James Joyce: free at last!


I love James Joyce.  I prize the facsimile 1922 edition of “Ulysses” I bought in Limerick in 2008 (hey, it’s paperback, but it’s from the Auld Sod, so phfffft.)  I have tried to read “Finnegans Wake” so many times that I’ve lost count.  (I can recite bits of it, mostly from the first fifteen pages.)



What I love best is the play of his language: the way he bounces words off one another, sound and meaning, even between languages (“Finnegans Wake” has dozens of languages in it).  And, given that I automatically absorb doggerel and nonsense, I have absorbed lots of odd bits of Joyce, which rattle pleasantly around inside my empty head:



        What is home without Plumtree’s Potted Meat? Incomplete.

        Hush! Caution! Echoland!

        and yes I said yes I will Yes.

        I am the light of the homestead, I am the dreamery creamery butter.

        Kaw kave kankury kake.

        Gee each owe tea eye smells fish.  That’s U.



Read them aloud: they are perfect little bits of poetry, as mad as anything by Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear, and as satisfying, and as perfect.



Usually we discuss James Joyce in June, when Bloomsday rolls around.  But Joyceans are celebrating at the moment for yet another reason.  On January 1, 2012, the EU has lifted copyright restrictions on the works Joyce published during his lifetime: “Dubliners,” “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” “Ulysses,” and “Finnegans Wake,” along with some (minor) works of poetry and drama.  (There are still some posthumously published things and some manuscripts, ferociously guarded by the James Joyce Estate, led by James’s pigheaded grandson Stephen, but unless you’re a Joyce scholar – and God knows I am not – you can live without them.)



So: you can now run along the beach, swinging your breeches in the air, singing “We’re a capital couple, are Bloom and I, he brightens the earth, I polish the sky,” without worrying that Stephen Joyce and his lawyers are going to descend upon you like the Disney Corporation and sue the living bejeezus out of you.



It is freedom.



And freedom is what Joyce is all about.



Now all together:



Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…” 




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

3 Responses to James Joyce: free at last!

  1. Don’t give up on FW! ” And there oftafter, jauntyjogging…” The language is soooo free. I spent a year reading it outloud with a class and producing Mary Manning’s adaptation.

    • I’ll probably never give up; I enjoy picking at it. Parts of it I know very well, but much of the central part of the book is still unexplored terrain for me.

      • gaelstormg says:

        Keep reading it like the I Ching. That’ll work. Like Ulysses, more it is the experience of the reader more than the listener….Just give it a go–out loud.

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