February 02, 2008

Groundhog Day is Back!

James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, which would make him 126 years old today and just about finished fiddling with his next big book, not doubt, had he lived.

One day, the Spanish painter C├ęsar Abin came to do a sketch of Joyce for transition, Eugene Jolas's journal which was publishing portions of "Work in Progress". Abin drew a conventional man of letters, sitting on front of his books, with his pen in his hand, his eyes visionary. It was a tolerable if awkward likeness. The books, the pen, the entire drawing seemed to Joyce too solemn, too simple. He began telling Abin what to draw, and presently he was involved in a collaboration. At Joyce's instruction a different picture was drawn: Joyce was shown in a large semicircle as if he were doubled up by cramps, with his feet dangling among wisps of cloud. His body ended up shaped like a question mark the eternal enigma he regarded himself to be and was to himself as well as his audience. His blinker-like spectacles were on his nose and the tip of his nose collided with a star. Under Joyce's dangling feet Abin drew a terrestial globe labeled "Ireland". The globe was made to become the large dot completing the question mark. On the head of this free-floating Irishman among the clouds, suspended over Ireland and a large Dublin drawn as Ireland's heartland, was placed a battered cobwebbed Irish derby. There were cobwebs in the hollow of Joyce's chest that is, near the region of his heart. Shoved into the left pocket was some sheet music. The title printed on it was "Let Me Like a Soldier Fall." There were patches at the knees and a patch on the sleeve. Joyce's mouth is turned down. Stuck into the front of the bowler is the portentious figure 13.

— Leon Edel, "Psychopathology of Shem," pp 112-115, Stuff of Sleep and Dreams: Experiments in Literary Psychology, 1982, as quoted here at Finnegans Web

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