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Dubliners February 25th 2023 – Come Home Journal #7

Reading for me is as a writer, fundamental. The work of James Joyce has shadowed me. Ulysses too hard they said. I never met anyone who had read the complete book. However this project has fore-grounded his work in an unexpected way. Like Keats earlier.

However I read a lot, but I’m not a reader of books. I am a reader of people, of articles, of film, poetry and of art. But I was feeling a heavy deep pull towards this book. So I began to ask around, again. Have you read Ulysses?

– Who?

– Bloomsday

– Tough read

– Molly – and yes I said yes I will yes

– 18 chapters I’ve yet to read 16 and 17. So you read the last chapter? Yes. Do you intend to go back? Might have to start again.

– Nora Barnacle is the one you’re after

– Based on Homer’s Odyssey

– Try the Dubliners to start

– His daughter was a dancer

I took off at a pace I recognised immediately as a distraction. But the rabbit warrens of distraction are where the women live.

I found Lucia Joyce, daughter of James and Nora, the tragic muse and oh so entrancing. Is she the Joyce I should be following? All three of them I think. I found her dancing in an early film version of Alice in Wonderland.

I shall return to her, as others have done, to lift her story above the commonplace sacrifice of creative women who live with creative men. Live with men.

Photo of Lucia Joyce found in the belongings of Samuel Beckett upon his death.

For Joyce I began to listen to the beautifully flavoursome tones of Irish character actor Jim Norton reading Ulysses and I felt like home. He lulls me into Joyce’s flights of fancy as I walk with puppy Betty the back streets of my town. His sublime read and Joyce’s words have enticed me to read Ulysses.

But not yet.

I need to see the words on the page. Reading for me I now understand is a visual experience, my eyes and imagination work in tandem.

But not yet.

First I want to savour the words spoken, as they surround me and lift my heart beyond the step by step to the leap by leap. I have bought a beautifully kept hard cover edition and have flipped through to see the words on the page.

But not yet.

I feel the need to get Joyce fit, so I’m reading the Dubliners, a series of short stories, his first published book. It’s hard to believe he was only 20 when he wrote these words. Living in France, writing about Dubliners, obsessed with the genius of his words, the women who surrounded him no doubt holding his obsession together on his expected behalf.

The one titled ‘Encounter’ leaves me with a beautiful visual of a young man at a market in a hall of chandeliers, shilling in his hand, looking for a small trinket for his love. And the lights, slowly, going out. Leaving him in a darkness that testifies to his lack of agency. He is too late.

How lucky am I to have Ulysses waiting for me. And how fortunate I am to be able to work on my own genius ;-}


MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Portrait of James Joyce with text of Ulysses by Max F (Creative Commons 2.0)


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