Wednesday, May 09, 2007


With the Spring semester behind us, & the summer’s travels/travails not quite begun, we’re in the midst of a take-no-prisoners clean-down of the house, one front of which is my pitchforking thru six years of stacked TLSes, tearing out occasional things to save before I consign the great mass of newsprint to recycling. An easy job to get sidetracked at, as the old rag’s an endless source of nicely turned sentences & amusing quotations. Slavoj Zizek, from his essay in The Matrix and Philosophy (ed. William Irwin, Open Court, 2002);
When I saw The Matrix at a local theater in Slovenia, I had the unique opportunity of sitting close to the ideal spectator of the film – namely, to an idiot. A man in his late twenties at my right was so absorbed in the movie that he continually disturbed the other viewers with loud exclamations, like “My God, wow, so there is no reality!” I definitely prefer such naïve immersion to the pseudo-sophisticated intellectualist readings which project refined philosophical or psychoanalytic conceptual distinctions into the film. [take that, 2/3 of the other contributors…]
And then there’s one’s amusement at seeing the same factoids trotted out by different reviewers. The first sentence of Declan Kiberd’s “Bloom in Bourgeois Bohemia” (4 June 2004):
According to Richard Ellmann, James Joyce set Ulysses on June 16, 1904, to commemorate the occasion of which he first walked out with Nora Barnacle and she made a man of him.
A bit less than a month later, Brenda Maddox (2 July 2004) opens her review of Carol Loeb Shloss’s Lucia Joyce: To Dance at the Wake:
James Joyce made a religion of himself, with two sacred days in his ecclesiastical calendar: his birthday on February 2, and June 16, the day in 1904 when he first walked out with Nora Barnacle, the girl who became his wife, and on which he subsequently set the entire action of Ulysses.
Marjorie Perloff, reviewing Tom Raworth’s Collected Poems (30 May 2003), recalls a wry comment of Raworth’s on Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse”: “I imagine he wrote ‘They tuck you up, your mum and dad’ and then rode the wave of a typo.”
Denis Donoghue (from Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot) on Donald Davie, back in the day in Dublin:
We were not intimate friends. He was morally intimidating, with a touch of the commissar about him. He used the word “infidel” more freely and more deliberately than I supposed it had ever been used since the seventeeth century.
Donoghue himself a man who carries no excess of humility, nor one afraid of passing moral judgments.

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