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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Before the prize-fight

Tuesday, September 17th., Cadogan Square, London.

A lawyer friend of mine, back from a visit to New York, told me that he had recently been one of a crowd of 47,000 at a prize-fight in Madison Square Garden, where there was ordained an interval for prayer for the repose of the soul of Tex Rickard, the prize-fight organizer, whom everybody present knew to be a great and violent sinner. Jack Dempsey, and professional toast-master at a terrific salary, stood alone in the ring under a blinding glare of spot-lights, while the whole vast auditorium was darkened. Everybody had to stand with bare and bowed head. The professional toast-master prayed. A silence. Then the fighting proceeded.

I have been reflecting on how easy it is to make oneself a hostage to fortune; I am experiencing the embarrassing consequences of careless utterances myself. Earlier in my life I entered into a personal relationship, of a formal nature,  which soured and came to an unhappy conclusion. Obviously I determined never to repeat the mistake, and lost no opportunity to warn others of the danger to their well-being should they tread the same path. Now I find that, for practical reasons that cannot be denied, I must myself formalise another similar relationship. I am confident that this time there will be no souring and no consequent unhappiness, but I feel hypocritical and am contriving ways to keep the whole business secret so as to save my blushes.

I regard James Joyce as a rebel, though one who has done great stuff. In various writings I have referred to his 'unfinished work', and to the fragment of it entitled "Anna Livia Plurabelle". This fragment has been published by Crosby Gaige of New York, in a beautifully printed and produced volume as thin as a biscuit. Edition of 800 signed copies. A collector's morsel. A genuine curiosity. I am charmed to have it. But I cannot comprehend a page of it. For it is written in James Joyce's new language, invented by himself. here are a few words from one page: limpopo, sar, icis, seints, zezere, hamble, blackburry, dwyergray, meanam, meyne, draves, pharphar, uyar. It ought to be published with a Joyce-English dictionary. 

Someone (I read somewhere) said to Joyce: "I don't understand it." Joyce replied: "But you will." Joyce is an optimist. Human language cannot be successfully handled with such violence as he has here used to English. And "Anna Livia Plurabelle" will never be anything but the wild caprice of a wonderful creative artist who has lost his way.

The ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ chapter of Finnegans Wake (pp. 196-216) is one of the best known and most popular in the book, and was almost certainly Joyce’s favourite. He paid a great deal of attention to the drafting and revising of this chapter, and it was published in its own right more often than any other complete chapter. ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ opens with the large ‘O’ and following words arranged in a triangular shape, repeating the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, ‘delta’ (Δ), which was also the shorthand siglum that Joyce used to indicate Anna Livia in his notes. This ‘O’ is the opening of the gossip of the two washerwomen, one on either side of the river, washing dirty linen as they gossip and exchange rumours about Anna Livia and HCE. Joyce sent a draft of this chapter to Harriet Weaver at the beginning of March 1924, and early in 1928 it was being revised again, this time in preparation for its first publication in book form by Crosby Gaige in New York on 20 October 1928. The following year, Joyce made a recording of the three last pages of this chapter for CK Ogden, the only recording of him reading from Finnegans Wake. The book Anna Livia Plurabelle was finally published in London by Faber & Faber in June 1930. Writing to Harriet Weaver in 1927 Joyce said that either ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ was something, or he was no judge of language. But it was Joyce’s language that critics often found bewildering. 

Additionally for September 17th., see 'Sandals!' - http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/sandals.html

Tonight I will dream that I wore sandals and was ashamed.
Since seeing the house at Witley I have been quite depressed in anticipation of the time which must elapse before I can leave London permanently for the country. It is as though the next year or two in London will be unbearable.

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