Posts Tagged ‘james joyce’


Joyce and more.

January 28, 2010

I’ve heard a lot about the last story in this book. I checked out the full collection from the library at my high school and read a few of the stories but not the last one. I was trying to challenge my reading side to read something with language that you actually had to read carefully and think about to get the full impact. I suspect what happened is that another book came along or the due date came so I returned it. But in my fiction class, it came up in our conversation of short story writers. I was of course amazed at his artful way of stringing words together to make sentences, beautiful ones. But it wasn’t as mind-blowing as Eric, a classmate who reminds me of the singer Damien Rice made it out to be. He has the same beard, wears brown hefty jackets like the ones I see in pictures of Damien and big boots. But mostly it’s the beard. It’s uncanny. And he loves Dubliners, which is about Ireland…this is also Damien’s native land. It took me full minutes to be able to find this book in the library. There are about 20 versions, people interpreting it this way and that, one edition even rewrote the story. I finally found one with minimal annotations and additions, blue with a green spine, Dubliners written in gold capital letters, perhaps the Copperplate font.

Excerpt #51:
A murmur in the room attracted his attention. Mr Browne was advancing from the door, gallantly escorting aunt Julia who leaned upon his arm, smiling and hanging her head. An irregular musketry of applause escorted her also as far as the piano and then, as Mary Jane seated herself on the stool and aunt Julia, no longer smiling, half turned so as to pitch her voice fairly into the room, gradually ceased. Gabriel recognized the prelude. It was that of an old song of aunt Julia’s Arrayed for the bridal. Her voice strong and clear in tone attacked with great spirit the runs which embellish the air and, though she sang very rapidly, she did not miss even the smallest of the grace notes. To follow the voice, without looking at the singer’s face, was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure flight. (353)

-The Dead, James Joyce

And now skip ahead a few centuries to a different mindset, non-fiction rather than fiction, a different world altogether:
Some background: David Sedaris is in 9th grade when he sees a mime perform for the first time. He is totally enthralled. He is also fascinated by the language of Shakespeare.

Excerpt #52:
I was at the orthodontist’s office, placing a pox upon the practice of dentistry, when the visiting actor returned to our classroom.
“You missed it,” my friend Lois said. “The man was so indescribable powerful that I was practically crying, that’s how brilliant he was.” She positioned her hands as if she were supporting a tray. “I don’t know what more i can say. The words, they just don’t exist. I could try to explain his realness, but you’d never be able to understand it. Never,” she repeated. “Never, never, never.”
Lois and I had been friends for six months when our relationship suddenly assumed a competitive edge…
My superior wisdom and innate generosity allowed me to be truly happy for Lois up until the day she questioned my ability to understand the visiting actor. The first few times he visited, she’d been just like the rest of them, laughing at his neck brace and rolling her eyes at the tangerine-sized lump in his tights. I was the one who first identified his brilliance, and now she was saying I couldn’t understand him? Methinks not.
“Honestly, woman,” I said to my mother on our way to the dry cleaner, “to think that this low-lying worm might speak to me of greatness as though it were a thing invisible to mine eyes is more than I can bear. Her words doth strike mine heart with the force of a punishing blow, leaving me both stunned and highly vexed, too. Hear me, though, for I shall bide my time, quietly, and with cunning, striking back at the very our she doth least expect it. Such an affront shall not go unchallenged, of that you may rest assured, gentle lady. My vengeance will hold the sweet taste of the ripest berry, and I shall savor it slowly.
“You’ll get over it,” my mother said. “Give it a week or two and I’m sure everything will be back to normal. I’m going in now to get your father’s shirts and I want you to wait here, in the car. Trust me, this whole thing will be forgotten about in no time.”
This had become her answer to everything. She’d done some asking around and concluded I’d been bitten by what her sister referred to as “the drama bug.” My mother was convinced that this was a phase, just like all the others. A few weeks of fanfare and I’d drop show business, just like I had the guitar and my private detective agency. I hated having my life’s ambition reduced to the level of a common cold. This wasn’t a bug, but a full-fledged virus. It might lay low for a year or two, but this little germ would never go away. It had nothing to do with talent or initiative. Rejection couldn’t weaken it, and no amount of success would ever satisfy it. Once diagnosed, the prognosis was terminal. (98-100)

-Naked, David Sedaris