So Basically, James Joyce Was a Whore.

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!

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No really, what DO you get if you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Why did I ever think this was a good idea?

I went to a holiday party. You could say it was an office holiday party. I was talked into this. I lasted less than two hours.

At my age I should be good at this. I should be able to make small talk. I should not be in a the middle of a crater of people all talking with each other and around me. I should be able to join a conversation. Not become social ground zero.

But I do. Every time. Without fail. At least no one can complain I’m rude; I’m sure no one even noticed I was there.

Maybe it was because the party came at the end of an already long day. Maybe my social quota was already drained. Entirely possible. Or maybe I’m just the same socially awkward dork I’ve always been. Also entirely possible. And not ‘adorkable’ or whatever that godawful word is (think Zooey Deschanel or any other hot chick with glasses), but really just… sort of there. Nothing to say. No safe topics. I need a workshop. And maybe cue cards.

You know how in theatres they have prompters that help actors out if they forget their lines? I need one of those. In real life. I mean, I feel like that’s a gap in the market. Social Situation Prompters. Imagine all the job opportunities for extroverts!  I could pay one to follow me around inconspicuously and then go to some other person, “Oh, hi! The Grad Student was just telling me about her research, weren’t you?” And then the other person would just have to ask about it, right? Or another, my SSP could just linger behind my back and then when I run out of things to say whisper in my ear: “Weather!” Or with the rise of google glasses they could follow me online and send me my lines directly. Imagine the possibilities!

In reality I just sit there, smile and nod to conversations I’m not part of and can’t even really hear over the din and the music (auditory processing problems, anyone?), feel left out and excuse myself early. Keep smiling. Come up with excuse. Prior engagement. Have to leave now. It’s been so nice. Happy holidays to you, too!

And go home and cry. And whine on the internet.

Prooobably smiled too much. Dead giveaway. Urgh.

And what really breaks my heart is how when I say my goodbyes everyone goes “Aw, already? But it’s barely x o’clock, why don’t you stay?” like I just walked in the door and announced I’m leaving after five minutes. I don’t get it. You won’t even notice I’m gone, I promise.

I mean, I’m not blaming anyone but myself for my lack of social interaction or social skills. It just, y’know, kinda hurts that I can’t do it properly like other people can.

I’m just more of a one-on-one person. Single serve. Elevator, no more than six people. Rehearsed, not improv.

I probably called someone by the wrong name, too. Urgh.

I’ve been listening to this song since I came home:

This girl is about ten years younger than I am. So I guess this make me living proof that this kinda thing does not get better with age.

Urgh.

Rant Day! Things That Had Me Like, “Arrrrgh!”, Nov 9 – 22

Item 1: Unable to sleep all night because Boyfriend has morphed into his alter ego El Snoro Malo the Mighty Snorer Before the Lord, debating with myself at 7 am whether to go to class, finally getting my ass out of bed and getting said ass ready to leave, and finding out that class was cancelled. Like… who’s the cosmic joker who was put in charge of my life? I want a name. I want a number. I want someone I can sue.

Item 2: So if I just ignored all my responsibilities and curled up somewhere for like a month or two, would that be a problem, d’you think?

Item 3: Doing advanced training. Is stressful. Not because of the content but because it’s a weird social situation. Who’s going to be there? How do I act? What do I wear? Business casual or more casual? What if I find no one to talk to? What if everyone hates me? Is this even worth my money? maybe I should just stay home. Which personality should I project? Perky and fun? Intelligent but a bit withdrawn? Slightly sarcastic? Very sarcastic? Slightly ditzy student with perky C cups? Hah, I wish…

And to the “Just be yourself” crowd, my self is having a panic attack, and therefore no help at all. Me “being myself” will probably end with another “Oh my god, why did I tell that spinach joke?” situation.

Item 4: The Negative Nancys that I call my loved ones. When I tell you I’m doing advanced training so I’ll have better job prospects, and when I tell you I’m taking more classes this semester so I can finish my degree sooner, and when I tell you I really have a lot of work to do and a stressful week, please refrain from using the following sentences: “What good is that going to do?”, “That will never work.”, “What, we can’t binge watch Doctor Who because you have some papers to write?”, “What, you’re going to do uni work on the weekend, too?”, “You’re wasting your money/time.”, “How can you be so stressed when you just have to read some stuff?”, “How hard can it be to type stuff?”

You. Are. Not. Helping. This is why I don’t tell you bitches anything.

Item 5: Never underestimate how mental work can exhaust you. And how hungry you get doing any sort of cerebral activity. Says I as the proud owner of aisle four.

Item 6: I still need a new bag. But I want a decent bag with lots of compartments and pockets on the inside, and affordable, thank you very much. And the only one I could find that fits my unreasonably high standards was in an American online store and shipping costs as much as the thing itself. And then there’s tax. And customs. And why the hell can’t I find a decent bag that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and half a liver?!

Item 7: I’d love to complain more but I’ve got some research to do, bye.

Julian Gough and the Almost Complete Absence of Irish Sci-Fi

Was at a reading of Julian Gough the other day, an author I had legit never heard of before. Well, more or less. I knew that he was an Irish author who looks like he’s hanging on to the hippie bandwagon by his last fingernail, and that he has a penchant for making silly faces and taking even sillier photos. But that was it. I kinda regret that now because this dude is hilarious! Might give his writing a chance now, even though a quick google search revealed his association with a band that had an extra silly name even by indie band name standards, and I judge people on their band names. Harshly. (I don’t really remember what it is now, come to think of it. Something silly, like Flambéed Agnostics or something.)

Anyway, Gough is an Irish writer, and if you’re a student of literature and you hear the words “Irish” and “writer” in one sentence, you groan in agony as you receive vivid and terrible flashbacks to the rightfully deceased James Joyce. Gough isn’t like ol’ Jimmy boy, thank his Catholic god.

So Gough goes on to talk, quite humorously and with a healthy dose  of sarcasm, about “authentic Irish writing” and his lack thereof, and how there are more people outside of Ireland identifying as Irish than there are inside of Ireland, a mini rant about the veneration of Peig Sayers in Ireland. Then he goes into all the bullshit standards and tropes that go into “authentic Irish writing”, the kind that actually gets published like by the New Yorker. It’s pretty much always the same, poverty and misery and exile and  alcoholism and an inability to speak English (looking at you Peig Sayers!). And funerals in the rain! Lots of those! No authentic Irish writing without a funeral in the rain! And perverted priests! And terrible Family Secrets (TM)! And towards the end he mentions the almost complete lack of Irish science fiction because Irish writing is much too focused on Ireland and history and introspection of, you guessed it, life in Ireland, and not enough on the rest of the planet, much less the rest of the universe.

And I am, of course, gone. Completely. ‘Cause you know… sci-fi and me is like, get the toast ’cause this my jam. A stroke of luck had it that Gough was through listing his twenty-three or twenty-six ironic commandments for writing* and we were already into the discussion when my brain started banging against the inside of my skull. I was having a hard time not to unleash my trademark roaring laughter during the reading (Yes, he’s that funny! We found a funny Irish guy who doesn’t write about funerals in the rain!), but at that point, it was all I could do not to choke as my thoughts boarded a bobby car and ran away with it, honking the horn all the way. Why is there no Irish sci-fi? I tried to imagine Irish sci-fi, and all I could come up with were parodies and stereotypes.

Imagine… Earth makes first contact with aliens. These aliens are green, like Irish shamrocks. The Irish befriend the aliens and they in turn help them to transport the entire island of Ireland to a distant planet so they can live in peace as far away from the English as possible. They do live there peacefully and still curse the English, until one day, a good three or four generations later, a young child asks “What’s an English?” and once that child grows up mounts an expedition to old Earth to uncover the secret of the English…

Imagine… Firefly, I hope you watch Firefly, if you don’t you need to watch Firefly… nine Irish people living on a space ship called the Millennium Tiger that’s shaped like a shamrock…

Imagine… what with the Irish habit of emigrating, space is just the next logical step. The Irish are the first to leave Earth once space travel goes mainstream. And they found a colony on Mars, where they can have funerals in the Martian rain, and terrible family secrets upon the De Valera space station that’s cruising about Nova Eire in geostationary orbit, while back on Earth the Scottish are calling dibs on the now deserted territory of the island…

Imagine… the Irish branch of the Catholic church boarding a gigantic vessel. Their five year mission: To find god among the stars and prove them pesky Protestants wrong for all eternity…

Imagine… a day of strolling, like Ulysses, through a gigantic futuristic city, monologuing as you go…

See? Doesn’t work. What makes a novel or a story Irish, even? Is it the style? Is it the funerals in the rain? Does it need to have Irish people in it? Does it need to be set in Ireland? And how does it work if you throw space in the mix? Or the future? Irish writers apparently can hardly handle the existence of the internet. Is it even possible to write authentic Irish sci-fi?

Lots of debate is going on about Authentic Irish Writing (TM), about 1.5% include Authentic Irish Writers (TM) because pretty much all of them are dead. Authentic Irish Writing (TM) is a specific type of Irish writing that usually contains Joyce and Yeats, and much less Wilde because 1) SINNER! Sinning sinner who sins!, 2) not enough about Ireland and family secrets and funerals in the rain. Gough, who like most Irish writers does not live in Ireland anymore, will in all likeliness not be counted among the elite of Authentic Irish Writers (TM) either, though what with the way Irish writers are usually only recognised post-mortem we’ll just have to wait this one out. Maybe he’ll even write us some sci-fi before that happens. Meanwhile I’ll amuse myself with trying to come up with Irish sci-fi myself. Kind of hard, that. I mean, we all just know that any Irish space endeavours would fail after a week due to lack of alcohol supplies, right?

And not to stereotype, but it’s all the English’s fault. No one knows how, but it’s like 600% certain.

*Which can be basically summed up as “Thou shalt not write boring shit we’ve all read before”, and I’m sure he’d agree with this paraphrasing.

The Bloody Chamber and the Bloody Ridiculousness of It All

So we discussed the Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a class I had. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s basically a turn-of-the-century (from 19th to 20th in case that wasn’t clear) retelling of the Perrault’s Bluebeard fairy tale (Charles Perrault, 1697, the story itself is a lot older and the older versions have a lot more female agency) only from the perspective of the wife, who is a seventeen year old girl trying to escape the poverty she lives in with her widowed mother by marrying an insanely rich and perverted Marquis who plans to kill her like his other wives. Go look it up, but only read it if you have a strong stomach.

Anyway, I really just need to vent, because I also have to write a paper on this and I keep coming back to the class discussion. This is going to be about gender studies, so if you don’t like gender studies a) screw you, b) bye.

The discussion was interesting, albeit not from a literary point of view but from a psychological one. I mean… people were going on and on about how the seventeen year old working class narrator didn’t marry the Marquis for love and called her a gold-digger and an adulteress because the young piano tuner was nice to her and she noticed he was pretty. But no-one, absolutely nobody, lost a single word about how the middle-aged serial killer Marquis didn’t marry her for love either, but to make her his next murder victim. I mean, perspective, please! And that got me thinking. I mean, I get the criticism that this is a first person narrator and first person narration is always unreliable, even if nothing points to the narrator lying, but let me get this straight: A very young girl living in poverty, trying to earn a meagre living as a pianist, wants to escape poverty by way of marriage – not that she actively pursues that because she doesn’t, it just so happens – so she and her mother will be taken care of financially, and everyone calls her names and goes on about how “weeeeell she didn’t marry for luuurrrve”; but a guy about fifty who wants to marry a teenager so he can fuck her and then behead her, we go “Welp!”

I mean, come the hell on! Are we really this desensitised to male violence that we basically shrug and call it Tuesday? Is this just something we expect now? Are we really not going to talk about a guy who marries one woman after the other just so he can torture and kill them in horrible ways, and who sets his latest wife a trap just so he has a reason to kill her too because she ‘disobeyed’ him by discovering his murderous little secret? Are we just going to ignore all this in favour of calling a teenage girl a gold-digger and worse? Oh, we are? Well, fuck all y’all, that’s what’s wrong with the world!

And then there was that special case of a dude in the back who was like, well, if the Marquis had only found the perfect wife he would have stopped killing, basically he was torturing himself, to which, thankfully, the entire class decided this was taking things a step too far. I think sometimes the most scandalous thing a man today can do is to respect a woman’s choices. Like, seriously, no one cares if a man murders women, but I’m sure everyone would be writing paper upon paper about a male fictional character who is just a decent human being. But then they’d probably call him effeminate or emasculated (like the narrator’s second husband, the nice music-loving but blind piano tuner) or just plain boring.

It’s bad enough that in the story the entire castle staff and the village know what’s going on, because killing wives and women is sort of a family tradition apparently, and everyone’s just sort of okay with that. Takes the narrator’s mother to put a stop to this. And you know how? She got a phone call. One single phone call from her daughter that wasn’t even about “Hey, I just found hubby’s former wives”. Actually, that phone call was before all that. And mom rushes in like a maternal avenger and just shoots the bastard without a single word. One woman, one bullet, all it took to end a few centuries worth of murderous terror. I’d actually be interested in hearing the mother’s side of the story. Now that’s the kind of motherhood I could get behind.

Yeah, yeah, I know there are a lot of other different aspects to this story but I can’t be arsed to discuss them here, I already have a full formal analysis to write, so don’t come in here with “Oh, but you’re missing the point of the story”, because I’m not, I’m just standing on one of them and I’ll move on to the others when I’m good and ready. Just really, really needed to get that off my chest before I can go back to working. Peace.