Saturday, 17 May 2014
Hard Joyce or: Why I have Never Read Ulysses
Last Wednesday was Dylan Thomas Day on BBC Radio 3, which reminded me of the time, not so long ago, when the same BBC in its infinite wisdom, renamed a specific Saturday 'Bloomsday', and we were treated to a whole day of Ulysses readings/performances/commentaries. James Joyce's Ulysses belongs to the: 'books I have never read, never intend to read, but pretend I have' list. Also on the list with Joyce are Proust, Dostoevsky (can't even spell him), Trollope, and A.S.Byatt.
As far as the two former writers are concerned, I think my appreciation was soured at secondary school by having to translate Joyce into French, and Proust into English (why,why?). No doubt if the current Secretary of State for Education gets his way, students will be reading and translating them at primary level. Then sales will really drop off.
The ability to talk fluently about something of which one knows nothing is an integral part of being a writer. Actually, it is what sets writers apart from the rest of humanity (pace politicians). Joyce got it down to a fine art by scribing pages and pages of stream of consciousness stuff that actually nobody understands, but hey, Ulysses is a great big long book so it must be a classic, therefore let's all nod wisely and say how wonderful it is. Emperor's New Clothes comes to mind.
If you disagree, feel free to take me on. I'd love to know why James Joyce is considered such a great author and why the BBC spent the whole of Saturday inflicting this book upon us. Where's the plot, where are the twists and turns? Where's the mystery, the pace and the suspense. Okay, there's an awful lot of language, but even so... given the exacting requirements of today's publishers, it would never get past a first reading today. Hell, it hasn't even got a vampire! Clearly, it's one rule for dead people, another for the rest of us.
On the own book front (plot, suspense, mystery AND a werewolf) things are ticking along very nicely. The Historical Novel Society has finally coughed up its review of Diamonds & Dust which, given their propensity to alight, delightedly and hand-rubbing with glee, upon every tiny error, was quite good. I am grateful. And relieved. The sequel is now with the publisher to read, and I have just started writing a third book. As none of my books are that long, I doubt there will ever be a Hedges Day on BBC. You are probably relieved to hear it.
A final gripe, not entirely unconnected to Bloomsday: why is there also so much football on TV? I don't understand football, nor do I understand why everything interesting has to be bumped off the various channels to make way for it. Is there an equivalence between watching football and reading Ulysses? Discuss. Not too heatedly.
If you would like to read a free sample of Diamonds&Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery, you can do so HERE. US readers can do so HERE