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The great man’s shadow falls far and wide and writers, especially Irish ones, continually complain about the effort to crawl out from under it.I am just one of many cowering under his monumental weight.It is actually a number of adjoining rooms; a spacious study with wide bay windows allowing for the best view of the lake, a bedroom closed off with folding doors and a bathroom. Despite the jetlag and the wine, I can’t sleep, so some time after midnight I give up and go outside to look up at the northern hemisphere constellation.
The truth is that there would be no Joyce without the three women who supported him: Nora, his life-long partner, Sylvia Beach, the first publisher of , and Harriet Shaw Weaver, his benefactor. Chance indeed furnished him with exactly what he needed. He was from India, sent to Australia for his education at great expense by his parents. Like so many before me, I have come to realise that there is a reason why Joyce’s nickname is Mr Difficulty.
So he certainly doesn’t need another handmaiden in the form of a small-time Australian essayist. I felt sorry for him so I had invented some cash-in-hand filing work, much of which involved compiling notes, essays, articles, emails and letters in relation to Now he was daring to ask whether the book I’d spent much of my adult life devoted to was really of any importance.‘Yes! Novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder was a serious One of the first and most important Wakean scholars was an Australian named Clive Hart. I tracked him down when he was well into retirement, hoping he might provide a clue, given he had written one of the definitive texts: is that it is, in an important sense, unreadable.’ And in any case, the end isn’t really the end.
So perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’ve tried to give up the dependency. The only way I can really give up is by putting myself in the thick of it.
So I have taken up a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie House in Country Monaghan to write, ostensibly, the first draft of a manuscript that, for the first time in decades, has nothing to do with James Joyce. I have brought no Joyce books or copies of the chat groups. On my first evening at Tyrone Guthrie House on the Annaghmakerrig estate in Ireland, I sat down at the long table for the communal meal and was immediately introduced to a crime novelist whose name I assumed I had misheard.‘I beg your pardon? The middle-aged gentleman showed me his blue Visa card to prove it: James Joyce.‘I use a pen name instead,’ he said. ‘Until recently.’ Just a few months ago, he confessed, he finally and wrote an essay about the curse of being a contemporary writer named James Joyce. Do I break my commitment to abstain from reading, thinking or talking about Joyce?
Even the stars in Ireland have literary connotations.
I stared up hoping to see a comet or a shooting star, a sign of some sort, something special I could make a wish on.Joyce had a knack for picking up just what he needed.‘Chance furnishes me with what I need,’ he wrote, ‘I’m like a man who stumbles; my foot strikes something, I look down, and there is exactly what I need.’ Nora Barnacle was the most important chance stumble of his life.’ I said to the screenwriter from Galway, who was gesturing to the balding, middle-aged man sitting next to me.‘I said, this is James Joyce’. It must be a misunderstanding, I thought, or as Joyce puts it, a ‘missed understanding’. Or do I admit to my table companion that I too feel cursed, but for other reasons.Getting things right is something I had learnt not to expect; getting things wrong, Joyce has taught me, is the more natural, more human, and often, more comical way. I opened my mouth.‘Well,’ I said, reaching for the wine and offering to fill his glass, hoping that some bolt of inspiration might rescue me from relapse.Sometimes he is the mythical Irish hero Finn Mc Cool. And sometimes he is a lowly insect called an earwig.Beckett wrote that Joyce believed fervently in the significance of chance events and of random connections.’ I snapped back immediately, appalled that he dared to doubt my enterprise. The final sentence reads: ‘A way a lone a last a loved a long the’Who ever ended a book with the word ‘the’?This is not the first time I’ve broken up with Joyce.The author has determined my daily work of writing and teaching; he has also provided friends, colleagues, lovers, and once, a husband.Even my social life is arranged around Joyce, anchored each month by a meeting of the once accused, ‘the most pretentious book club in Sydney’.)In many ways, Joyce has been my longest long-term relationship.