Spring is sprung here and while we've been wintering our way through Sirens and Nausicaa ,and Oxen in the Sun, Lisa in Oz has been sweltering through summer and doing a proper job for us.
Don't miss her schoolgirl recollections of the Joycean streets of Melbourne.
It's been really good to laze my way through three months of Circe and not feel rushed about it, time to gather up some energy for the final push. Slowly but surely any intentions to read notes and understand more deeply, which, despite my best intentions otherwise seemed to hit me as I approached the halfway mark, have fallen by the wayside.
I've let go and laughed out loud through Circe, and constantly imagined how this must have been received back in the 1920s.
Thank you to Marcia who sent me a link to Garrison Keillor's A Writer's Almanac ( a revelation to which I have now subscribed by e mail) and an entry about William York Tindall, a James Joyce scholar born in 1903 in Vermont. Having heard about this 'notorious book' William Tindall decided to buy a copy when he was in Paris, discovering that it 'wasn't a dirty book but a fascinating one' and to his amazement he had made his purchase on June 16th.
"When he returned to the U.S., he started teaching a course in modern literature at New York University, and he was one of the first professors in the United States to assign Ulysses to his students. The book was still banned in the U.S. at the time, so his students had to read a bootlegged copy that was chained to a desk in the library."
I feel slightly chained to my copy too.
It's been wandering around the house with me for the last nine months, a sort of constant in my reading life, when the time finally comes it will feel very strange to put it back on the shelf.
But it's too big to travel with and I've seriously considered but resisted the heinous crime of taking a scalpel to it and dissecting it into smaller parts on several occasions through this year. I once watched someone do this to the Norton Complete Shakespeare at an Open University Summer School and the tutor group bar one all followed like lemmings.
The 'bar one' was me weeping over in the corner at the carnage.
However I do have several longish train journeys coming up before June so I've settled on buying an electronic copy for my e reader instead. I still heart my e reader and as Ulysses only set me back £1.59 I don't feel too out of pocket.
How it will feel to read it on screen I don't know and I wonder what James Joyce might have thought of such electronictrickery ?
I did come across a review of Ulysses by another favourite writer, Jorges Luis Borges.
'I am the first traveller from the Hispanic world to set foot upon the shores of Ulysses, a lush wilderness already traversed by Valery Laubard, who traced its dense texture with the impeccable precision of a mapmaker, but which I too will describe, even though my visit within its borders has been inattentive and transient.'
and at least he was honest...
'I confess that I have not cleared a path through all seven hundred pages...and yet I know what it is, with that bold and legitimate certainty with which we assert our knowledge of a city, without ever having been rewarded with the intimacy of all the many streets it includes.'
Written in 1925 Borges seems to have taken a courageous stance when the book was getting such a mixed reception elsewhere and of Circe he writes
'Joyce sketches a delirious brothel scene, and the chance conjuring of any loose phrase or idea ushers in hundreds - the sum is not an exaggeration but exact - of absurd speakers and impossible events.
Calling James Joyce a 'millionaire of words and styles' Jorges Luis Borges predicts that
'ten years from now...we will still enjoy him'
The Tinker's lifetime on (he was born in 1925 and will be eighty five any day now... he's very well and I'll bring you news of his next exciting escapade soon) Borges was not mistaken and adds something I'm certainly starting to believe too,
'Be what it may, I will always esteem and adore the divine genius of this Gentleman, taking from him what I understand with humility and admiring with veneration what I am unable to understand.'