Rainy Saturday, Richard Ellman’s Joyce biography

Richard Ellman's biography of the great James Joyce is an outstanding read.

UPDATE: Fantastic comment from Jack Crane.

Oh how I could have used Google reading, excuse me, performing academic brain surgery while trying to dissect every sentence of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” back at BC in 1975. In a word, brutal! Especially for a lanky jock who knew much more about Dave Cowens (who could play defense, unlike your man Bird, and then go drive a cab around the Combat Zone!) than Irish literature. Yet, many years later, after much de-sportsication, I picked up “Dubliners” (loved it) and then “A Portrait…” (loved that too), and now “Ulysses” is staring at me, daring me to take out the rusty scalpel. I was even feeling cocky enough to dive into Beckett’s trilogy. Yet, I think the medula oblongata may have been hit too many times by hockey pucks to grasp his prose, and thus I died with Malone somewhere in the middle of “Malone Dies.” As for Dostoevsky, well, “Brothers Karamazov” was my first and favorite psychotherapy session, helping me understand my crazy family (are we normal after all?), and I also enjoyed “The Idiot,” although I recall the final breakdown of Myshkin disappointed and confused me. A good Joyce biography may be in order. Thanks for the Ellman’s review. Now back to youtube to watch Cowens play some tough D!

It’s a rainy Saturday here in the Chicago area, and I’ve got a couple of minutes for a quick post before going on my weekly Saturday run as part of my marathon preparations.

I’m shooting for 5.5 miles today and am optimistic that it will go smoothly enough.

My only concern is the lingering effects of the delicious Cabernet and Chianti I drank last night during a warm and convivial dinner with Dunreith and Ava at Eileen Murphy and Michael Buckley’s house.

Michael hales from County Mayo and is a former fidler turned Navtec employee.  He and Eileen have four lively and exuberant children, all of whom are 7 years old or younger and all of whom have flaming red hair.

Among other pleasures, Michael very much enjoys reading.  He does tilt toward non-fiction, and has a number of political science titles I look forward to consuming-he’s talked a lot about Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower-and I believe he would enjoy Richard Ellman’s eponymous biography of James Joyce.

The American-born Ellman brings the Irish literary legend to life, showing his poring over every sentence, the gradual descent into madness of his daughter Lucia, his endless concerns with money, his mastery of many languages, the deterioration of his vision, his self-imposed exile, and his complex relationship with his chambermaid, mistress and later wife Nora Barnacle.

A host of characters appears in the book, with everyone from W.B. Yeats to Samuel Beckett making appearances in Joyce’s epic life.

A highly accomplished literary scholar who my mother met when we lived in England for a year in the late 70s, Ellman also provides the reader with deep insight into Joyce’s increasingly inscrutable texts.  He begins each chapter with a quote from one of Joyce’s work that serves to frame the chapter.

James Joyce is not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one.  For others not wanting to brave Dostoyevsky, this may be the right fit.

Advertisements

2 responses to “Rainy Saturday, Richard Ellman’s Joyce biography

  1. Oh how I could have used Google reading, excuse me, performing academic brain surgery while trying to dissect every sentence of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” back at BC in 1975. In a word, brutal! Especially for a lanky jock who knew much more about Dave Cowens (who could play defense, unlike your man Bird, and then go drive a cab around the Combat Zone!) than Irish literature. Yet, many years later, after much de-sportsication, I picked up “Dubliners” (loved it) and then “A Portrait…” (loved that too), and now “Ulysses” is staring at me, daring me to take out the rusty scalpel. I was even feeling cocky enough to dive into Beckett’s trilogy. Yet, I think the medula oblongata may have been hit too many times by hockey pucks to grasp his prose, and thus I died with Malone somewhere in the middle of “Malone Dies.” As for Dostoevsky, well, “Brothers Karamazov” was my first and favorite psychotherapy session, helping me understand my crazy family (are we normal after all?), and I also enjoyed “The Idiot,” although I recall the final breakdown of Myshkin disappointed and confused me. A good Joyce biography may be in order. Thanks for the Ellman’s review. Now back to youtube to watch Cowens play some tough D! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s