The Prick with a Stick

JoyceThere is a very interesting (and for some, sad) article in the Globe and Mail that everyone planning to celebrate Bloomsday this June 16th should read and reflect on. The question is: does the close association of James Joyce with the city of Dublin maintain any relevance in modern Dublin?

Read the article online at The Globe and Mail. Here is just a taste …

As Dubliners turns 100, the city Joyce immortalized seems ready to move on

JARED BLAND
DUBLIN — The Globe and Mail

“Do you know what we call him here?” says the woman sitting next to me on my first night in town. “The prick with a stick.”

“I once tried to read Ulysses, and couldn’t,” adds her dinner companion. “So I got it on audiobook. But it was still nonsense.”

Welcome to Dublin, a city made famous, in part, by James Joyce and his book about the city’s residents, Dubliners, which was published 100 years ago this week. During his long struggle to see the book to market, Joyce famously boasted that he had captured Dublin’s very essence: “I have written it for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness and with the conviction that he is a very bold man who dares to alter in the presentment, still more to deform, whatever he has seen and heard.”

But, as the book reaches its centenary, and as Joyceans around the world get ready to celebrate another Bloomsday on June 16 (the day on whichUlysses is set), a strange thing seems to be happening in the legend’s hometown. Joyce remains an essential tourist engine for Ireland, drawing countless visitors each year. Yet in the laneways his characters haunted and the bars he wrote about, few people seem to care about him. I wondered, is Joyce even relevant to the city any more?

Even the woman scheduled to give me a walking tour of Joyce’s Dublin was skeptical. “You really want a Joyce tour?” she asked, when I met her in the lobby of my hotel. I confess, I was relieved. After a few days in the city, I’d had enough of the old fellow, whose sour face is everywhere, on buildings and in shop windows, and whose quotes adorn the walls of taverns and countless sidewalk chalkboards. I was quite happy to take up her offer of a more general meander. …

I suspect that the immediacy of Bloomsday and the close (and constant) association of James Joyce with Dublin has lived on for many more years that one might have hoped. Oh, you can still go to Hannibal, Missouri and tour all the sights (original or reconstructed) from the life and literature of Mark Twain, but if it wasn’t for remembering the author’s early days in Hannibal, the town might have dried up and blown away long ago. This article speaks to a Dublin that has outgrown it’s literary fame and is a little tired of a long dead author being assumed as the city’s spokesman after the hundred years since the publication of The Dubliners.

JoyceAlthough I am a Joyce fanatic, I see this position as being a natural evolution of the immediacy of literature. We see similar effects all over the world in hundreds of revered works of literature: it is no longer the Paris of Dumas or the Petersburg of Dostoevsky or the Greece of Homer or the Levant of the Bible. Times change and literature becomes a window into a world that has long ago lost it’s close connection to out lives.

In many ways this is good: Ulysses is not a travelog of Dublin highlighting pub tours or bronze plaques. This is only the surface that has been skimmed off of the novel to increase tourism. Beneath these surface approaches to Joyce there is the vast depth of the author’s erudition and his thematic fecundity. Furthermore it opens the imagination of the reader to a much larger world of fiction: as you stand on the heights of Athens and imagine how it might have appeared in when Aristophanes was playing at the theater, so too you can now lean on a rail along the river Liffey and imagine that day back in 1904.

Do you know how many oxygen molecules you suck in with every breath that also flowed through James Joyce when he stood by the river and saw his Dublin on a sunny day in June?

featherline

Here’s a little quickie for Bloomsday from the folks that brought you The Monster That Devoured Cleveland (perhaps).

Bloomsday in Sixty Seconds

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Banville in the Borders | silence cunning exile ... maple syrup

  2. there’s nothing that shocking here; Joyce and Bloomsday have always been more of a draw for tourists than for the citizens of Dublin. And I wouldn’t be too concerned with ‘the prick with a stick’ thing: that’s a standard Dublin “affectionate” nickname for public art (if the writer had hung around longer, he would have probably heard about The Tart with the Cart and The Stilleto in the Ghetto: the Molly Malone statue at the bottom of Grafton St. and the Millenium Spire on O’Connell Street).

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