« May 2012 | Main | July 2012 »

7 posts from June 2012

Jun 27, 2012

Re: Joyce Episode 107: Heretics and Houyhnhnms

Stephen ponders his family's fall from grace. Joachim Abbas. Frank unpacks "the rabble."

Jun 20, 2012

Re: Joyce, Episode 106: Whiskey and Whistling

In Stephen's mind (still on Sandymount Strand), his uncle offers him food and drink, of a sorts. Second-hand opera, and a note of warning.

Jun 18, 2012

James Joyce’s Democracy

Saturday, 16 June 2012, dawned sunny and clear. There you have a sentence that Joyce might have written in the “namby-pamby marmalady jammy drawersy” Nausicaa chapter of Ulysses. Nevertheless, that's what it was like on Delancey Place, Philadelphia, where the brotherly love overflowed and cascaded down the tall columns of the monumental, long-dead author. This was the first year that Joyce could be read unfettered, free of the legal incivilities of his keeper-of-the-flame grandson, who chose down the years to make enemies, and yet might have honored his grandfather far more profoundly had he chosen to make friends.

The Rosenbach Museum owns the original manuscripts of Ulysses. Could they have found a better home? Not in my opinion – great curatorship requires love, as well as physical care of the artifacts. And the Rosenbach shows its love in many ways, not least an annual celebration of the mighty novel by means of  a day-long reading that was more joyful and intimate than any I have attended. More than 80 readers took part; I had the honor of being among the first and we stayed to watch the elegant democracy of the event as professional actors and singers led and followed passionate citizens and, from time to time, their children. It was moving; it was amusing and in this it echoed the novel. And, as with Joyce himself, class took no foothold, neither socially nor intellectually. Philadelphia, after all, is the city where America began the first and most comprehensive exercise of democracy. Curious – and delightful  –  how much one hears afresh at each reading. Even more curious – and even more delightful – is how the book works no matter what the reader’s voice. It was as though Joyce’s famed common-man intent had indeed come to life.

One of the most enjoyable ways to “get” Shakespeare is to sit with a great cast recording and read the play at the same time. Many audience members at the Rosenbach had brought their copies of Ulysses and kept their eyes on the pages; and it occurred to me that, were it possible, the perfect way to grasp the novel is to have a marathon Rosenbach reading of the entire work rather than the – necessarily – edited pieces we heard on Saturday.

Highlights? Begin at the end, with by any measure the best Molly Bloom I have ever seen and I’ve seen fifteen or so. Drusie McDaniel’s vivacity had all the fun and the tawdry glamor, and the seedy egotism, and the awful intimacy of Molly’s borderline personality and her near-desperate self-involvement – the casual amorality; the boundless self-belief; the unchecked narcissism. The singers and musicians who performed the music that haunts Ulysses had exactly the appropriate balance of merriment and wistfulness; and I will never as long as I live forget the readings from Ithaca, by David and Daniel Simpson, blind-from-birth brothers, who not only read the pages, they lived them, right down to the poignancy of Mr. Bloom’s final snore. And thus their fingers, moving at great speed across their Braille, also reached in and touched our hearts. For all his edgy arrogance, Joyce, sight-challenged himself, would have turned away to conceal his pride.

Before the readings began, Derick Dreher, the Rosenbach’s Director allowed a few of us to look at the manuscripts. Remember the moment in Indiana Jones when we see the Ark of the Covenant? That’s what it was like looking at Joyce’s Jesuit handwriting, sloping away off the page, driven to the extremities of his sight by astigmatism or glaucoma or macular degeneration. The pages on which he worked were smaller than I’d expected; and even when he used French school notebooks with their graph paper, his control of his lines didn't much improve.

The readings sank to a wistful closing near 8pm. I still feel the regret. Why am I not there today, among those tall brick houses of Philadelphia’s rich past, still listening to this book that was also read elsewhere across the world on Bloomsday: somebody said 40 cities? The Rosenbach's, I feel certain, was the largest and - I'd put money down - the warmest.

But, though the chairs have long been folded, the words linger, and perhaps not just in the minds of those who were there. Several years ago, a psychic investigator in Ireland claimed that voices remain in the air, that the words we speak hang there above us, ineluctable modality of the audible, if you like. One of the phrases he recorded (I never doubted him: millions did) was a male voice, self-identifying, who said, over and over, the words, “James Joyce, James Joyce, James Joyce” – I have the 45rpm recording somewhere, and I have to concede that the accent and the tone were damn close to those of the everyman from Dublin and Trieste and Zurich and Paris. That's what can happen when you want to believe something.

If it’s true, if our words do indeed hang above where we've spoken them – then rush down to Delancey Place, Philadelphia, with a pyschic tape recorder. Hold the microphone above your head and you’ll capture the most wonderful cornucopia of sounds in the air outside the Rosenbach Museum. If you can’t make it today – don’t worry; they’ll hang there for a while. And they’ll be refreshed next year.  

Jun 16, 2012

Re: Joyce, Episode 105a: Meeting Joyce

A special episode celebrates Bloomsday 2012 on June 16. Frank introduces us to the first five stories of Dubliners as a way of "getting into Joyce."

Jun 14, 2012

Bloomsday Celebrations, 2012!

Rosenbach Bloomsday Festival
Frank is speaker and Guest of Honor at the annual Bloomsday celebrations of Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum & Library, whose collection includes the papers of James Joyce, Benjamin Franklin, Lewis Carroll, Marianne Moore, Maurice Sendak, Dylan Thomas and Cervantes. Event information for the Rosenbach Bloomsday Festival (one of the largest in the world) is available here. Tickets for The Rosenbacchanal are available here

Re:Joyce Podcast, Special Bloomsday Edition 
Here are Frank's notes to Re:Joyce fans and followers to introduce his Bloomsday 2012 Special Edition podcast. 

"We’re a smidgen away from - and may even as I speak, be - hitting the half-million mark for downloads - and I’m touched and grateful for your support and your interest. And please forgive me if I don’t reply to your individual comments – there have been too many for me to cope. Instead – why don’t I give something back? Many of you have described yourselves as newcomers to Joyce and you’ve often asked for the best way to get into him, so to speak. In this broadcast, two things collide – it’s another dozen gone by, and therefore time for a special edition, a baker’s dozen edition, I do them every twelve podcasts; and it’ll work as my Bloomsday tribute too – so I thought I'd do a thumbnail breakdown of the best way to begin with James Joyce; I'm going to dip heavily into his first published book, the collection of short stories that he called “Dubliners.” " --Frank Delaney 

 "Seeing Joyce" on the occasion of Ulysses' first Bloomsday out of copyright
Frank's article, Seeing Joyce, came out yesterday in The Public Domain Review. It asks whether, in this year in which Ulysses is finally free from copyright and from the restrictions of the famously difficult Joyce estate, we should stop trying to "read" Joyce and instead make visits to him as if to a gallery. A fantastic UK based site, The Public Domain Review brings together some of the brightest stars in the world of literature and letters such as Julian Barnes and Richard Hamblyn to discuss the "vast commons of material that is no longer protected by copyright, meaning that the material is free to enjoy, share and build upon without restriction."

Joyce Ways
Frank is the voice of "Joyce Ways", an app with audio-visual guidance designed to lead and delight literary pilgrims through the streets of Dublin, on the trail and itinerary of Ulysses. “Joyce Ways” was created by the students of Boston College, under the direction of Joseph Nugent, and will launch 6.9.12. 


Jun 13, 2012

Re: Joyce, Episode 105: Irish Bull

An imagined domestic scene, mock heroism, and Stephen's nuncle. Differing versions of the text, and contradictions. Names unpacked, and a poignant poem.

Jun 06, 2012

Re: Joyce, Episode 104: A Little Swearing

In Stephen's mind, his father continues to mock his mother's family, and Stephen visits his uncle's cottage.