Is This the End of Gutenberg?

DublinesqueIn the vernacular of the age, Dublinesque by Enrique Vila-Matas is a bit of a hot-mess. At times it is great and at times it flounders. I suppose one might take the analogy of a day meandering around Dublin to excuse some of the meandering in Dublinesque, but I think the author could have tightened things up a bit.

Dublinesque revolves around the changeover from the “Gutenberg Galaxy” to the digital age in publishing and uses James Joyce’s Ulysses as the last truly great novel of the ink and paper variety and symbolically focuses on the celebration of Bloomsday in Dublin for its “center.” The plot follows the downward spiral of a literary publisher, whose battles with alcohol and hikikomori glued to his computer screen experiencing life filtered through Google. The destruction of this publisher is, if you will, the objective correlative of the passing of the age of Gutenberg.

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Bloomsday 2013

BloomsdayToday is one of the most important dates in literature. I almost said “in history” but despite the incontrovertible truth of the existence of a day in history corresponding to 16 June, it’s importance in only evident in literature and somewhat in the life of James Joyce. So today we celebrate the arguably best novel ever written in the English language, Ulysses.

On this day each year, wherever two people congregate, you can be fairly sure it is to raise a pint or two to that day in Dublin so many years ago and the adventures of two of of the most well-known characters in literature: Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom.

Ulysses is a novel that demands constant reading and rereading. I always suggest that new students eschew the various annotations, guides, and skeleton keys, and simply read Ulysses for the humanity and humor that Joyce crams into every word of the text. Then, after having read Ulysses a couple of times, start slow with the reference materials and rely more on your own head and heart than on what some critic tells you to do.

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Sylvia Beach

From an unknown source passed down through the James Joyce online reading group:

Sylvia BeachIt’s the birthday of the bookseller and publisher Sylvia Beach, born in Baltimore, Maryland (1887). She opened a bookstore and lending library on the Left Bank of Paris called Shakespeare and Company, which stocked English-language books. Shakespeare and Company became known as “the unofficial living room” of the expatriate artists living in Paris, writers like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce. Sylvia Beach met Joyce in 1920, just as he was finishing Ulysses. He couldn’t get it published because all the big presses thought it was too obscene, so she offered to publish it for him, even though she’d never published a book before. To fund the project, she got people to buy advance copies. She had no editors, so she edited the huge manuscript herself, and she published it on Joyce’s birthday, February 2, 1922.

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Finnegans Adventures in China

I ran across this interesting article on Finnegans Wake:

Translation of ‘Finnegans Wake’ sells in China
By DIDI TANG, Associated Press

JJBEIJING (AP) — The Chinese version is no easier to read than the original, the loyal-minded translator assures, but James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” has still sold out its initial run in China — with the help of some big urban billboards.

Wang Weisong, chief editor of the Shanghai company that published the first Chinese translation of the Joyce classic, coyly said at a recent forum in Shanghai that he wasn’t expecting any success for the book, but that the modest initial run of 8,000 copies has sold out since it went on sale Dec. 25. He said more copies are being printed to meet demand.

Dai Congrong, who spent eight years translating it, told the same forum that she didn’t fully grasp the novel but that it was supposed to be difficult, and that she kept the Chinese version that way.

“I would not be faithful to the original intent of the novel if my translation made it easy to comprehend,” Dai said, according to a transcript the Shanghai People’s Publishing House posted online.

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