It’s been awhile, again.
A pause for the cause you might say.
I’ve been poring back over Joyce’s Dubliners and Ulysses, Ellmann’s biography of Joyce, plus a few shorter Bukowski novels, Ham on Rye and Women, not to mention a short story collection by Thomas Wolfe and then his sprawling autobiographically fictional Of Time and the River.
However, this being the Omphalos Cafe we don’t really play the literary name game….
Actually, it’s all about turnips.
Now what the hell do I mean by that?
Well, rereading Joyce’s Ulysses merely confirmed for me my overriding conviction that absolutely no one alive today gets the book nor Joyce.
Read whatever exegesis you can find, watch as much YouTube as you’d like and you’ll be no closer to the profoundly simple truths at the heart of his Masterpiece than anyone else. You see, the simple fact is the man was not just a writer as so many of the cognoscenti would have you believe. No, he was so much more if only we have or develop the eye—the inner eye—to see. He was a latter day Buddha, a Western branded, art and literature molded Siddhartha….
But then, he’s easier to deal with when we demote him to ‘writer’, even one of so-called ‘masterpieces.’ We can celebrate ‘Bloomsday’, June 16th, and repeat over and over humorous anecdotes about Joyce, Nora, and Dublin, talk about ‘Homeric Parallels’ and ‘interior monologues’, and raise a pint to Ireland and the memory of its ‘greatest writer.’
Then, unfortunately, we step outside of the rarified atmosphere of ‘writing’ and the pub or the modest little room we few literary illuminati gather in and come face to face with the world… and shake our heads in dismay and utter incomprehension.
That’s because we’re playing games, turning pleasant little parlour tricks with the rare few books that are so much more than we can ever imagine them to be. They, Ulysses amongst them, remain what they are, semaphores on the road to enlightenment; it is we who have lost our way. Halted, pulled up on the road, we waste our time being amused and beguiled by lights and signalling arms rather than read it as guide and sign post to what lies ahead, if only we would or could move forward.
Oh, so many words and what’s the point?
Joyce, the monumentally misunderstood latter day Buddha, once sat listening to a bunch of literary intellectuals. The year was 1937 or so and he was hard at work revising his epic, all-encompassing, stupefyingly unreadable opus Finnegans Wake. Tired of listening to the intellectuals doing what they do—intellectualize—he turned to Samuel Beckett and remarked: “If only they’d talk about turnips!”
That is, if only they’d talk about Life!
Everything else is just games, parlour tricks.
Life is ALL there is, folks.
We forget that over and over.
And especially in this day in age, increasingly to our own peril.