Summary: A great new Joyce Twitter Contest! Using no sexy or anatomical words, no obscenity, tweet the best sexs cene you can write using the hashtag #YesMolly.
Contest Starts: Friday October 17th at noon
Ends: Monday October 20th at noon
Prize: A copy of the Gabler edition of Ulysses which Frank uses for his Podcast Re:Joyce
Winners will be announced Monday afternoon EST.
ANNOUNCING! A new Twitter CONTEST!! With Prizes!!! Here’s the task: Tweet, without using explicit language or biological terminology, the best, steamiest, most erotic scene that you can write. James Joyce’s Ulysses (see this site under Podcasts) ends famously – or notoriously, as you prefer – with a 3-page, non-stop, almost unparagraphed soliloquy from Molly, the wife of Leopold Bloom. It’s lively, it’s life in the raw, it’s libidinous.
This contest aims at the opposite extreme. In fewer than 140 characters – and allow for the hashtag – see if you can write a sex scene that will make our palms sweat, our eyes roll. You’re not allowed to use sexual language or terminology; you are not permitted any biology. I’m going straight in (so to speak) with an example. Molly, as you probably know, ends her long, long thought with the orgasmic “And yes I said, I will Yes.” Accordingly, just to guide you here’s my offering for this contest: “Yes, I said, yes, I will, yes. Yes. Definitely. Oh, God, mmmm, yes absolutely. Yes! Yes-yes. Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!”
That’s 132 characters; I’ve left room for the hashtag which is #YesMolly. The contest runs from today, Friday, to Monday noon and the first three winners will receive in the mail from me copies of the Gabler edition of Ulysses with a note from me. Go to it!
In this edition Frank has contributed a marvelous piece on Beatrix Potter, and PD has enhanced it with the most charming photographs and illustrations.
I love his direction to look into the work itself to see the inner life of the writer and artist, including a childhood Potter managed to so fill so successfully with a link between the human and the natural world, it became her life's work and a gift for us all. Frank's childhood was full of the field life around his rural Ireland home. So there was a natural link. But for those of you, like me, less tied to the fields and woods, but still holding on to our Benjamin Bunny breakfast sets (and a stuffed Pigling Bland) from childhood, Potter's gift may also have personal resonance.
Here it is. Enjoy! http://publicdomainreview.org/2014/07/23/the-tale-of-beatrix-potter/
It’s not so long ago – that is, if you insist upon seeing Time as a linear system of aggregating years. I don’t. For me it's the working of personal history – sensation, remembrance, the feeling on that day, at that time. In the matter in hand, I was eight years old, no more; and an adoring godmother, a spinster of blazing intelligence who rode a bicycle through the Irish countryside and gave the best birthday presents, handed me a copy of Treasure Island.
Yes, as she said, it was “a book for boys.” And yes, I devoured it, read it at one sitting, and retained so much of it, especially the terror of Jim Hawkins the cabin-boy as he overheard the mutineers making their dreadful plots around the apple-barrel on board the Hispaniola. It became, however, much more than a book for boys – it stimulated a lifetime of affection and enquiry, because the said godmother, who always had the cunning foresight and emotional smarts to attach bars of Cadburys chocolate to “improving” gifts, added, this time, a remark.
“As you read,” she said, “think of the man who was making up this story. Where was he sitting, what kind of pen was he writing with?” She was, as you’ll have divined, a teacher.
Now we drift forward several decades, and I’m sitting in a television studio taping what was perhaps the last – certainly one of the last – interviews ever granted by the blind little giant of the Argentine, Jorge Luis Borges. As the Times in London reported next day, “It was like watching an interview with Homer.”
Question: “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?”
Borges: “At the age of eleven when I read Treasure Island and found myself more interested in the writer than in the characters he created.”
Although I cannot claim to have self-started the same impulse in me I yet felt the shiver of recognition. And then the delight as Mr. Borges went on to say, “And all my life since I have felt an unusual affection for its author, Robert Louis Stevenson.”
I’ll drink to that. He liked his name pronounced “Lewis,” and he was to my mind a delight back then, and became even more so as the years wound along. With his straggling mustache, his unstoppable curiosity and his heart of fire he has always been one of the very few authors with whom I’d ever have wanted to hang out. Writers, when they meet, don't talk about “literature” much – they talk about money and agents and publishers and contracts and bookstores. RLS would have talked about anything. This is a man who, tired of seeing his girlfriends vamped by his father, brought home a hooker to dinner one night. This is a man who looked though a long window in a French house, saw people dining, opened the window, climbed through it, sat beside the woman at the table, then married her and took her to the South Seas. This is a man who fought the British government on behalf of the Samoans, and when he won their battle they built a street from the center of town to his house and called it “The Road of the Loving Heart.”
Treasure Island has always been for me his most perfect book, and I’ve read all his work. I’ve even done a little tracing of his French wanderings in the Cevennes on his Travels with a Donkey – and in a sense I’ve followed him to the South Seas too. To test changing patterns in language for the BBC language program, Word of Mouth, I wrote a faithful sequel to Treasure Island, chapter by chapter, and as far as I could manage it, word count by word count. I even went and looked at the ornamental pond in Edinburgh’s Heriot Gardens, which has a little rocky islet that Stevenson saw every day of his boy’s life through the bedroom window of his overlooking house and which is believed by some to have given him the shape of the book’s actual island .
The writing of Jim Hawkins and the Curse of Treasure Island interested me as much as – and perhaps even more than – any book I’ve done. I took Jim forward in life by a decade or so, made him the treasure-rich young landlord of the expanded Admiral Benbow inn on the coast of Somerset (near where I lived at the time), and stood him there, behind the bar, regaling travelers with his tales of adventure. His neighbors, Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey appear, older now, and less keen on adventure, though still helpful and enabling. And Ben Gunn, penniless again, hedge-cutting for a local manor is still addicted to cheese.
Re-creating them all had warmth in it, and pause for thought, and renewed admiration for how completely Stevenson had made them. Into their peaceful English milieu I then introduced a glamorous and mysterious stranger, and her young son, the same age as Jim when he boarded the Hispaniola. And a benign rich uncle, the kind of man everybody should have in their lives: he, however, still irks me on behalf of Jim. So far, so good, so enjoyable – this was a rich and cheering experience, and it took me closer to my lovely RLS.
Then the high octane flooded in – Long John Silver appeared. I had known that he should, that he must – but I hadn't known how. So I did what I’ve often done, I left it to the book – and the book did the rest, leading even to a final swordfight on board the Hispaniola, a tussle that made me regret, not for the first time, that Errol Flynn is no longer alive. In short, I too wrote a book for boys, even if, like me, they’ve all grown up.
Now, by the magic of the Internet, the eBook brings Jim and Silver and Ben Gunn and some new others to the widest world. There’s always been a magic to Treasure Island, not just in the original text, and not just acknowledged in the homage I’ve tried to pay – it’s a magic of sharing. Its title alone gave the world a universal concept: do an internet search, entering no more than the two words, and see what shows up: holiday resorts, real estate, souvenir places, building developments, flea markets, and of course film, television and Muppets – all because Stevenson’s book advanced a great idea: the adventurous will be rewarded.
One day I may write another kind of sequel. I may go down to Venezuela and find out whether a convent of nuns was indeed helped to safety with all their precious belongings by a rascally sea-captain, who then threw them overboard and buried their treasure on an island “offe Carraccas,” as the original map says. And establish whether Long John Silver was based on John Lloyd, a one-legged rascal from Wales who wrecked ships off the Carolinas.
I still favor W.E. Henley, Stevenson’s gregarious 19th century acquaintance, described by RLS’s stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, as "a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music. In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island, Stevenson wrote, "I will now make a confession: It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver." Now that would make an interesting eBook, the tussle between two one-legged men, each with claims to fame in the South Seas.
About suffering they were never wrong/The old Masters: On Thursday night, October the 3rd, 2013, I had the great privilege of interviewing James Salter. He’s 88, born 1925. There’s a poem of W.H. Auden’s, Musee des Beaux Arts, that was running through my head all the time I was preparing. People often requested it when I hosted Poetry Please on BBC Radio Four, and I heard its music in my mind again during the evening - curated by Ruda Dauphin at a packed Irish Arts Center on West 51st street in New York; How well they understood/Its human position: how it takes place/While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.
Someone said of Salter that were there a Mount Rushmore for writers he’d be on it – he certainly has the face for it now, and the life of his books is written in his eyes and in the texture of his face. In his work and his person he is and has been extraordinary. As far back as 1984, Esquire magazine was saying, “He has been more appreciated by more serious literary authors than any other American writer.”
Many people in the audience had come along because they revere Mr. Salter, and with justification. Six novels between his first, The Hunters, in 1957 and All That Is this year – his reputation rests on those; six works of lapidary, often poetic prose; six canvasses in oils, all significant, frequently magnificent. Plus a slew of miniatures – by which I mean short stories. No, he’s not a reporter, he said, nor a documentarian, nor an autobiographer in disguise – he’s a painter, he agreed.
I first read him in my twenties; that was The Hunters, a book about fighter pilots in the Korean War. We had a strong awareness in the south of Ireland of Rineanna, the place that eventually became Shannon Airport; we went there for outings, to see the big planes, silver on the ground by the river. Though I don’t recall anybody voicing it, these huge glinting birds had, so to speak, replaced the emigrant ships; instead of awful race memory, America was now reachable by glamorous means.
Thus, flying became part of a boy’s romantic connection to the world. Its literature was scarce, though, and only Saint-Exupery had something to offer. Then came Salter with his somewhat autobiographical The Hunters, and his hero, Cleve Connell, a thoughtful American in the Korean war, pursuing Russian-made MIG fighters – and Death - over the infamous Yalu River that we all thought was spelled “yellow.” Not since then have I read a book that brought me into the cockpit.
It’s difficult to pin down James Salter’s work: he’s multifarious. Let’s start with his urgent readability. Often seen as unfashionable in a “literary” writer, he is astringently compelling: you read, then you read more, then you read on, deep into the night. Scrutinize it: how does he do it, how does he keep you wanting to know what happens next? That’s the next point: He brings it off by settling for ever – to my satisfaction anyway – the hoary question, “Is plot character or is character plot?” From the moment they appear on the page, he interests you in his leading men and women. Here’s the unforgettable young wife in Light Years;
“Nedra was working in the kitchen, her rings set aside. She was tall, preoccupied; her neck was bare. When she paused to read a recipe, her head bent, she was stunning in her concentration, her air of obedience. She wore her wrist watch, her best shoes. Beneath the apron, she was dressed for the evening. People were coming for dinner.”
Key word there, for me, anyway? “Obedience.” Defining obedience as a component of concentration – that’s pure Salter. “Who cleans this large house, who scrubs the floors? She does everything, this woman, she does nothing. She is dressed in her oat-colored sweater, slim as a pike, her long hair fastened, the fire crackling. Her real concern is the heat of existence: meals, bed linen, clothing.” Nedra was somebody whom Salter knew, and her husband, called “Viri” in the novel; they lived on the Hudson, by the wide water up above New York City, and he had been a friend and neighbor, and fascinated by them.
They didn’t know that he had observed them so closely, and then written about them. When the book was about to be published, he bumped into “Nedra” on the street one day and handed her a copy and told her. He said that he never heard what she thought of the book and the whole enterprise – but Mrs. Salter, from the audience, told us that Nedra had said there was a sentence in the novel that she, Nedra, would have carved on her gravestone.
We didn’t learn what the sentence might be; perhaps it’s, “Her dreams still cling to her, adorn her”? Or, “She had accepted the limitations of her life. It was this anguish, this contentment which created her grace.” Or, “She was easily kind, Nedra, easily or not at all.”
James Salter was born in New York and when The Hunters was published he quit the U.S. Air Force to become one of the new “Few,” a fulltime professional writer. In a few sporadic visits to the movies, he wrote the screenplay for Downhill Racer, the Robert Redford skiing film; he also directed Sam Waterston and Charlotte Rampling in Three, a feature film that he also wrote.
However versatile – in the novel, Solo Faces, he’s so almost ferally arresting on the subject of mountain climbing that you know it must be firsthand (and it is) - he does have certain trademarkings. In this year’s novel, All That Is, the protagonist, Philip Bowman, is an ordinary man. “An archer in the ranks of archers?” I suggested. Mr. Salter nodded. Part of the book’s drive is the “ordinariness” of Bowman as he goes about his reasonably well-to-do life, and his bleak adventures of the heart and soul. We’re back to James Joyce again; in the ordinary is the extraordinary; in the particular is the universal.
If you haven’t read the novels of James Salter do so now. Then you’ll likely respond as Stephen King did when he read his first Elmore Leonard – rush out and buy them all. I remember where I was and what I was wearing when I read this from Light Years; “The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in rivers and enter the bodies of swimmers.”
Life-changing: that’s what the Old Masters did - and do every time we visit them. How did they bring it off in those great works of art? They understood life, the downs as well as the ups. They never forgot/That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course/Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot/Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse/Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
Bloomsday, Philadelphia 1913
So it wasn’t a mirage last year. A horseshoe of white folding chairs did indeed fill half of Delancey Place in Philadelphia, and the cradle of democracy gave air once again to the democratization of one of the world’s great works of art – James Joyce’s mighty Ulysses. Its original manuscript lies in active splendor within the Rosenbach Museum, sentried by Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things, who, with horns, spiky fur and terrifying frowns, stand guard over Joyce’s sloping handwriting.
I had not been dreaming; I went back again to see. And, with some considerable delight, take part. This was the 18th year, I think, that the Rosenbach Museum & Library celebrated its glorious resident, Mr. Joyce, and I was again given the privilege of reading aloud, beneath skies of shifting white clouds. And so, “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
Before that, Judy Guston, Curator and Director of Collections at the Rosenbach, read, in Greek and English, from the opening words The Odyssey, by Joyce’s literary godfather, the immortal Homer; “Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy.” As my blood quickened, and my mind’s eye went back to days in Athens and Crete and Cyprus and Corinth, could it be that the skies over Philadelphia became the blue of the Aegean Sea, the same color that Joyce asked for in the bindings of Ulysses?
As if all that didn’t generate sensory overload, out on the air then floated Mozart - live – and we heard the duet that sighs through Joyce’s Dublin on Thursday the 16th of June 1904, the day that Philadelphia and increasingly all the world celebrates as Bloomsday, the day of Mr. Leopold Bloom. Là ci darem la mano, they sang, Là mi dirai di sì. Here we’ll entwine our hands dear, here you will say “I do” and Don Giovanni, the rake, and Zerlina, the maid, were off to the races to enjoy the sweets of sin, what true Dubliners have always termed “carnival knowledge.”
More than eighty readers and singers took part in this year’s Rosenbach Bloomsday. We saw the polished and the unrehearsed, the passionate and the timid, the thoughtful and the fierce, the whimsical and the serious, the hesitant, the sincere, the involved – and all of them committed. A father and son read, the Fitzgeralds. A father and daughter read, Bill McLaughlin and Morgan McLaughlin, and as though directed by some great stage manager somewhere, late bronze sunshine arrived and lit them from the side. William Dreher, not yet two years old, punctuated the readings of his father, the Rosenbach’s Director, Derek Dreher, by pounding the microphone with his little toy car, perfect accompaniment in a book where non-verbal sound is part of the deliberate music. The Simpson brothers read again in Braille, they read heart-achingly the heart-aching, slow descent of Mr. Bloom into sleep, sleep, sleep.
Once more Drucie McDaniel performed the lioness’s share of Mollie Bloom’s soliloquy, and once more we saw the woman, not the literary character. Mollie became flesh (lots of it) and blood (some), and we saw her as narcissistic and bipolar and really real as though she were heaving and strutting her way down the steps of the museum and into our lives. Carl Gustav Jung wrote to Joyce regarding this Penelope episode, “The 40 pages of non stop run in the end is a string of veritable psychological peaches.” In Delancey Place, we plucked every one.
Since my first appearance there last year I’ve ben trying to analyze what it is that makes the Rosenbach Bloomsday so special, so different. Is it the rapt people in the horseshoe of white chairs, beneath the leaves of the calm trees, the bark wearing the badges of time and street life? Or the flicker of a curtain here and there from a tall window as a Philadelphian listens from behind a high brick wall? Or the young, man, all in black, who looks like Alice Cooper cleaned up, withdrawn behind his shades, his Gabler version of the text falling apart as he murmurs every word to himself in time with each reader? Is it the woman with the hat as exotic and lovely as a Pullman car clasping her hands to herself like a girl when she hears a phrase she knows and loves? Is it the couple in their tender eighties, each helping the other with fingers on the text? Is the twenty-something girl in the summer dress, fingers to her mouth in awe at Mollie’s daring? Or the dog who barks at every round of applause? How frequently he barked.
For me it’s the democracy of the thing. Last year I was struck by the conjoining of art and civics. Joyce wrote an extraordinary novel full of ordinary people; Philadelphia, an ordinary city, gave birth to an extraordinary idea in the Continental Congresses. In Delancey Place, the celebration of the human being’s thought process and our general mastery of ourselves met, and embraced, and spoke it out loud, in public, under the June skies that only rained once, and didn’t in any way faze the seamless management and the warm volunteers. They and the city had already been tested by parked cars; never before have I heard a tow-truck being applauded.
Which also spoke to the demotics of the day – this was great art shared, brought to us by the voice of Everyman and his wife. The city and the world are much the better for hearing it, and I myself even more so, for the word-music it has left in my mind, and the pictures that will shimmer there – like a mirage - for another year and beyond.
Frank's team would like to apologize for the delay in posting this week's podcast! Frank has been as diligent as ever in recording his thoughts and lessons for the week, but the widespread power outages following Hurricane Sandy have made them unavailable - locked in a computer in an office without power. Watch this space - we'll have episode 125 up as soon as we can!
In the meantime, to everyone in Hurricane Sandy's wake - stay safe, and our best wishes for you and your loved ones.
If we presume that “twitter” must be the collective noun for “tweets” then we took on a great freight of twitter over the past few days in our latest challenge. Timed to appear with my new novel, The Last Storyteller, I asked you all to complete the world’s most wonderful sentence, “Once upon a time.” I expected – I hoped for – imagination, wit, thoughtfulness, originality, even perhaps a flash of magic. When it’s in the hands of a magician, the phrase “Once upon a time” exists, doesn’t it, to generate excited anticipation? At least that was the basis on which your entries were always going to be judged and I’ve chosen, as promised, and in no particular order of merit, these five winners earn a copy of The Last Storyteller;
@BearNecessitude Once upon a time a man came to take me to a different life.
@LaurenBaratzLogsted Once upon a time, the vampire was the least of our worries.
@BenHeyes Once upon a time there was distance and derision.
@semivivum Once upon a time, we were content.
@LordEnzi Once upon a time, time stopped once.
However,since consistency is the natural enemy of imagination, I’ve broken my own rules and added a sixth prize, which I’ve awarded on the basis of the entrant observing the medium with humor – here it is:
@earlystages Once upon a time, only birds tweeted. Now we can all tweet happily ever after.
Thank you all; you are such good sports and so generous with your efforts –your entries seem to increase in number with each challenge, and were I a demographic profiler I would have the most fascinating time determining the shape and tastes of my followers on Twitter!
Now the graves have closed again, and the dead of Hallowe'en 2011 are back beneath the earth. While they stalked the land we had a blood-sodden outpouring of entries for our Challenge which was: "Write the first line of Dracula's autobiography." What did I expect and what did I receive? I expected jokes about dental work - and got them. Plots of ground six feet deep also figured, as did crucifixes, the standard "How-do-you-like-your-stake?" Dracula joke and a variety of mirrors. Fangs appeared (though - and thank you all for this - nobody actually had the nerve, the chutzpah, the gall to write "fangs for the memory" or "fangs very much"). The tourist authorities of Transylvania can feel happy at their name-and-place recognition - familiarity even - and we had the graveyard shift, packs of wolves, lines of the Undead and jokey entries about "sinking my teeth into" and "neck and neck." I had already banned the line, "To begin with, I suck" - but I wasn't able to keep sucking out of it - nor, bless you, did you shy away from "cutting my teeth." I loved it all - you are such good sports, you tweeters and blogsters, and I have selected ten winners whose names we publish in alphabetical order. To each of you goes a prize - the Kindle Single I wrote, "Undead," the story of the novel "Dracula" and its author Bram Stoker. Wipe the blood off your chins, read, enjoy, thank you all - and go back to your tombs.
Andrew Train - drewtrain
Not by Man's earthly clocks, do I measure the unending centuries; but by the count of human hearts, stilled by my cold kiss.
Byron Wilding - estlincage
Words come to me like drops of blood, eager to be tasted.
D H Chitson - BearNecessitude
Please look kindly upon me, dearest reader, for within these unholy epistles there is much sadness amongst the horror.
Doug Keel - DougKeel
Memoirs may be sordid or times of quiet reflection. Mine will have to be the former.
Emily Matthew - ImaylimE
My father always wanted me to be an attorney, but I could never have become something quite so heinous and parasitic.
Jessica Reisman - jesswynne
I am not the villain of this piece.
Joanne E. Valin - Stellectric
I came to know blood, luxurious warmth and bitterness that sang at my lips, but never enough to soothe the rank sore of my heart.
Richard de Nooy - RicharddeNooy
The immortal mark the passage of time with the faces of those whose lives have been lost or taken.
Sean Kelly - SeanKellyStudio
My agent in Burbank sounded glum on the phone, "Universal can't borrow Barrymore from MGM; they're casting Lugosi."
Vivienne Nichols - jamesblvd
Predators all! Hunters, warriors, vampires, lovers. We create illusion, stalk and steal. We take from life that we might live.