Tag Archives: books

Why I will write — the James Joyce edition

Given the fact that I am enrolled in a Ulysses course this term, and have already been thinking A LOT about James Joyce, his writing, and his life, I figure, why not do a little of what this blog’s title convey?  Why not write about Joyce daily (or, semi-daily) and how he influences my life and my work, and what I find along this journey?

Episode One is due tomorrow at 10 AM, and I have been a little distracted by theatrical doings over the past few days, but I have already begun to make my way through all the referenced sources.  When I say “make my way through,” I truly mean it, and also have begun to realize that I will not be able to continue on in this fashion for all of term.  For instance, instead of just reading the passage referenced in Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying,” I am reading the entire play.   Familiarity with all of these works has already helped me to articulate why I believe Joyce is a genius, and why I admire him so much.

James Joyce chose his references on purpose.  He had to.  If he didn’t, then some sort of divinity guided his thoughts and his writing.  Why else, in the episode of which he himself stated that the “art” was Theology, would he quote the poem, “The Oblation” by Swinburne?

Ask nothing more of me, sweet;
All I can give you I give.
Those are the quoted/referenced lines.  It is a love poem.  It reads like a love poem.  It is one of the most beautiful poems I have read recently.  For me, it expresses true devotion.  (Bear with me, I am making my point.)
What does the title mean?  An Oblation is a gift or a sacrifice; formally, it is the offering of the bread and wine in the Mass to become the Eucharist.
Joyce did not choose any poem to quote.  He chose “The Oblation.”  Its title is not mentioned in the chapter; one would have no way of knowing the religious connotations of this love poem without searching further.  I don’t think Joyce necessarily expected any reader to search further; he did not do this for the reader.  He did this for himself.  Maybe, because he was fairly self-centered, he expected that everyone would know the reference, or look it up.

These kinds of discoveries await the dedicated Joyce/Ulysses reader, which I will be for at least the next fourteen weeks, if not longer.  My only goal is to write about Joyce eloquently enough to do him proud.

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Filed under Joyce, Ulysses

Wentworth, well worth it.

Today, I finished listening to Persuasion. I couldn’t turn it off.  I know the book, love the story, but I just couldn’t leave Anne until she and Wentworth had been sufficiently reunited.  Granted, my dog did not listen with me this time.  I did get a whole bunch of my cross-stitching done though.

This book contains one of the most beautiful love letters I have ever read.  It is so beautiful and so satisfying, and from Captain Wentworth.  It is things like this that make me such a hopeless and unmitigated romantic.  It’s like a 19th-century version of When Harry Met Sally. (But better)

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

I’ve certainly set myself up well for the next ten weeks, haven’t I?  I’m just going to go from Austen to Bronte, swoon over Darcy, Wentworth, and Rochester, only to be disappointed when they do not appear in the tundra of Vermont.  Somehow, I feel one of the Russian greats would have been more conducive to my tasks…

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Filed under cross-stitching, Jane Austen, Persuasion, romance

A Dog’s Thoughts on Persuasion

Had she not imagined herself consulting his good, even more than her own, she could hardly have given him up. The belief of being prudent, and self-denying, principally for his advantage, was her chief consolation, under the misery of a parting, a final parting; and every consolation was required, for she had to encounter all the additional pain of opinions, on his side, totally unconvinced and unbending, and of his feeling himself ill used by so forced a relinquishment. He had left the country in consequence.

Persuasion, Chapter 4
Jane Austen

This evening, my dog and I started listening to Persuasion.  He seemed to like it — he fell asleep on the bed.  I sat and listened and cross-stitched to my heart’s content.  I forgot both how much I love this book, and how much I enjoy this craft.

First — Anne Elliot, I think life will be ok if my life (at 27) somehow reconciles itself as yours does.  It’s been a few years since I read Persuasion, so I forgot how absent Anne is from the first three chapters (indicative of her family’s treatment of her) and how subtly Wentworth is introduced.  Perhaps books like this shouldn’t give me an odd kind of hope, but they do.  Strangely enough, I’ve realized that somewhere I both internalized and rejected the idea that if you aren’t betrothed by nineteen, you’re an old maid.

A stitch in time

Second — I’ve never completed a perfect cross-stitch.  I mess something up, inevitably.  I miscount. I skip a stitch. I get so impatient that I can’t finish.  Now, I’ve got 5 kits lying around my room, waiting to be completed and sewn into a pillowcase.  I’m having a need to make pillowcases.  Pillowcases and quilts.  I wouldn’t begin to have enough beds for the pillowcases and quilts I want to make.

Anyways, I paused at chapter 4 to get a drink, and because I was struck by Anne’s recollection of Wentworth.  So simple. So straightforward.  So much like how I’ve felt so often in my life.  Before I started chapter 5, I realized my dog had wandered off.  I called him: “Bungee! Come back! We have more of Persuasion to listen to!”  In he trotted and waited to be lifted onto the bed.  Once he got settled, paws tucked underneath him, we began.

(The recording I’m listening to can be found here. It’s extremely enjoyable.)

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Filed under Crafts, cross-stitching, Jane Austen, Persuasion, Self