed out of my depth. I felt almost stupefied. It's absolutely impossible that other people should understand Ulysses as Joyce understands it. It's almost revolting to hear him discuss its difficulties. It contains code words that must be picked up in each paragraph and so on. The Question and Answer part can be read astronomically or from the geologic standpoint or -- oh, I don't know!" -- Katherine Mansfield. Joyce had a different take on his afternoon spent with the Mansfields, and told a friend: "Mrs. Murry understood the book better than her husband."

-- "I was attracted to [Ulysses] by the fact that I was once a young man in Dublin, and also by Joyce's literary power, which is of classic quality. I do not see why there should be any limit to frankness in sex revelation; but Joyce does not raise that question. The question he does raise is whether there should be any limit to the use in literature of blackguardly language. It depends on what people will stand. If Dickens or Thackeray had been told that a respectable author like myself would use the expletive "bloody" in a play, and that an exceptionally fastidious actress of the first rank, associated exclusively with fine parts, would utter it on the stage without turning a hair, he could not have believed it. Yet I am so old-fashioned and squeamish that I was horrified when I first heard a lady describe a man as a rotter. I could not write the words Mr Joyce uses: my prudish hand would refuse to form the letters; and I can find no interest in his infantile clinical incontinences, or in the flatulations which he thinks worth mentioning...Ulysses is a document, the outcome of a passion for documentation that is as fundamental as the artistic passion -- more so, in fact; for the document is the root and stem of which the artistic fancy works are the flowers. Joyce is driven by his documentary demon to place on record the working of a young man's imagination for a single day in the environment of Dublin. The question is, is the document authentic. I, having read some scraps of it, reply that I am afraid it is, then you may rise up and demand that Dublin be razed to the ground, and its foundations sown with salt. And I may say do so, by all means. But that does not invalidate the document." -- GB Shaw, who clearly was a bit tormented by the book

And one more from Mr. Shaw: "If a man holds up a mirror to your nature and shows you that it needs washing -- not whitewashing -- it is no use breaking the mirror. Go for soap and water."

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:56:00 PM

O Wonder, Part II

Leopold Bloom's sensuous memories of Molly Bloom amongst the rhododendrons (see post below, entitled "O wonder") are reflected back to him, during Molly Bloom's stream-of-consciousness monologue which ends the book. 40 pages without a period or a comma.

Carl Jung wrote a letter to Joyce about Ulysses, which I will print here in its entirety. It's very cool.

Dear Sir,

Your Ulysses has presented the world such an upsetting psychological problem, that repeatedly I have been called in as a supposed authority on psychological matters.

Ulysses proved to be an exceedingly hard nut and it has forced my mind not only to most unusual efforts, but also to rather extravagant peregrinations (speaking from the standpoint of a scientist). Your book as a whole has given me no end of trouble and I was brooding over it for about three years until I succeeded to put myself into it. But I must tell you that I'm profoundly grateful to yourself as well as to your gigantic opus, because I learned a great deal from it. I shall probably never be quite sure whether I did enjoy it, because it meant too much grinding of nerves and of grey matter. I also don't know whether you will enjoy what I have written about Ulysses because I couldn't help telling the world how much I was bored, how I grumbled, how I cursed and how I admired. The 40 pages of non stop run at the end is a string of veritable psychological peaches. I suppose the devil's grandmother knows so much about the real psychology of a woman, I didn't.

Well I just try to recommend my little essay to you, as an amusing attempt of a perfect stranger that went astray in the labyrinth of your Ulysses and happened to get out of it again by sheer good luck. At all events you may gather from my article what Ulysses has done to a supposedly balanced psychologist.

With the expression of my deepest appreciation, I remain, dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,
C.G. Jung

Joyce was obviously very proud of this letter, of how Jung had cursed him and admired him. He read it out loud to a group of people, Nora included. Nora's comment was typically brief. She turned to someone else and said, in regards to Joyce, "He knows nothing at all about women."

So back we go to Molly and Leopold amongst the rhododendrons on Howth. We have read how the memory had impressed itself into Leopold's memory. And here's how Molly remembers it (follow the train of thought, if you dare):

the sun shines for you he said the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat the day I got him to propose to me yes first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth and it was leapyear like now yes 16 years ago my God after that long kiss I near lost my breath yes he said I was a flower of the mountain yes so we are flowers all a womans body yes that was one true thing he said in his life and the sun shines for you today yes that was why I liked him because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could leading him on till he asked me to say yes and I wouldnt answer first only looked out over the sea and the sky I was thinking of so many things he didnt know of Mulvey and Mr Stanhope and Hester and father and old captain Groves and the sailors playing all birds fly and I say stoop and washing up dishes they called it on the pier and the sentry in front of the governors house with the thing round his white helmet poor devil half roasted and the Spanish girls laughing in their shawls and their tall combs and the auctions in the morning the Greeks and the jews and the Arabs and the devil knows who else from all the ends of Europe and Duke street and the fowl market all clucking outside Larby Sharons and the poor donkeys slipping half asleep and the vague fellows in the cloaks asleep in the shade on the steps and the big wheels of the carts of the bulls and the old castle thousands of years old yes and those handsome Moors all in white and turbans like kings asking you to sit down in their little bit of a shop and Ronda with the old windows of the posadas glancing eyes a lattice hid for her lover to kiss the iron and the wineshops half open at night and the castanets and the night we missed the boat at Algeciras the watchman going about serene with his lamp and O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Nora's unsentimental response to all of this was: "I guess the man's a genius, but what a dirty mind he has, hasn't he?"

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:46:00 PM

"In Ireland Catholicism is black magic." -- Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:31:00 PM


Joyce had fixed upon June 16, 1904, as the date of Ulysses because it was the anniversary of his first walk with Nora Barnacle. He was able to obtain, perhaps on his last visit to Dublin, copies of the newspapers of that day. In his book, Bloom's fondest memory is of a moment of affection plighted among the rhododendrons on Howth, and so is Mrs. Bloom's; it is with her recollection of it that the book ends. In this sense Ulysses is an epithalamium; love is its cause of motion. The spirit is liberated from its bonds through a eucharistic occasion, an occasion characterized by the joy that, even as a young man, Joyce had praised as the emotion in comedy which makes it a higher form than tragedy. Though such occasions are as rare as miracles, they are permanently sustaining; and unlike miracles, they require no divine intercession. They arise in quintessential purity from the mottled life of everyday.

-- Richard Ellmann, James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:28:00 PM


"Why all this fuss and bother about the mystery of the unconscious? What about the mystery of the conscious? What do they know about that?" -- James Joyce

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:22:00 PM


-- "When you remember that Dublin has been a capital for thousands of years, that it is the 'second' city of the British Empire, that it is nearly three times as big as Venice it seems strange that no artist has given it to the world."

-- "If Ulysses isn't fit to read, life isn't fit to live."

-- "I have come to the conclusion that I cannot write without offending people."

-- "The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works."

And here's my favorite quote, it's just so damn IRISH:

-- "The pity is that the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse they may take it in some serious way, and on the honour of a gentleman, there is not one single serious word in it."

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:17:00 PM

Being a Joyce-freak is an obsession which could, conceivably, take over your life.

Look at this. Irish Times from June 16, 1904.The People pore over it, looking for clues. I do not judge this behavior. When I read Ulysses, that was where I needed to go as well.

Joyce said, in regards to the complexity of Ulysses: "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality." Clearly, he was correct.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:14:00 PM


I love this quote from James Joyce:

"I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book."

And he does. He lived in exile, away from Ireland, for most of his life, never returning. And yet he could write about no place else on earth.

Speaking of Dublin, here is a virtual tour of the city, taken from the wanderings of the book of Ulysses.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:08:00 PM


Who was this woman? Who were they to one another?

Here's a picture of her.

I highly recommend the movie based on the two of them (it ends before The Dubliners was published ... so it is the story of June 16, and the couple of years that followed). It is called Nora. Check it out. Fantastic acting. And it seems to me that it really understands the nature of the connection between these two individuals.

Here's Ellmann on Nora:

To any other writer of the time, Nora Barnacle would have seemed ordinary; Joyce, with his need to seek the remarkable in the commonplace, decided she was nothing of the sort. She had only a grammar school education; she had no understanding of literature, and no power of or interest in introspection. But she had considerable wit and spirit, a capacity for terse uteterance as good in its kind as Stephen Dedalus's. Along with a strain of coquetry she wore an air of insulated innocence, and, if her allegiance would always be a little mocking, it would nevertheless thoroughgoing. She could not be an intellectual companion, but Joyce was not inclined to care. Though his compatriots Yeats and Lady Gregory might prate of symbolic marriages of the artist and the peasantry, here was a living union. Purer than he, she could receive his litanies, and better still, his confidences.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 12:03:00 PM


This is Joyce, the summer he met Nora.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 11:45:00 AM


-- "A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery."

-- "I want to work with the top people, because only they have the courage and the confidence and the risk-seeking profile that you need."

-- "Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize."

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 11:39:00 AM


After Joyce died, Nora continued to be pestered about Joyce, the man who changed literature forever. A reporter asked her if she was Molly Bloom from Ulysses. Nora replied, "I'm not -- she was much fatter."

Finnegans Wake, Joyce's last book, which he had worked on for 17 years, and which pretty much everybody on the planet found incomprehensible, was ignored. Everyone still could not get over Ulysses. Nobody wanted to talk about Finnegans Wake. Nora complained about this: "What's all this talk about Ulysses? Finnegans Wake is the important book."

She, of all people, got that book.

An interviewer questioned her about new writers, writers she liked, writers she read. Nora answered, "Sure, if you've been married to the greatest writer in the world, you don't remember all the little fellows."

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 11:37:00 AM

JUNE 16...

The story continues, from the Richard Ellmann biography:

It was this beginning that gave June 16 its talismanic importance for Joyce. The experience of love was almost new to him in fact, though he had often considered it in imagination. A transitory interest in his cousin Katsy Murray had been followed by the stronger, but unexpressed and unrequited, interest in Mary Sheehy. He shocked Stanlislaus [Joyce's brother] a little by quoting with approval a remark of a Dublin wit, 'Woman is an animal that micturates once a day, defecates once a week, menstruates once a month and parturiates once a year.' Yet tenderness was as natural to him as coarseness, and secretly he dreamed of falling in love with someone he did not know, a gentle lady, the flower of many generations, to whom he should speak in the ceremonious accents of Chamber Music.

Instead, on June 10, 1904, Joyce was walking down Nassau Street in Dublin when he caught sight of a tall, good-looking young woman, auburn-haired, walking with a proud stride. When he spoke to her she answered pertly enough to allow the conversation to continue. She took him, with his yachting cap, for a sailor, and from his blue eyes thought for a moment he might be Swedish. Joyce found she was employed at Finn's Hotel, a slightly exalted rooming house, and her lilting speech confessed that she was from Galway City. She had been born there, to parents who lived in Sullivan's Lane, on March 21, 1884. Her name was a little comic, Nora Barnacle, but this too might be an omen of felicitous adhesion. (As Joyce's father was to say when he heard much later her last name was Barnacle, 'She'll never leave him.') After some talk it was agreed they should meet in front of Sir William Wilde's house at the turning of Merrion Square on June 14. But Nora Barnacle failed to appear, and Joyce sent her a note in some dejection:

60 Shelbourne Road

I may be blind. I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me -- if you have not forgotten me!

James A. Joyce 15 June 1904

The appointment was made, and for the evening of June 16, when they went walking at Ringsend, and then arranged to meet again. To set Ulysses on this date was Joyce's most eloquent if indirect tribute to Nora, a recognition of the determining effect upon his life of his attachment to her. On June 16, as he would afterwards realize, he entered into relation with the world around him and left behind him the loneliness he had felt since his mother's death. He would tell her later, "You made me a man." June 16 was the sacred day that divided Stephen Dedalus, the insurgent youth, from Leopold Bloom, the complaisant husband.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 11:18:00 AM

O wonder!

A beautiful passage from the "Lestrygonians" section of Ulysses. I read this and can't help but imagine that Joyce is talking about Nora, although conflating art and biography is always a dodgy thing to do. (However, perhaps it is more than appropriate with James Joyce, the most self-obsessed of writers):

Glowing wine on his palate lingered swallowed. Crushing in the winepress grapes of Burgundy. Sun's heat it is. Seems to a secret touch telling me memory. Touched his sense moistened remembered. Hidden under wild ferns on Howth. Below us bay sleeping sky. No sound. The sky. The bay purple by the Lion's head. Green by Drumleck. Yellowgreen towards Sutton. Fields of undersea, the lines faint brown in grass, buried cities. Pillowed on my coat she had her hair, earwigs in the heather scrub my hand under nape, you'll toss me all. O wonder! Coolsoft with ointments her hand touched me, caressed: her eyes upon me did not turn away. Ravished over her I lay, full lips full open, kissed her mouth. Yum. Softly she gave me in my mouth the seedcake warm and chewed. Mawkish pulp her mouth had mumbled sweet and sour with spittle. Joy: I ate it: joy. Young life, her lips that gave me pouting. Soft, warm, sticky gumjelly lips. Flowers her eyes were, take me, willing eyes. Pebbles fell. She lay still. A goat. No-one. High on Ben Howth rhododendrons a nannygoat walking surefooted, dropping currants. Screened under ferns she laughed warmfolded. Wildly I lay on her, kissed her; eyes, her lips, her stretched neck, beating, woman's breasts full in her blouse of nun's veiling, fat nipples upright. Hot I tongued her. She kissed me. I was kissed. All yielding she tossed my hair. Kissed, she kissed me.

Reading a passage like that it becomes obvious why T.S. Eliot said, of James Joyce, "He single-handedly killed the 19th century."

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 11:08:00 AM

I shall return. More James Joyce to come...

Read the quote directly to the left. It's one of my favorite things Joyce ever wrote.

It's a beautiful day for Bloomsday.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 09:54:00 AM


Here is an excerpt from the superb Richard Ellmann biography, James Joyce:

Several aspects of Joyce's life converge upon June 16, 1904, the day he afterwards chose for the action of Ulysses. It was on that day, or at least during the month of June, that he began to work out his theory that Shakespeare was not prince Hamlet but Hamlet's father, betrayed by his queen with his brother as Shakespeare was -- Joyce thought -- betrayed by Anne Hathaway with his brother. Joyce was at his search for distinguished victims -- Parnell, Christ, himself. Instead of making the artist Shakespeare an avenging hero, he preferred to think of him as a cuckold. Joyce developed the theory with excitement ...

He was not yet living at the famous Martello tower at Sandycove, as Ulysses would suggest. On June 15 the McKernans, with whom he had his room, encouraged him to leave until he could pay his rent, and he went to his friends James and Gretta Cousins and asked them to take him in. They hospitably turned over the spare room in their tiny house on the sea's edge at Ballsbridge. After dinner on June 15 the Espositos came to call. Michele Esposito was an accomplished teacher of music who had brought his family, including his two attractive daughters Vera and Bianca, to Ireland several years before. Vera noted in her diary later that Joyce was very quiet and scarcely opened his mouth except to sing, to his own piano accompaniment, Henry VIII's 'Pastime with good companee, I love, and shall until I dee,' and the ballad of 'Turpin Hero'. These he followed with two sentimental songs, 'Love, could I only tell thee' and 'It is not mine to sing the stately grace.' The Esposito girls also sang. They and their father were impressed by Joyce and suggested he call on them. But for two reasons this visit never took place. One was that he offended the Esposito girls, the other that he began to fall in love.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 09:51:00 AM


Today is all about James Joyce.

June 16.


What is Bloomsday?

On June 16, 1904, James Joyce first went walking with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. Years later, Ulysses was published. Ulysses, of course, an 800 page book, takes place all in one day. And what day does it take place on? June 16. Clearly, Joyce saw meeting Nora as a seminal event.


A boiled-down version of what Bloomsday is all about (I lifted this from a website of Bloomsday resources):

James Joyce's reputation has improved significantly since 1922, when Ulysses was first published.

Now widely regarded as the greatest novel in the English language of the 20th century, Ulysses was initially banned from sale in many countries and regularly seized by United States postal authorities.

Not until 1933 was the novel published in the U.S. after a bloody literary fight waged by its advocates. Joyce, born in Dublin in 1882, put it best, if a little immodestly when he said, "If Ulysses is not worth reading, life is not worth living."

The action of Ulysses all takes place on June 16, 1904, in Dublin, which happens to be the day Joyce first "stepped out'' with his wife, Nora. Bloomsday began more than 75 years ago in Dublin as a citywide celebration of Joyce and of all good things literary.

Following that first celebration, Bloomsday has expanded worldwide and now includes New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Toronto, Melbourne, Tokyo and many other cities. The ever-widening celebrations are a tribute to a great writer, and promote enjoyment of great books. Festivals include readings, performances, lectures and discussions, and plenty of food and drink.

  contact Sheila Link: 6/16/2003 09:43:00 AM

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