James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections


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Famous authors are notorious for their daily routines — sometimes outrageous, usually obsessive, invariably peculiar. She offers a necessary disclaimer, enveloped in a thoughtful meta-disclaimer:. One must always keep in mind that these writers and the people around them may have, at some point, embellished the facts. Quirks are great fodder for gossip and can morph into gross exaggeration when passed from one person to the next.

Yet even when authors stretch the truth, they reveal something about themselves, when it is the desire to project a certain image or the need to shy away from one. Mode and medium of writing seem to be a recurring theme of personal idiosyncrasy. Wallace Stevens composed his poetry on slips of paper while walking — an activity he, like Maira Kalman , saw as a creative stimulant — then handed them to his secretary to type up.


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Edgar Allan Poe , champion of marginalia , wrote his final drafts on separate pieces of paper attached into a running scroll with sealing wax. Jack Kerouac was especially partial to scrolling: In , planning the book for years and amassing ample notes in his journals , he wrote On The Road in one feverish burst, letting it pour onto pages taped together into one enormously long strip of paper — a format he thought lent itself particularly well to his project, since it allowed him to maintain his rapid pace without pausing to reload the typewriter at the end of each page.

The result, however, was equal parts comical and tragic:. It has to be edited. James Joyce wrote lying on his stomach in bed, with a large blue pencil, clad in a white coat, and composed most of Finnegans Wake with crayon pieces on cardboard. His childhood myopia developed into severe eye problems by his twenties. To make matters worse, he developed rheumatic fever when he was twenty-five, which resulted in a painful eye condition called iritis.

By , he had undergone twenty-five eye surgeries, none of which improved his sight. The large crayons thus helped him see what he was writing, and the white coat helped reflect more light onto the page at night. Virginia Woolf was equally opinionated about the right way to write as she was about the right way to read.

In her twenties, she spent two and a half hours every morning writing, on a three-and-half-foot tall desk with an angled top that allowed her to look at her work both up-close and from afar. Johnson cites Quentin, who was known for his wry family humor :. This led Virginia to feel that her own pursuit might appear less arduous than that of her sister unless she set matters on a footing of equality.

Woolf remained incredibly resourceful — an inventor of sorts, even. Driven by a similar fear of depletion of materials, John Steinbeck , who liked to write his drafts in pencil, always kept exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk. He used them so heavily that his editor had to send him round pencils to alleviate the calluses Steinbeck had developed on his hands from the traditional hexagonal ones. Some habits, of course, were far less pragmatic, harking instead to creative superstition.

Many authors measured the quality of their output by uncompromisingly quantitative metrics like daily word quotas. Jack London wrote 1, words a day every single day of his career and William Golding once declared at a party that he wrote 3, words daily, a number Norman Mailer and Arthur Conan Doyle shared. Anthony Trollope , who began his day promptly at A.

Stephen King does whatever it takes to reach his daily quota of 2, adverbless words and Thomas Wolfe keeps his at 1,, not letting himself stop until he has reached it. A minority, however, measured quantity as inversely proportional to quality. The question was: What reparation would he make? There must be reparation made in such cases. It is all very well for the man: he can go his ways as if nothing had happened, having had his moment of pleasure , but the girl has to bear the brunt.

Some mothers would be content to patch up such an affair for a sum of money; she had known cases of it. But she would not do so. She felt sure she would win. He was a serious young man, not rakish or loud-voiced like the others. If it had been Mr. Sheridan or Mr. Meade or Bantam Lyons her task would have been much harder.

She did not think he would face publicity. All the lodgers in the house knew something of the affair; details had been invented by some. Whereas if he agreed all might be well. She knew he had a good screw for one thing and she suspected he had a bit of stuff put by. Nearly the half-hour!

She stood up and surveyed herself in the pierglass. The decisive expression of her great florid face satisfied her and she thought of some mothers she knew who could not get their daughters off their hands.

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Doran was very anxious indeed this Sunday morning. He had made two attempts to shave but his hand had been so unsteady that he had been obliged to desist. The recollection of his confession of the night before was a cause of acute pain to him; the priest had drawn out every ridiculous detail of the affair and in the end had so magnified his sin that he was almost thankful at being afforded a loophole of reparation. The harm was done. What could he do now but marry her or run away? He could not brazen it out. The affair would be sure to be talked of and his employer would be certain to hear of it.

He felt his heart leap warmly in his throat as he heard in his excited imagination old Mr. Doran here, please. All his long years of service gone for nothing! All his industry and diligence thrown away! As a young man he had sown his wild oats, of course; he had boasted of his free-thinking and denied the existence of God to his companions in public-houses. But that was all passed and done with…nearly.

He had money enough to settle down on; it was not that. But the family would look down on her. He had a notion that he was being had. He could imagine his friends talking of the affair and laughing. He could not make up his mind whether to like her or despise her for what she had done. Of course he had done it too. His instinct urged him to remain free, not to marry. Once you are married you are done for, it said.

While he was sitting helplessly on the side of the bed in shirt and trousers she tapped lightly at his door and entered. She told him all, that she had made a clean breast of it to her mother and that her mother would speak with him that morning. She cried and threw her arms round his neck, saying:.

He comforted her feebly, telling her not to cry, that it would be all right, never fear. He felt against his shirt the agitation of her bosom. It was not altogether his fault that it had happened. He remembered well, with the curious patient memory of the celibate , the first casual caresses her dress, her breath, her fingers had given him.

Then late one night as he was undressing for bed she had tapped at his door, timidly. She wanted to relight her candle at his for hers had been blown out by a gust. It was her bath night. She wore a loose open combing-jacket of printed flannel. Her white instep shone in the opening of her furry slippers and the blood glowed warmly behind her perfumed skin. From her hands and wrists too as she lit and steadied her candle a faint perfume arose.

On nights when he came in very late it was she who warmed up his dinner. He scarcely knew what he was eating feeling her beside him alone, at night, in the sleeping house. And her thoughtfulness! If the night was anyway cold or wet or windy there was sure to be a little tumbler of punch ready for him. Perhaps they could be happy together….

They used to go upstairs together on tiptoe, each with a candle, and on the third landing exchange reluctant good-nights. They used to kiss. He remembered well her eyes, the touch of her hand and his delirium …. But delirium passes. But the sin was there; even his sense of honour told him that reparation must be made for such a sin. While he was sitting with her on the side of the bed Mary came to the door and said that the missus wanted to see him in the parlour.

He stood up to put on his coat and waistcoat, more helpless than ever. When he was dressed he went over to her to comfort her. It would be all right, never fear. Going down the stairs his glasses became so dimmed with moisture that he had to take them off and polish them. He longed to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where he would never hear again of his trouble, and yet a force pushed him downstairs step by step.

The implacable faces of his employer and of the Madam stared upon his discomfiture. On the last flight of stairs he passed Jack Mooney who was coming up from the pantry nursing two bottles of Bass. When he reached the foot of the staircase he glanced up and saw Jack regarding him from the door of the return-room. Suddenly he remembered the night when one of the music-hall artistes , a little blond Londoner, had made a rather free allusion to Polly. Everyone tried to quiet him. Polly sat for a little time on the side of the bed, crying.

Then she dried her eyes and went over to the looking-glass. She dipped the end of the towel in the water-jug and refreshed her eyes with the cool water. She looked at herself in profile and readjusted a hairpin above her ear. Then she went back to the bed again and sat at the foot. She regarded the pillows for a long time and the sight of them awakened in her mind secret, amiable memories. She rested the nape of her neck against the cool iron bed-rail and fell into a reverie.

There was no longer any perturbation visible on her face. She waited on patiently, almost cheerfully, without alarm. Her memories gradually giving place to hopes and visions of the future. Her hopes and visions were so intricate that she no longer saw the white pillows on which her gaze was fixed or remembered that she was waiting for anything. Gallaher had got on. You could tell that at once by his travelled air, his well-cut tweed suit, and fearless accent.

Few fellows had talents like his and fewer still could remain unspoiled by such success. It was something to have a friend like that. He was called Little Chandler because, though he was but slightly under the average stature, he gave one the idea of being a little man. His hands were white and small , his frame was fragile , his voice was quiet and his manners were refined. He took the greatest care of his fair silken hair and moustache and used perfume discreetly on his handkerchief. The half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth.

The friend whom he had known under a shabby and necessitous guise had become a brilliant figure on the London Press. He turned often from his tiresome writing to gaze out of the office window. The glow of a late autumn sunset covered the grass plots and walks. It cast a shower of kindly golden dust on the untidy nurses and decrepit old men who drowsed on the benches; it flickered upon all the moving figures—on the children who ran screaming along the gravel paths and on everyone who passed through the gardens.

He watched the scene and thought of life; and as always happened when he thought of life he became sad. A gentle melancholy took possession of him. He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him. He remembered the books of poetry upon his shelves at home. He had bought them in his bachelor days and many an evening, as he sat in the little room off the hall, he had been tempted to take one down from the bookshelf and read out something to his wife.

But shyness had always held him back; and so the books had remained on their shelves. At times he repeated lines to himself and this consoled him. When his hour had struck he stood up and took leave of his desk and of his fellow-clerks punctiliously. The golden sunset was waning and the air had grown sharp. A horde of grimy children populated the street. They stood or ran in the roadway or crawled up the steps before the gaping doors or squatted like mice upon the thresholds.

Little Chandler gave them no thought. He picked his way deftly through all that minute vermin-like life and under the shadow of the gaunt spectral mansions in which the old nobility of Dublin had roystered. No memory of the past touched him, for his mind was full of a present joy. He knew that people went there after the theatre to eat oysters and drink liqueurs; and he had heard that the waiters there spoke French and German. Walking swiftly by at night he had seen cabs drawn up before the door and richly dressed ladies, escorted by cavaliers , alight and enter quickly.

They wore noisy dresses and many wraps. Their faces were powdered and they caught up their dresses, when they touched earth, like alarmed Atalantas. He had always passed without turning his head to look. It was his habit to walk swiftly in the street even by day and whenever he found himself in the city late at night he hurried on his way apprehensively and excitedly.

Sometimes, however, he courted the causes of his fear. He chose the darkest and narrowest streets and, as he walked boldly forward, the silence that was spread about his footsteps troubled him, the wandering, silent figures troubled him; and at times a sound of low fugitive laughter made him tremble like a leaf. He turned to the right towards Capel Street.

Ignatius Gallaher on the London Press! Who would have thought it possible eight years before? Still, now that he reviewed the past, Little Chandler could remember many signs of future greatness in his friend. People used to say that Ignatius Gallaher was wild. Of course, he did mix with a rakish set of fellows at that time, drank freely and borrowed money on all sides. In the end he had got mixed up in some shady affair , some money transaction: at least, that was one version of his flight.

But nobody denied him talent. There was always a certain…something in Ignatius Gallaher that impressed you in spite of yourself. Little Chandler quickened his pace. For the first time in his life he felt himself superior to the people he passed. For the first time his soul revolted against the dull inelegance of Capel Street. There was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away.

You could do nothing in Dublin.


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As he crossed Grattan Bridge he looked down the river towards the lower quays and pitied the poor stunted houses. They seemed to him a band of tramps, huddled together along the riverbanks, their old coats covered with dust and soot, stupefied by the panorama of sunset and waiting for the first chill of night bid them arise, shake themselves and begone. He wondered whether he could write a poem to express his idea. Perhaps Gallaher might be able to get it into some London paper for him.

Could he write something original? He was not sure what idea he wished to express but the thought that a poetic moment had touched him took life within him like an infant hope. He stepped onward bravely. Every step brought him nearer to London, farther from his own sober inartistic life. A light began to tremble on the horizon of his mind. He was not so old—thirty-two. His temperament might be said to be just at the point of maturity. There were so many different moods and impressions that he wished to express in verse.

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He felt them within him. Melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament, he thought , but it was a melancholy tempered by recurrences of faith and resignation and simple joy. If he could give expression to it in a book of poems perhaps men would listen. He would never be popular: he saw that.

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He could not sway the crowd but he might appeal to a little circle of kindred minds. The English critics, perhaps , would recognise him as one of the Celtic school by reason of the melancholy tone of his poems; besides that, he would put in allusions. He began to invent sentences and phrases from the notice which his book would get. Chandler has the gift of easy and graceful verse. Malone Chandler. He would speak to Gallaher about it. He pursued his revery so ardently that he passed his street and had to turn back.

Finally he opened the door and entered. The light and noise of the bar held him at the doorways for a few moments. He looked about him, but his sight was confused by the shining of many red and green wine-glasses. The bar seemed to him to be full of people and he felt that the people were observing him curiously. He glanced quickly to right and left frowning slightly to make his errand appear serious , but when his sight cleared a little he saw that nobody had turned to look at him: and there, sure enough, was Ignatius Gallaher leaning with his back against the counter and his feet planted far apart.

What is it to be? What will you have? No mineral? Do you see any signs of aging in me—eh, what? A little grey and thin on the top—what? Ignatius Gallaher took off his hat and displayed a large closely cropped head. His face was heavy, pale and clean-shaven.

His eyes, which were of bluish slate-colour, relieved his unhealthy pallor and shone out plainly above the vivid orange tie he wore. Between these rival features the lips appeared very long and shapeless and colourless. He bent his head and felt with two sympathetic fingers the thin hair at the crown. Little Chandler shook his head as a denial. Ignatius Gallaher put on his hat again.

Always hurry and scurry, looking for copy and sometimes not finding it: and then, always to have something new in your stuff. Damn proofs and printers, I say, for a few days. Does a fellow good, a bit of a holiday. I feel a ton better since I landed again in dear dirty Dublin…Here you are, Tommy. Say when. Boose, I suppose? Have you never been anywhere even for a trip? He sipped a little of his drink while Ignatius Gallaher finished his boldly. He ordered the same again. Hot stuff! Not for a pious chap like you, Tommy. He was beginning to feel somewhat disillusioned.

There was something vulgar in his friend which he had not observed before. But perhaps it was only the result of living in London amid the bustle and competition of the Press. The old personal charm was still there under this new gaudy manner. And, after all, Gallaher had lived; he had seen the world. Little Chandler looked at his friend enviously. If you want to enjoy yourself properly you must go to Paris.

When they heard I was from Ireland they were ready to eat me , man. Ignatius Gallaher made a catholic gesture with his right arm. You know what they are, I suppose? You ask Hogan, my boy. I showed him a bit about London when he was over there. Ignatius Gallaher produced his cigar-case. The two friends lit their cigars and puffed at them in silence until their drinks were served. Talk of immorality! He summarized the vices of many capitals and seemed inclined to award the palm to Berlin.

Some things he could not vouch for his friends had told him , but of others he had had personal experience. He spared neither rank nor caste. He revealed many of the secrets of religious houses on the Continent and described some of the practices which were fashionable in high society and ended by telling, with details, a story about an English duchess —a story which he knew to be true.

Little Chandler was astonished. Hogan told me you had…tasted the joys of connubial bliss. You know that? Little Chandler smiled, looked confusedly at his glass and bit his lower lip with three childishly white front teeth. My wife will be delighted to meet you. But I must leave to-morrow night. Little Chandler ordered the drinks. The blush which had risen to his face a few moments before was establishing itself. A trifle made him blush at any time: and now he felt warm and excited. Gallaher was his inferior in birth and education.

He was sure that he could do something better than his friend had ever done, or could ever do, something higher than mere tawdry journalism if he only got the chance. What was it that stood in his way? His unfortunate timidity! He wished to vindicate himself in some way, to assert his manhood. Gallaher was only patronising him by his friendliness just as he was patronising Ireland by his visit. The barman brought their drinks. Little Chandler pushed one glass towards his friend and took up the other boldly.

Ignatius Gallaher. Ignatius Gallaher in the act of drinking closed one eye expressively over the rim of his glass. When he had drunk he smacked his lips decisively, set down his glass and said:. Ignatius Gallaher watched him for a few moments and then said:. I mean to marry money. Well, I know it. There are hundreds— what am I saying? When I go about a thing I mean business, I tell you. You just wait. He tossed his glass to his mouth, finished his drink and laughed loudly. Then he looked thoughtfully before him and said in a calmer tone:.

They can wait. Little Chandler sat in the room off the hall, holding a child in his arms. But Monica had gone home long ago. It was a quarter to nine. Of course she was in a bad humour and gave him short answers. She said she would do without any tea but when it came near the time at which the shop at the corner closed she decided to go out herself for a quarter of a pound of tea and two pounds of sugar. She put the sleeping child deftly in his arms and said:. A little lamp with a white china shade stood upon the table and its light fell over a photograph which was enclosed in a frame of crumpled horn.

Little Chandler looked at it, pausing at the thin tight lips. She wore the pale blue summer blouse which he had brought her home as a present one Saturday. It had cost him ten and elevenpence ; but what an agony of nervousness it had cost him! When he brought the blouse home Annie kissed him and said it was very pretty and stylish; but when she heard the price she threw the blouse on the table and said it was a regular swindle to charge ten and elevenpence for it. At first she wanted to take it back but when she tried it on she was delighted with it, especially with the make of the sleeves, and kissed him and said he was very good to think of her.

He looked coldly into the eyes of the photograph and they answered coldly. Certainly they were pretty and the face itself was pretty. But he found something mean in it. Why was it so unconscious and ladylike? The composure of the eyes irritated him. They repelled him and defied him: there was no passion in them, no rapture. He thought of what Gallaher had said about rich Jewesses.

Those dark Oriental eyes, he thought, how full they are of passion, of voluptuous longing! He caught himself up at the question and glanced nervously round the room. He found something mean in the pretty furniture which he had bought for his house on the hire system. Annie had chosen it herself and it reminded him of her. It too was prim and pretty. A dull resentment against his life awoke within him. Could he not escape from his little house? Was it too late for him to try to live bravely like Gallaher? Could he go to London? There was the furniture still to be paid for. If he could only write a book and get it published, that might open the way for him.

He opened it cautiously with his left hand lest he should waken the child and began to read the first poem in the book:. He paused. He felt the rhythm of the verse about him in the room. How melancholy it was! Could he, too, write like that, express the melancholy of his soul in verse? There were so many things he wanted to describe: his sensation of a few hours before on Grattan Bridge, for example.

If he could get back again into that mood…. The child awoke and began to cry. He turned from the page and tried to hush it : but it would not be hushed. He began to rock it to and fro in his arms but its wailing cry grew keener. He rocked it faster while his eyes began to read the second stanza:. It was useless. The wailing of the child pierced the drum of his ear. It was useless, useless! He was a prisoner for life. The child stopped for an instant, had a spasm of fright and began to scream. He jumped up from his chair and walked hastily up and down the room with the child in his arms.

It began to sob piteously, losing its breath for four or five seconds, and then bursting out anew. The thin walls of the room echoed the sound. He tried to soothe it but it sobbed more convulsively. He looked at the contracted and quivering face of the child and began to be alarmed. He counted seven sobs without a break between them and caught the child to his breast in fright.

If it died! The door was burst open and a young woman ran in, panting. She flung her parcels on the floor and snatched the child from him. Little Chandler sustained for one moment the gaze of her eyes and his heart closed together as he met the hatred in them. He began to stammer:. Giving no heed to him she began to walk up and down the room, clasping the child tightly in her arms and murmuring:. My little mannie! There now!

Little Chandler felt his cheeks suffused with shame and he stood back out of the lamplight.


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  8. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them were dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by the clients, went out of the office with a heavy step. He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where a door bore a brass plate with the inscription Mr. Here he halted, puffing with labour and vexation , and knocked.

    The shrill voice cried:. The man entered Mr. Simultaneously, Mr. Alleyne, a little man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a clean-shaven face, shot his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink and hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers. Alleyne did not lose a moment:. What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain of you? Shelley said, sir …Kindly attend to what I say and not to what Mr.

    Shelley says , sir. You have always some excuse or another for shirking work. Crosbie… Do you hear me now? I might as well be talking to the wall as talking to you. Understand once and for all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a half. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst.

    The middle of the month was passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazing fixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began to upset all the papers, searching for something.

    The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter. He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets which remained to be copied.

    He took up his pen and dipped it in the ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had written: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be …The evening was falling and in a few minutes they would be lighting the gas: then he could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat. He stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter as before, passed out of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk looked at him inquiringly.

    The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row complete, offered no remark. From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it.

    Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk of February and the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man went up by the houses until he reached the door of the office, wondering whether he could finish his copy in time. He crammed his cap back again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assuming an air of absentmindedness. Sebald's fiction workshop at the University of East Anglia, Read more and see Sebald's advice for students here. My job was to help Allen answer his mail. Each letter he received was deemed of equal worth, whether it was from a senator responding to a political rant Allen had sent him, or an editor asking Allen for some poems, or a lonely gay teenager living in Kansas who wanted Allen's advice.

    Allen answered them all with the same consideration. Read the rest at Obit. Read more at The Compositionist. Read more at The Brooklyn Rail.

    James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections
    James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections
    James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections
    James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections
    James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections James Joyce: Interviews and Recollections

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