5thoughts: James Joyce


James Joyce

Fig. 1: James Joyce

IN HONOR OF BLOOMSDAY 2010, five thoughts on the man who made it possible:

1. James Joyce is yet another proof that one man’s mind can be bigger than his skull. (If not, generational banks of Joyce scholars would have quit writing about him long ago.)

2.) Until Finnegan’s Wake, no Irishman had ever beat the Jews for mind-stretching eloquence. (Since the Talmud, the best we’ve done is Groucho Marx and Yehuda Amichai.)

3.) Come to think of it, FW and the Talmud do make two nice bookends for the Western literary tradition: what the Talmud does to Aristotle, Joyce does to Webster. (Said comeuppances piercingly beautiful to see.)

4.) If a man can spend a quarter of his life writing his Perfect Book, there’s hope for the rest of us.

5.) But only if we can manage not to be humbled by such wit-wraps as “Nations have their ego, just like individuals,” “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake,” or “Men are governed by lines of intellect – women: by curves of emotion.” Or: “Agenbite of inwit.” Or even:


tell me all about

Anna Livia! I want to hear all

about Anna Livia. Well, you know Anna Livia? Yes, of course, we all know Anna Livia. Tell me all. Tell me now.

(O, now, what’s the use? Another Guinness pour my muse, poor favor, purring kittenkilkenny of katzenjammers … [tape ends])

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