All news is old news for Joyce, and this is never more apparent than in Ulysses which—though written between 1914 and 1921—takes place in 1904. Even more than evading the recent World War I, Joyce took pains to stay true to the feel of 1904. Famously, he poured over newspapers of June 16, 1904 and also owned a copy of Thom’s Dublin Directory for 1904 (which gave him access to names and addresses of citizens, houses, shops, pubs, parks, offices, even public urinals). For slang of the day, Joyce likely consulted texts such as Patrick W. Joyce’s English As We Speak It in Ireland (1910) and J. Redding Ware’s Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang, and Phrase (1909). The author once told Djuna Barnes: “A writer should never write about the extraordinary; that is for the journalist.”
Joyce wrote Ulysses while living in Zurich and Paris, during which he sent letters to his Aunt Josephine in Dublin to have her obsessively fact check the conditions of the places he was writing about. Nearing the novel’s completion in November 1921, he inquired whether a middle-aged man could surmount the courtyard wall of 7 Eccles St. (the house Joyce lived in during August 1909 and subsequently his protagonist Leopold Bloom’s home):
Dear Aunt Josephine: Thanks for the information… Two more questions. Is it possible for an ordinary person to climb over the area railings of no 7 Eccles street, either from the path or the steps, lower himself from the lowest part of the railings till his feet are within 2 feet or 3 of the ground and drop unhurt. I saw it done myself but by a man of rather athletic build. I require this information in detail in order to determine the wording of a paragraph.
Joyce wanted to know because, in his “Ithaca” chapter, Bloom must get over this very wall when he’s locked out. He can. He does.
Paratext makes the world go round. Two years ago, the Center for Henry James Studies—who are currently editing and publishing James’s letters—posted a discovery from the archives. As quoted on their Facebook page:
One of the two films we know Henry James saw: the Fitzsimmons-Corbett fight in 1898. (The fight happened on 17 March 1897 but the film became popular the next year.) He told Sarah Butler Wister that he ‘quite revelled’ in it.
Joyce was only 15 when the famous match took place, and 16 when the film was released. Yet the Irish novelist makes sure to allude to the Carson City event (held on St. Patrick’s Day, of course) in Ulysses as a point of comparison to a pucking match observed by Master Dignam:
The best pucker going for strength was Fitzsimons. One puck in the wind from that fellow would knock you into the middle of next week, man. But the best pucker for science was Jem Corbet before Fitzsimons knocked the stuffings out of him, dodging and all.
Fred Lorz led the 32 starters from the gun, but by the first mile Thomas Hicks edged ahead. William Garcia of California nearly became the first fatality of an Olympic marathon we he collapsed on the side of the road and was hospitalized with hemorrhaging; the dust had coated his esophagus and ripped his stomach lining. Had he gone unaided an hour longer he might have bled to death. John Lordon suffered a bout of vomiting and gave up. Len Tau, one of the South African participants, was chased a mile off course by wild dogs. Félix Carvajal trotted along in his cumbersome shoes and billowing shirt, making good time even though he paused to chat with spectators in broken English. On one occasion he stopped at a car, saw that its occupants were eating peaches, and asked for one. Being refused, he playfully snatched two and ate them as he ran. A bit further along the course, he stopped at an orchard and snacked on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. Suffering from stomach cramps, he lay down and took a nap. Sam Mellor, now in the lead, also experienced severe cramping. He slowed to a walk and eventually stopped. At the nine-mile mark cramps also plagued Lorz, who decided to hitch a ride in one of the accompanying automobiles, waving at spectators and fellow runners as he passed.
As the investigation revved up, reformers and educators began to speak out more boldly against corruption in city government than anyone had. John Dewey demanded reform. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Reverend John Haynes Holmes demanded a “swift” investigation and a sweeping examination of corruption in Jimmy Walker’s office. Wise and Holmes were even emboldened to urge Walker to resign, which he declined to do.
In 1931, although Seabury was careful to stay out of the murder investigation and focus on corruption, he personally interviewed some witnesses relevant to the former. He was the first to hear Cassie Clayton, a friend of Gordon’s—and a possible associate of Legs Diamond’s—testify that the victim was obsessed with getting revenge on the men she believed had stolen her daughter.
Part of the motivation behind my work on [“A Poem Is Being Written”] has been a fantasy that readers or hearers would be variously—in anger, identification, pleasure, envy, “permission,” exclusion—stimulated to write accounts “like” this one (whatever that means) of their own, and share those.
— Eve Sedgwick, Tendencies (in a footnote)
- Jen: why do academics love never let me go?
- me: maybe b/c never let me go is so internal
- i haven't read it all
- just like the first few pages, and the last few ahahah
- ALL U REALLY NEED 2 READ
- Jen: lolololol
- WHY R WE H8ING
- WHY R WE H8ING 2DAY: a study
- me: we should read it! it's REALLY simple language
- how are you!!!
- Jen: LOL
- me: i have had too much coffee
Being able—or unable—to write is a fairly good gauge of present happiness.
”Also—these next ones are far more important-I’ve been a feminist for as long as I’ve known what the word means, and I need for my therapist to be one. I don’t have a laundry list or a litmus test to define it, but I’m assuming you probably know if you are.”
This gets two, near-expressionless nods.
”And—I guess I’m not asking you about your sexual orientation, but queer stuff is so central in my life. Even aside from my own sexuality, it’s at the heart of just about everything I do and love as an adult. Also if the world is divided—and it seems to be, doesn’t it?—between people who are inside the experience of the AIDS epidemic and people who are outside of it, then I seem to be way inside.
“So probably if I’m going to relax with you at all, I need to start out knowing—as much as it’s possible to know—that you aren’t phobic about all that. Actually that you feel very fine and at home about it.”
”I guess I’m not asking you about your sexual orientation,” I said—and he nodded soberly. I don’t know what I’m supposed to assume about this. The very emphatic recommendation of Shannon came from another shrink, one who knew me pretty well. And experience shows that I’m one of those people who when others say to me,
“I’m just sure you’d get
along marvelously with
X” —then X is gay.
— EKS’s introductions with her therapist, “A Dialogue on Love”
MAYBE that’s why more and more people I know, even if they have no religious commitment, seem to be turning to yoga, or meditation, or tai chi; these aren’t New Age fads so much as ways to connect with what could be called the wisdom of old age. Two journalist friends of mine observe an “Internet sabbath” every week, turning off their online connections from Friday night to Monday morning, so as to try to revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation. Finding myself at breakfast with a group of lawyers in Oxford four months ago, I noticed that all their talk was of sailing — or riding or bridge: anything that would allow them to get out of radio contact for a few hours.