The Death of the Author
Lately Written by the Author for Three Voices:
Collagist: Philip Harvey
Performed at La Notte Ristorante in Lygon Street as part of the Bloomsday in Melbourne celebrations on 16th of June 2011
[The MC will explain during the Introduction that in this reading questionable statements in the Obituary passages will be followed by a gong. Straight factual errors will be followed by the blowing of a paper whistle. Typos in the original text will be underscored by the soft playing of a music box. Patrons are asked to pay close attention for these occasions. A musician plays gong, paper whistle, and music box, as directed in the script.]
OB: The New York Times, January 1941.
Zurich, Switzerland, Monday, Jan 13- James Joyce, Irish author whose "Ulysses" was the center of one of the most bitter literary controversies of modern times, died in a hospital here early today despite the efforts of doctors to save him by blood transfusions. He would have been 59 years old Feb. 2.
Joyce underwent an intestinal operation Saturday afternoon at the Schwesternhaus von Rotenkreuz Hospital. For a time he appeared to be recovering. Only yesterday his son reported him to have been cheerful and apparently out of danger.
During the afternoon, however, the writer suffered a sudden relapse and sank rapidly. He died at 2:15 A.M. (8:15 P.M., American States Eastern Standard Time). His wife and son were at the hospital when he died.
UL: A team of horses passed from Finglas with toiling plodding tread, dragging through the funereal silence a creaking waggon on which lay a granite block. The waggoner marching at their head saluted.
Coffin now. Got here before us, dead as he is. Horse looking round at it with his plume skeowways. Dull eye: collar tight on his neck, pressing on a bloodvessel or something. Do they know what they cart out here every day? Must be twenty or thirty funerals every day. Then Mount Jerome for the protestants. Funerals all over the world everywhere every minute. Shovelling them under by the cartload doublequick. Thousands every hour. Too many in the world.
OB: The status of James Joyce as a writer never could be determined in his lifetime.
OB: In the opinion of some critics, notably Edmund Wilson, he deserved to rank with the great innovators of literature as one whose influence upon other writers of his time was incalculable.
UL: Are you bad in the eyes? the sympathetic personage queried.
Why, answered the seafarer with the tartan beard, who seemingly was a bit of a literary cove in his own small way, staring out of sea-green portholes as you might well describe them as, I uses goggles reading. Sand in the Red Sea done that. One time I could read a book in the dark, manner of speaking. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment was my favourite and Red as a Rose is She.
OB: On the other hand, there were critics like Max Eastman who gave him a place with Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot among the "Unintelligibles"
FW: Shem is as short for Shemus as Jem is joky for Jacob. Shem’s bodily getup, it seems, included an adze of a skull, an eight of a larkseye, the whoel of a nose, one numb arm up a sleeve, fortytwo hairs off his uncrown, eighteen to his mock lip, a trio of barbels from his megageg chin, the wrong shoulder higher than the right, all ears, an artificial tongue with a natural curl, not a foot to stand on, a handful of thumbs, a blind stomach, a deaf heart, a loose liver, two fifths of two buttocks, a manroot of all evil, a salmonkelt’s thinskin, eelsblood in his cold toes and a bladder tristended. Shem was a sham and a low sham.
OB: And there was Professor Irving Babbitt of Harvard who dismissed his most widely read novel, "Ulysses," as one which only could have been written "in an advanced stage of psychic disintegration."
UL: Enjoy a bath now: clean trough of water, cool enamel, the gentle tepid stream. This is my body.
He foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked, in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved. He saw his trunk and limbs riprippled over and sustained, buoyed lightly upward, lemonyellow: his navel, bud of flesh: and saw the dark tangled curls of his bush floating, floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower.
OB: Originally published in 1922, "Ulysses" was not legally available in the United States until eleven years later, when United States Judge John Monro Woolsey handed down his famous decision to the effect that the book was not obscene. Hitherto the book had been smuggled in and sold at high prices by "bookleggers" and a violent critical battle had raged around it.
"'Ulysses' is not an easy book to read or understand," Judge Woolsey wrote. "But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become its satellites. The study of "Ulysses" is therefore a heavy task.
UL: Mr. Bloom turned over idly pages of The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, then of Aristotle’s Masterpiece. He read the other title: Sweets of Sin. More in her line. Let us see. He read where his finger opened.
All the dollarbills her husband gave her were spent in the stores on wondrous gowns and costliest frillies. For him! For Raoul!
Yes. Here. Take this.
You are late, he spoke hoarsely, eyeing her with a suspicious glare. The beautiful woman threw off her sabletrimmed wrap, displaying her queenly shoulders and heaving embonpoint. An imperceptible smile played round her perfect lips as she turned to him calmly.
OB: Judge Woolsey contined: “The reputation of 'Ulysses' in the literary world, however, warranted my taking such time as was necessary to enable me to satisfy myself as to the intent with which the book was written, for, of course, in any case where a book is claimed to be obscene it must first be determined whether the intent with which it was written was what is called, according to the usual phrase, pornographic, that is, written for the purpose of exploiting obscenity.
UL: Ask for that every ten minutes. Beg, pray for it as you never prayed before. Here. Kiss that! Gee up! A cockhorse to Banbury cross. I’ll ride him for the Eclipse stakes. The lady goes a pace a pace and the coachman goes a trot a trot and the gentleman goes a gallop a gallop a gallop a gallop.
OB: "If the conclusion is that the book is pornographic that is the end of the inquiry... But in 'Ulysses," in spite of its unusual frankness, I do not detect anywhere the leer of the sensualist. I hold, therefore, that it is not pornographic."
On the passages dealing with sex, Judge Woolsey paused to remark that the reader must not forget that "the characters are Celtic and the time is Spring." His decision was hailed as one of the most civilized ever propounded by an American judge.
[Music box played during the next paragraph.]
After he had admitted Ulysses to the country, there was a rush to buy the almost immediately available authorized and uncensored edition published by Random House. Since then the book, unlike many another once banned by the censor and then forgotten, has been read widely; less for the passages once objected to than for the book as a whole.
Although Joyce appeared in many of his writings as Stephen Dedalus, many details of his life are missing.
The writer was born Feb. 2, 1882, in Dublin, the son of John Stanislaus Joyce (The Simon Dedalus of "Ulysses" whom Bloom hears singing in the Ormond bar) and Mary Murray Joyce. His father supposedly had one of the finest tenor voices in Ireland. James Joyce had an equally fine voice.
UL: Boomed crashing chords. When love absorbs. War! War! The tympanum.
A sail! A veil awave upon the waves.
Lost. Throstle fluted. All is lost now.
When first he saw. Alas!
Full tup. Full throb.
Warbling. Ah, lure! Alluring.
Clapclop. Clipclap. Clappyclap.
OB: The Joyce family was not prosperous and it was large. James stood out among his brothers and sisters and, at the age of 9, is supposed to have written an attack on Tim Healy, the anti-Parnellite, which was printed but of which no known copy exists. Since he was literary it was decided to give him an education and he was sent first to Clongowes Wood College, then to Belvedere College, also in Ireland, and later he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Royal University in Dublin.
He was an amazing scholar, and an independent and solitary figure. When he was 17 he read Ibsen's plays and wrote an essay for the Fortnightly Review about the author of "The Doll's House." Dissatisfied with the English translations, Joyce learned Norwegian when he was 19 years old so that he might read his literary god in the original. At the same time he was reading and studying Dante, all the Elizabethan poets, St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle.
UL: What is your idea of Hamlet? Haines asked Stephen.
No, no, Buck Mulligan shouted in pain. I’m not equal to Thomas Aquinas and the fiftyfive reasons he has made to prop it up.
He turned to Stephen, saying as he pulled down neatly the peaks of his primrose waistcoat, “You couldn’t manage it under three pints, could you?”
It has waited so long, Stephen said, it can wait longer.
It’s quite simple, Buck Mulligan said. He proves by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father.
What? Haines said, he himself.
The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue of Dedalus, said Mulligan.
OB: In those days, according to Padraic Colum, Joyce was a tall, slender young man with "a Dantesque face and steely blue eyes," who sauntered along the street in a peaked tennis cap, soiled tennis shoes, carrying an ashplant for a cane. Stephen Dedalus carries a similar cane in "Ulysses" and frequently talks with it! He loved to sing and recite poetry in his fine tenor voice, but he spoke harshly and used "many of the unprintable words he got printed in 'Ulysses.'"
UL: Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot, Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs.
Stephen closed his eyes to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells. You are walking through it howsomever. I am, a stride at a time. Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount strand? Crush, crack, crick, crick. Wild sea money.
He took the hilt of his ashplant, lunging with it softly, dallying still.
OB: Conceit and arrogance were his characteristics. When he first met Yeats he remarked: "We have met too late; you are too old to be influenced by me." AE (George Russell) recognized his "keen and cold intelligence," but told the young man, "I'm afraid you have not enough chaos in you to make a world."
FW: Can’t hear with the waters of. The chittering waters of. Flittering bats, fieldmice bawk, talk! Ho! Are you not gone ahome? What Thom Malone? Can’t hear with bawk of bats, all thim liffey-ing waters of. Ho, talk save us! My foos won’t moos. I feel as old as yonder elm. A tale told of Shaun or Shem? All Livia’s daughter-sons. Dark hawks hear us. Night! Night! My ho head falls. I feel as heavy as yonder stone. Tell me of John or Shaun? Who were Shem and Shaun, the living sons or daughters of? Night now! Tell me, tell, tell me, elm! Night night! Telmetale of stem and stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of. Night!
[Music box played during this paragraph.]
OB: Joyce was in continuous rebellion against Ireland and its life and said: "When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight." The words are Stephen Dedalus's in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," but it was Joyce speaking, and, at the age of 20, he left Ireland for Paris where he intended, and for a time pretended, to study medicine.
UL: But do you know what a nation means?
Yes, says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.
By God then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the past five years.
What is your nation?, asks the citizen.
Ireland, says Bloom. I was born here. Ireland.
OB: At this time he started the stories that were eventually published as "Dubliners" (this book was later publicly burned in a Dublin public square) and started his first novel. This, the "Portrait of the Artist," was ten years in the writing. His first published work- except for the forgotten attack on Tim Healy- was "Chamber Music," a collection of Elizabethan-like verse, which were printed in 1907. It was at this time that he met Nora Barnacle, "a sleek blond beauty" from Galway, the daughter of Thomas and Ann Healy Barnacle.
UL: of course he’s mad on the subject of drawers that’s plain to be seen always skeezing at those brazenfaced things on the bicycles with their skirts blowing up to their navels even when Milly and I were out with him at the open air fete that one in the cream muslin standing right against the sun so he could see every atom she had on when he saw me from behind following in the rain I saw him before he saw me however standing at the corner of the Harolds cross road with a new raincoat on him with the muffler in the Zingari colours to show off his complexion and the brown hat looking slyboots as usual
OB: They soon went to the continent to live (their marriage was not regularized until twenty-seven years later, when they visited a London registry office to legalize the status of their two children, George and Lucia). In Trieste, where they settled after some wandering, Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School and the Commercial Academy. He knew seventeen languages, ancient and modern, including Arabic, Sanskrit and Greek.
FW: For if the lingo gasped between kicksheets, however basically English, were to be preached from the mouths of wicker-churchwardens and metaphysicians in the row and advokaattoes, allvoyous, demivoyelles, languoaths, lesbiels, dentelles, gutterhowls and furtz where would their practice be or where the human race itself? Over country stiles, behind slated dwellinghouses, down blind lanes, or, when all fruit fails, under some sacking left on a coarse cart?
OB: In 1914 Dubliners was published in London. In the same year he also finished his novel "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
When war was declared Joyce and his wife, who were British citizens, were in Austria. He was forced out of his job as a teacher, and the couple moved to Zurich.
While living in Zurich Joyce began to suffer from severe ocular illness and eventually underwent at least ten operations on his eyes. For years he was almost totally blind and much of his later writing was done with red crayon on huge white sheets of paper.
FW: Have you heard the one about Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
By the butt of the Magazine Wall
Of the Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?
OB: "Ulysses" was begun under this difficult situation. Much of it was published by Margaret Anderson in The Little Review, the magazine which Otto Kahn, New York banker, once subsidized for his Greenwich Village friends. Chapters appeared between March, 1918, and August, 1920, when the Society for the Suppression of Vice had The Review stopped by court order.
After the war the Joyces returned to Trieste, where they lived with Stanislaus Joyce, the author's brother. Then, in 1919, they went to Paris, where they made their home until the next war sent them again to Zurich to occupy the house they had known in 1914.
UL: Could Bloom of 7 Eccles street foresee Bloom of Flowerville?
In loose allwool garments with Harris tweed cap, price 8/6, and useful garden boots with elastic gussets and wateringcan, planting aligned young firtrees, syringing, pruning, staking, sowing hayseed, trundling a weedladen wheelbarrow without excessive fatigue at sunset amid the scent of newmown hay, ameliorating the soil, multiplying wisdom, achieving longevity.
OB: In 1922 Joyce's greatest book, "Ulysses," was published in Paris. Great Britain, Ireland and the United States banned the book. For many years after "Ulysses" was done Joyce worked on what he called "Work in Progress." Much of it appeared in Transition, the magazine published in the Nineteen Twenties in Paris by Eugene Jolas. [Gong] In May, 1939, it was published as "Finnegan's Wake," a book "distinguished" by such "words" as Goragorridgeorballyedpuhkalsom, to name one of the simpler ones, and many puns. In it Mr. Joyce suggested the book was the work of "a too pained whitelwit laden with the loot of learning."
FW: The proteiform graph itself is a polyhedron of scripture. There was a time when naïf alphabetters would have written it down the tracing of a purely deliquescent recidivist, possibly ambidextrous, snubnosed probably and presenting a strangely profound rainbowl in his (or her) occiput.
OB: During all his years as a writer Joyce was carefully protected by his wife, who once said she cared for him despite (quote) "his necessity to write those books no one can understand." His conversation was clear, never anything like his writing, and his wit as keen.
Joyce's son, George Joyce, married the former Miss Helen Castor of Long Branch, N.J. They had one son, Stephen James Joyce. James Joyce and his wife made their home with his son for many years before the present war.