Jeanne Koré Salvato

Reader:  Remind me?

Me:  Well, first of all, James Joyce published his great modernist work, Ulysses, in February of 1922, his 40th birthday, thanks to his patron Sylvia Beech who lived in Paris.  So a big celebration will be held on this 16 June, called Bloomsday, since that’s the date the entire novel takes place.  

Reader:  One day for a novel? 

Me:  Yup.  Can you imagine a day of your own that takes a book to tell?  Well, Joyce had some help.  The 18 episodes are loosely based on Homer’s episodes in his book The Odyssey.  More on these by the Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall.

Reader: Any parties?

Me: Yes!  The world over. I’m going to Philadelphia to celebrate Bloomsday. Tune in next week and the week after for more about why all the fuss concerning Ulysses. The Rosenbach Museum, a rare books museum in Philadelphia, has the most complete manuscript of Ulysses thanks to Mr. Rosenbach who was a collector. A day of readings, music, and exhibits will be reported by yours truly sur place, which means on the spot.

Reader:  You said, ‘first of all,’ earlier.  Is there a second of all in celebrating June 16th?

Me:  Yes! Not only is this the anniversary year of the publication of Ulysses, but it is also the second birthday of writing4godot, launched on 16 June 2020. 

Reader:  Celebrate, celebrate!  Dance to the music! You remember the Three Dog Night?

What? No?

I have some ideas to thank all the faithful readers.  Contests and prizes to thank you and to increase the readership.  Here we go!

Contest Número Uno:  get the most new readers for the blog!  This helps build a platform for yours truly when it’s time to get an agent to help publish her book.  A platform means that people are engaged.  Have your friends sign up at the end of a post and then e-mail you. 
Prize:  a painting from award-winning Utah painter Vaughn Emett.

Contest Número Dos: writing4godot needs business cards.  Something with bowler hats? Win a prize for the best design.
Prize:  either Waiting for Godot bilingual edition or Ambassador Mulhall’s guide to reading Ulysses called A Reader’s Odyssey, dedicated to regular readers, giving them a tour of Ulysses outside of reading the book itself.

Contest Número Tres: if you could choose any two of the characters in Beckett’s play to hang out with, who would they be?  (Estragon, Vladimir, Lucky, Pozzo, a boy). Beckett has never been very forthcoming about his play, except to say that the men wear bowler hats!  But take him on!  Maybe you could get him to say something!  Win a prize for the most Godot-like conversation.
Prize: either Waiting for Godot bilingual edition or Ambassador Mulhall’s guide, called A Reader’s Odyssey.

Contest Número Cuatro: share your most Godot-like story.
Prize: either Waiting for Godot the bilingual edition, or Ambassador Mulhall’s guide to reading Ulysses called A Reader’s Odyssey.

Midnight 14 July, which is Bastille Day, the French fourth of July.

Enter all contests!  Go for broke.  Contesting4Godot!

Reader: It’s fun to start a blog on day celebrating literature world-wide.  Could you make the connection to Beckett?

Me:  Here in Beckett’s own words is how important Joyce was to him.  Beckett says he didn’t even want to be a writer when he met Joyce, but that because he, Beckett, was a lousy teacher, at least in his opinion, he changed his mind.

[Beckett to James Knowlson:]
It was Maurice Nadeau who said [Joyce’s influence] was an influence ab contrario. I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, in control of one’s material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realised that my own way was impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, subtracting rather than adding. When I first met Joyce, I didn’t intend to be a writer. That only came later when I found out that I was no good at all at teaching. When I found I simply couldn’t teach. But I do remember speaking about Joyce’s heroic achievement. I had a great admiration for him. That’s what it was: epic, heroic, what he achieved. I realized that I couldn’t go down that same road. (p.47)


*I was introduced to Joyce by Tom MacGreevy. He was very friendly – immediately, to the best of my recollection. I remember coming back very exhausted to the Ecole Normale and as usual, the door was closed and I climbed over the railings. I remember that: coming back from my first meeting with Joyce. And from then on we saw each other quite often.

*I can still remember his telephone number. He was living near the Ecole Militaire. I used to come down sometimes in the morning from the Ecole Normale to the concierge and he used to say Monsieur Joyce a telephone et il vous demande de vous mettre en rapport avec lui. (M Joyce wants you to phone.)

*I was very flattered when Joyce dropped the ‘Mister.’ Everybody was ‘Mister’. There were no Christian names, no first names. The nearest you would get to a friendly name was to drop the ‘Mister’. I was never ‘Sam’. I was always Beckett at the best.

*We shared our … [common Irish background]. He was at the National University, of course, and I was at Trinity – but we both took degrees in French and Italian. So that was common ground.

*I remember going to see Joyce in the hospital. He was lying on the bed, putting drops in his operated eye. There wasn’t a lot of conversation between us. I was a young man, very devoted to him, and he liked me. And he used to call on me if he needed something. For instance, someone to walk with him before dinner.

*He was a great man for anniversaries. Every year he would celebrate his father’s anniversary, “Father forsaken, forgive thy son.” On that occasion, he would give me a note, in francs. To give to some poor down-and-out in memory of his father. Towards the end of the year, in December, the date of his father’s birth was celebrated and commemorated every year and I was given on several occasions this note to give to some down-and-out in memory of his father. [Recites his own version of Joyce’s moving pome “Ecce Puer” on the death of Joyce’s father and the birth of his grandson, Stephen]: “New life is breathed upon the glass,” etc.

*I played the piano once at the Joyces’. I forget what I played. But he, when he had enough taken, at these ‘at home’ parties, receptions at home, with various friends, he would sit down at the piano and, accompanying himself, sing, with his marvellous remains of a tenor voice:
Bid adieu, adieu, adieu
Bid adieu to girlish days.

*Oh, by the way, I found the name of the street where Joyce lived when I first met him in Paris. Yes, it’s a little street off the rue de Grenelle; And just before it comes to the end of the Rue de Grenelle near the Avenue Bosquet, there’ a little street on the right hand side. It was an impasse in those days. It still exists but it’s a square. The Square Robiac. You go in to the right off the Rue de Grenelle. It was very short. And the right-hand side was the house where Joyce had his flat.

*Beckett later says of Lucia [Joyce’s daughter]: ‘Joyce tried so often to get her help – he was the one who got her to see Jung at the Tavistock Clinic. It’s possible I think that Jung had her in mind at the lecture I went to in London when he spoke about the “who had never really been born.”’ (p.51.)

Source: Beckett Remembering, Remembering Beckett: A Centenary Celebration: Uncollected Interviews with Samuel Beckett and Memories of Those Who Knew Him, ed. James & Elizabeth Knowlson (London: Bloomsbury; NY: Arcade 2006).

So here we have Joyce and Beckett, the right and left hand of Irish literature.  I love Beckett’s idea of the impoverishment in what he is doing, like many an artist, and hence, we celebrate him in particular in writing4godot. Impoverishment and boredom and humor and tragedy.  And Joyce’s protagonist celebrates all these things as well, including references to practically all of western literature! All this in a single day. Happy birthday next week to Ulysses and happy birthday to writing4godot! (Send presents?)

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