Re-reading (And Not Reading) James Joyce

Avatar

gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

Related Post Roulette

17 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali
    Ignored
    says:

    While I confess that I am not familiar with James Joyce the novelist, I’m more familiar witht the works of another James Joyce

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jjoyce/recent.htmlReport

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Ulysses is also very funny, and it’s also easy to miss that. I’ve read that Finnegans Wake is funny too, but I’ve likewise never gotten past the first page. Though I suppose “not yet, though venissoon after, had a
    kidscad buttended a bland old isaac” is pretty clever wordplay about the Bible story where Jacob wraps himself in sheepskin so his blind father Isaac will think he’s his hairy brother Esau and bless him.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I went to grad school at a university that I chose simply because Buffalo was the closest American city to Toronto, where my soon-to-be-wife lived. But it turned out that UB had the largest Joyce collection in the world, due to the fact that Buffalo once had very rich people and one of them bought the Joyce’s library when, I believe, they hightailed it out of Paris. So, I made an excuse to write a seminar paper on Vico and Joyce and Finnegans Wake. It was a blast to get to read through the “scribbledehobble” notebooks that Joyce wrote on and see his glasses and everything.

    I have no idea what I was thinking proposing that paper, however.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      Not that I’d know, but I imaging Joyce’s handwriting was hard to read.

      “….and see his glasses and everything”: Do you mean “glosses”?

      The idea of going through an author’s papers to learn about their works and life has always struck me as a very difficult task. It’s a worthy one, but not one that’s for me.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to gabriel conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        What was fascinating to me was how his writing got progressively larger as his eyesight went. By the latter pages, it was large crayon block letters.Report

        • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to Rufus F.
          Ignored
          says:

          My eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and that’s probably one reason why my own handwriting has gotten bigger. Another reason is that I’m not as used to writing as I used to be. I type much more than I used to. I used to handwrite a personal journal, about a page a day. Now, I might write up a small list of things to get at the grocery store. But otherwise, I usually just type it.Report

  4. Avatar dhex
    Ignored
    says:

    [trying again, had an error in the original post]

    this is a nice and very reasonable assessment, gabriel.

    it helps especially with both portrait and ulysses to understand two major things:

    1) the political context of ireland, and irish republicanism at the time
    2) catholicism and its discontents in that same context, particularly the discontentedness

    (this is easy for me to say, as i live with a joyce scholar, but it’s true!)

    i think portrait is brilliant. i read it as a sophomore in ap english back a million years ago, and though i was technically “raised” catholic it didn’t stick ever (my crisis of conscience was making it to about age 11 or 12 whenever they do confirmations and realizing with great horror that people actually believed in god, rather than playacting about it like santa claus and playing dominoes for a penny a point.)

    long story aside, the severe crisis of conscience that stephen has while on the church retreat baffled me. from the outside, it was clear that he didn’t actually believe, but rather was trying to force the square peg of his heart into the round hole of faith.

    ulysses is great, and i’ve read it many times. it is long and overwrought at times, but it is also the invention of modern fiction, for good and ill, and the adaptation of cinematic techniques to the truly ordinary lives of ordinary people having ordinary stuff to deal with. ithica (aka “the catechism chapter”, second to last in the book) remains deeply funny to this day.

    but i’d recommend it in the sense that “this will help you understand the world a bit better” not in the “you’re going to have a ton of fun” sense. i mean, i think it’s a ton of fun but again i live with a joyce scholar so our jokes are insufferable.Report

    • Avatar gabriel conroy in reply to dhex
      Ignored
      says:

      My “long story” is a little similar to yours, in that I was “raised” Catholic, but it didn’t take. At the same time, my story differs because I moved towards evangelical Christianity (though I don’t think I used the word then) when I was about 11 or 12.* So, that part of Portrait (if it’s the one I’m thinking of) made a certain intuitive sense to me. What I got out of it (when I first read it) may not have been what Joyce wanted me to get out of it, however.

      but i’d recommend it in the sense that “this will help you understand the world a bit better” not in the “you’re going to have a ton of fun” sense. i mean, i think it’s a ton of fun but again i live with a joyce scholar so our jokes are insufferable.

      I’m not sure why I like what I like to read. It’s hard for me to call it “fun” or “entertainment,” but it is fun. I may or may not read Ulysses again. But it’s why I like some of the literature I read. (Some, of course, is just escapist fun, and not “serious” stuff.)

      *Actually, the story is even longer. I continued to still go to mass, though I never got confirmed, but I got involved with a pentecostal congregation and later a Baptist church.Report

  5. Bryan O'Nolan Bryan O'Nolan
    Ignored
    says:

    Excellent piece. “The Dead” is one of my favorite pieces of 20th Century writing. I read Dubliners as a set up to reading Ulysses in a class dedicated to the latter. One of my favorite classes. In particular I love the Aeolus and Ithaka chapters. It’s a book you have to study, not just read, to understand the changes in style and narration.

    No one has ever read FW, not even Joyce because he was blind by then. It was written by and for a single person. Literary onanism.

    My least favorite part of Ulysses are the parts focusing on Stephen Dedalus, so that’s how I feel about Portrait.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *