My blogging has been so spotty of late that I feel I owe my 7 real readers – the readers, that is, aside from the hundreds who surf by to see what I have to say about Fernando Botero – an apology, or at least an explanation. But oh how I hate tiresome personal blogging… Which doesn’t mean I won’t indulge.
An aerial bombardment of stuff: 1) the wind-down of our departmental jobsearches; 2) a pair of pre-schooler birthday parties, the first (weekend before last) at home & relatively small & manageable, the second (this past weekend) horrifyingly large & nerve-wracking (will the rain stop?? when will the pizza arrive??); in town was J.’s oldest friend with her own 6-year old, who was clearly coming down with something more or less serious, which led to 3) J.’s coming down with strep this week, necessitating yr. humble blogger’s trotting to his GP for a throat swab (negative, thank you) & hauling the girls to their pediatrician for the same (no news is good news); 4) a late-night popcorn binge seems the proximate cause of the painless but irritating crumbling of a long-ago filled molar, which of course meant an inconvenient hour in the dentist’s chair… And so forth: the travails of bourgeois suburban life, I guess.
After the first reading in maybe 12 years of Joyce’s rather awful play Exiles, I’m pondering the old issues of “aesthetic distance/irony” in Portrait of the Artist. How seriously are we to take Stephen D? Is it possible for us to set aside our knowledge of what becomes of him in Ulysses, of how he is depicted there, & read his apotheosis at the end of Portrait (sky-aspiring, conscience-forging, net-avoiding, etc.) as perfectly serious, not at all ironical? Exiles, tho not much of a play (esp. if you’ve been dipping about in volume III of the big Grove Beckett, Dramatic Works), is a fascinating bridge between Portrait & Ulysses: “Portrait of the Artist as a Mature Man Returned to Ireland in 1912.”
Also reading thru Joyce’s letters, one of the more procedurally irritating “scholarly” things I’ve attempted lately. Volume I, edited by Stuart Gilbert, is a chronological adulthood-spanning selection. Volumes II & III (ed. by Richard Ellmann) are more comprehensive collections covering the same years. Ideally, one would read Volume I & II/III concurrently, darting back & forth in chronological order. I didn’t do that, but read Vol. I first; now I’m mostly thru Vol. II (irritatingly without an index), hampered only by the fact that I’ve been flipping back to the Selected Letters in order to get the full texts of the v. v. “naughty” letter JJ wrote Nora in 1909, when they were apart for several months and needed – erm, ahem – “stimulating” reading material.
Also working thru Herbert Gorman’s “authorized” 1939 biography of Joyce, interesting mostly as a ventriloquizing of Joyce’s own self-mythology as a writer.
And: Rosmarie Waldrop, Blindsight; Stéphane Mallarmé, Mallarmé in Prose; Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon; Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism (this one a radiant eye-opener; anybody got a copy of Lineages of the Absolutist State they want to sell me?).