Recently had what felt like the 564th lecture on James Joyce. What else can I say except screaming internally. Entire generations of scholar’s have grown up to kiss that guy’s spectral ass, singing hymns of praise over Ulysses and Dubliners, mostly because no one ever actually finished Finnigan’s Wake.
And even in the new century, the rightfully deceased Joyce still holds sway over the not-so-peaceable land of literature. He and Yeats are the mighty two towers of Irish literature by which any other author will and shall be measured!
I have problems with this. Number one, his writing is… not that good. It’s mostly rambling about… actually, it’s not about anything, stuff just seems to happen to the protagonist, peppered with Bible quotes and Classical mythology to keep a semblance of interest, and no amount of scholarly research will tell me otherwise, nothing will make this nonsense suddenly worthy of my precious, precious time. Number two, Joyce was the mighty slut before the lord. Don’t you know I am a lady of quality! I shall not indulge in this debased filth! No wonder the future generations consist of degenerates delighting in depraved debauchery if the impeccable institutes of learning make them read masturbatory memoirs of sluts and whores!
Seriously though, he was slutting it up.
Like most Men Who Do Great Things, Joyce’s success depended on someone else doing his laundry, cooking his meals and, dunno, paying all his bills. So in Things Wikipedia Never Told You News: Joyce took the classical route and got hold of numerous patrons, or sponsors. Who were all wealthy. And… female. Basically, he kept finding new sugar mommas.
I guess this also kinda explains why it took him thirty years and two or three children to finally marry his wife. I mean, she wasn’t rich. Far from it, actually. So, you know. He just kept shakin’ what his mama gave him. In the general direction of heaving bosoms with well-filled wallets.
I know, you are saying, “But, but, but! Should we not judge an author by his literary merits? Did not most creative heads in history live a life against all social acceptability? Is it not the rejection of morals-of-the-time put in place by the-powers-that-be that fill the mind with prose? Is it not a truth universally acknowledged that a great mind must needs be unmolested by the day-to-day drudgery as well as pesky norms? Can and should you really judge this literary giant by his social life?”
Yes. Yes, we should.
Now, there’s technically nothing wrong with being a whore for the sake of literature, and no one will disagree with me on that (and if you do, the door of this private prose bordello is over there, get out). Technically, there’s nothing wrong with being a whore, period. But I mean, come on. Can you imagine if James Joyce had been Jane Joyce? Would we still be reading Penelope today or would scholars be more interested in examining Jane’s relationships with her ‘sponsors’? Chances are, we wouldn’t be reading any of her work. Jane would also have never been able to write a masturbation scene in Penelope (which, admittedly, was censored for long years, but wouldn’t you know it, came back) or a visit to a brothel with her as the customer and still have her book published. Never in a million years, or at the very least not in 1922. James Joyce, however? 800 pages of Notes From A Boner, also known as Ulysses in case the joke wasn’t clear. Oh, so you masturbate to a woman on the beach? Okay. Why? Oh, so you don’t like the fact that your wife is having an affair, or you assume she has an affair, but you’ve no problem going to a brothel on what seems to be the regular? Okay. Why? So you and your friend/son substitute/potential gay mate are pissing in the backyard even though it’s been established in the early chapters that you own a perfectly good outhouse? Okay. Why? Did the outhouse fall over somewhere off screen, or…?
Also, what the hell kinda drugs are you on with your frequent hallucinations?
I just wonder how this book became such a classic. No, actually I don’t wonder. It was obviously risqué and daring for the time because it was a complete attention grab, and the fact that it was so difficult to get it published, and that it was censored so heavily and indeed put on the index for years in some countries made for great publicity. Then some of the chronic onanists who got a hold of it, actually made it through the 800 pages, and liked it somehow became scholars of literature and the rest, much like the life of James Joyce, is history.
And now there are people meandering through Dublin, wide-eyed and delirious as if someone had dropped a copy of Finnegan’s Wake on their heads, every June 16. Wonder if they also visit the brothel, though.
There are two kinds of people. Those that have read Ulysses and those that haven’t and those who gave up halfway through, and those who have problems with numbers. And then there’s those weirdos who have to bite their fist so as not to yell “‘TIS PITY HE’S A WHORE!” through a lecture hall.
Not that I ever did that or anything.
Bah, sick of Joyce. Let’s talk about Yeats. Wanna hear a Yeats joke? Why was Yeats sad? Because his Maud was Gonne! Ba-dum-TSS!