Monthly Archives: April 2008

Joyce’s Influence

James Joyce

Brought him up because I wondered if his position in the literary scheme wasn’t drifting into a long slow decline. No, not so, it seems, from the reaction. Someone put him down as having two of the best final lines ever written, but then his final sentence in Ulysses goes on forever  – 33 pages in Penguin Twentieth Century Classic edition (Bodley Head – if not boggle yr head).

Joyce is one of those impossibles, except the other impossibles like Musil you can learn to forget pretty quick. Joyce, he lingers and lingers and makes you re-read him and then you frown and then you pick him up again and frown some more and then you find gems, but boy some ordinary stuff, duds as well. The point is though, he recreated the novel, gave us a key out the Victorian literary prison – literally.

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Is Joyce Dead?

Does he live on in writing today? And if not, who are the writers that make the difference, guide our consciousness these days? Marquez? Borges? Pynchon? (not for me). McCarthy? Stephen King (is he anyone’s favourite?). How many people still read 20th century writers today for inspiration? Anyone want to add to this list? (in no particular order).

Joyce – for destroying the concept of realistic/willing suspension of disbelief narrative. Kakfa – for bringing the waking dream to the fore. Faulkner – for As I Lay Dying. Hemingway for being himself and those short stories, Gertrude Stein – for the value of repetition, Andy Warhol – for that diary, Marquez – for Love in the Time of Cholera, his prose-poetry and story capacities really melded in this one, J.D. Salinger – for page one filled with attitude in The Catcher in the Rye, Jack Kerouac – for describing the road, Brett Easton Ellis for showing us how alive American sociopathology and sadism is in the ‘well bred’ (well-breaded) American soul, James Kelman for that language and wonderful portrait in How Late it was, How Late, Dylan for Like a Rolling Stone, Henry Miller for Tropic of Cancer, Samuel Beckett for being there, Woody Allen for all his films onward from Annie Hall, Jorge Amado, The Animals, W.H. Auden, Warren Beatty, Saul Bellow, Chuck Berry, Robert Bloch, Lawrence Block, Jorge Luis Borges, for the best short writing of the 20th century, Hermann Broch, Joseph Brodsky, Charles Bukowski – made east LA come so alive, Anthony Burgess, John Burnside for crossing Commercial Street (Road) in the rain, Albert Camus, Ethan Canin – the Accountant, Raymond Carver for all his stories, Raymond Chandler, Leonard Cohen, Larry Cohen, Julio Cortazar, Billy Crystal, e.e. Cummings, Michael Cunningham, Len Deighton, Don DeLillo, T.S. Eliot – sometimes, James Ellroy, John Fante, William Faulkner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Safran Foer, Richard Ford, Michel Foucault, Jonathan Franzen, William Gibson, Nadine Gordimer, Graham Greene, Dashiell Hammett, Jimi Hendrix, Homer (hey, you can’t forget him), Dante for just those opening lines in Inferno , Elfriede Jelinek, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Thom Jones, Charlie Kaufman, John F. Kennedy, Milan Kundera, Philip Larkin, John Le Carré for Leamas at Checkpoint Charlie, John Lennon, Elmore Leonard for everything he wrote 1980 to 1990, Kenneth Lonergan, Federico Garcia Lorca, Norman Mailer for The Executioner’s Song, David Mamet, John Marks for exposing the undercover boys, Paul McCartney, Jay McInerney, Robert McKee, Czeslaw Milosz, Eugenio Montale, Robert Musil for showing us that a book and a brick can be the same thing, Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda, Stewart O’Nan for Speed Queen, Harold Pinter, Luigi Pirandello, Marcel Proust, The Rolling Stones, Philip Roth, Arundhati Roy, José Saramago, for a truly favourite book of all time for me – The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Sam Shepard, Wislawa Szymborska, Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Peter Tolan (along with Billy Crystal, Robert De Niro and Harold Ramis for some of the best dialogue in a film), Sue Townsend, Gore Vidal, Derek Walcott – beautiful narrative poetry, Patrick White for showing me the spirit, William Butler Yeats for opening up classical style modern poetry for me and Paul D. Zimmerman for that gem and most underrated screenplay, King of Comedy.

The Spectre of Joyce

I caught an online Oprah Winfrey interview with Cormac McCarthy. Having only read No Country For Old Men I was and still am a little surprised by all the fawning atttention, but then traced his writing history and found Suttree (1979) .. “the novel’s evocation of Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, is often palpable”. How many writers did Joyce influence? I have lost count of the readers who say they cannot read Joyce, do not like him, yet on literary writers of the 20th century alone Joyce’s influence is always there somehow in some way in their work. Until I hear something that dismantles my view, I think I can say quite confidently that Joyce must be the most influential writer on writers to ever have been so disliked by readers.

PISST!

Was swimming 1500 metres daily at a fair clip and got a kick in the left chest. Thinking my heart was the reason I had a check and a blood test done. All clear on all fronts. Problem – chest wall strain from guess what? Swimming 1500 metres daily at a fair clip. Yesterday after getting the news I was back in the pool doing 1500 metres at a fair clip. I am over it and myself but my fears that I may now have permanent PISST has created more anxiety that it will return only making me go faster. Christ now what? Another injury and PISST all over again? Any sports experts out there who can help me reli(e)ve the PISST? (Post Injury Swimming Syndrome Trauma)

Back from 1200 metres. Please go to http://elephantearspress.com for more.

Elephant Power

http://www.boreme.com/boreme/funny-2008/angry-elephant-charges-p1.php

Don’t underestimate the Elephant!

How to get over yourself

Take the left leg, place at right angles to the hypotenuse of the trunk, then swing it high past the ear and down round the other ear. At the same time taking care not to bite the tongue completely away from the back of the mouth or crush the odd molar, bring the right leg round the other way in more or less the same manner and then jump. It should work.

Hopefully you’ll land in the pool. Then follow with 1000 metres of whatever stroke you can manage.

Splashing out into the great beyond

Checked the ticker out with the local quack, seems it’s okay so after slowing to a crawl, (anxiety had me going: oh shit not me heart), I’m somewhat relieved. I’ve moved back up from half the distance, half the pace, back to 1500 metres almost at a decent clip. There’s something about the pool that gets the head right.