Thursday, August 18, 2011


I missed a beat here, but will start anew with last night's meeting. We had a guest, a friend of two of our members, who was visiting from out of town. She was only able to stay for a short while, but she seemed to enjoy getting into the multifaceted description of Shems' home "The house of O'Shea or O'Shame,  Quivapieno, known as the Haunted Inkbottle, no number Brimstone Walk, Asia in Ireland".

Her visit made me reflect that we have had several short term guests over our time together, and I think on  the whole it's been a good experience for everyone.  I wouldn't have thought before starting reading the Wake together, that randomly dropping in at page 181 would be very fun, but in fact, the pleasures of the density of the book, and the lack of what I at least would call a plot, means that everyone stands in the same place in relation to it no matter where they enter in. We are all students, or disciples or anti-disciples when it comes to Joyce.  We do not come in as his superiors.

Okay, someone might. I haven't met them.
Although we picked up on a lot of eggs, a lot of gin, and a lot of yeses, I thought for the time being I would take up a couple of questions that came up in the course of our conversation. First, the portmanteau word 'pelagarist'. It quite obviously relates to plagiarism, but it also relates to the Pelagian heresy. We knew that, but we were scratching our heads about what that heresy consisted of, even though we sort of thought it had come up before.

The Pelegian heresy--or point of view, if you look at it another way--is the belief that we are not under the sway of Original Sin, but that human beings are still capable of choosing between good and evil without divine help. In this view, we are influenced by example, and while Adam set a bad example, Jesus overrode this later by setting a good example.

I would say that we live in a very Pelegian age. I have no idea how this relates to Joyce's own thoughts, though.

The other lighter thing was that Joyce mentions the 'light phantastic'. Without getting into what Joyce meant here, we did wonder a bit about that phrase and wonder where it came from. I always thought of 'tripping the light fantastic' as basically revue actors and dancers on stage before the spotlights. Others thought it had something to do with dance. We had all heard it, and formed our own impressions.

Although there is a reference in Shakespeare's Tempest to 'each one tripping on his toe', the reference from more the same era that seems closer is from Milton's L'Allegro:

Come, and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastick toe.
I am rather surprised to see that pretty much across the board, the light refers to lightness of foot, not lightness of, well, light.

We did note a reference to "Broken Hill stranded estate" and I thought it would be fun to look that one up as well. Still don't know what it meant to Joyce, but it is a mining community, as we learned in Australia. It's located in the outback of New South Wales, and is isolated in the desert. It's Australia's longest lived mining community. The  is one of the biggest  silver-lead-zinc deposits. The ore is in the shape of a boomerang with the ends below ground and the middle cropping up above the desert floor in the middle. Ironically, due to extensive mining, the Broken Hill itself no longer exists.

Broken Hill, Australia

Don't know what Joyce would make of that.

I may return before our next meeting, and if I do , I hope to try to delve a bit into the mysteries of  writing oneself in furniture...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Greatest Writer Ever?

I'll get around to last week's meeting soon, but meanwhile check out PQ's list of 16 Reasons Why James Joyce is the greatest writer ever.

I feel certain that Joyce could only agree...