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Showing posts from February 6, 2022

Dr Skogg’s Bloomsday: Martin Johnston and James Joyce

Martin Johnston’s novel ‘Cicada Gambit’ (1983) is probably the earliest work of fiction to use Bloomsday (the 16 th of June) as an essential element of the story. Set in Sydney, it is an integral part of the history of Bloomsday celebration in Australia.   The first mention of ‘Ulysses’ in the story is at page 41. It is a surprise appearance. The narrator talks about “narrative thread” and “Greek ideas and associations” before saying “I still cannot tell for certain whether James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ had any part to play.” Then proceeds to talk about something else, though he does speak of “the second of these episodes”, which hints at least at the idea that the book deals in episodes, just as in Joyce’s novel. The reference occurs in the second chapter, as though Johnston is starting to drop clues. We are henceforth on the lookout for Joycean cues.   Bloomsday itself is introduced two-thirds of the way through the story, at Chapter 16, ’Control of the Centre’, continuing across Chap

Some thoughts while reading ‘The Age of Disenchantments’, Aaron Shulman’s biography of the Panero family

  The debt that Aaron Shulman owes to the writings, published and unpublished, of Felicidad Blanc increases with each chapter. His adoption of the thoughts and feelings of each member of the Panero family is especially prevalent in her case, prompting the reader to ask: where did he get this emotional inside knowledge? The answer is simple: from her own writings, published and unpublished, listed in the book’s bibliographies. Shulman nowhere acknowledges that that’s what he is doing, an act of appropriation of her words that leaves one with an uneasy feeling. On the one hand, he is forthcoming about Felicidad’s own literary ambitions, while on the other he plays his own game of storyteller by using her primary source material for his own ends. This results in a literary history that at times tips into novelistic imaginings of each main character, and notably Felicidad herself. Although he ponders from time-to-time why these people behave in such truly crazy ways, it is not hard to see