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Analysis: Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

At one point in Ulysses, Stephen looks at Mulligan and thinks, "He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his." Well, it turns out that Mulligan is based on Joyce's real-life tempestuous friendship with a man named Oliver St. John Gogarty. Gogarty actually did have reason to fear the lancet of Joyce's art, as he was forever immortalized in the extremely faulted character of Buck Mulligan. (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 291.)

If you don't dig on Ulysses, you'll enjoy hearing this. Richard Ford, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner and one of the fore-most American writers living today, recently said in an interview that he finds no book quite as disappointing as Joyce's Ulysses. He said that it's too long, it's not interesting enough, and that Joyce should have stuck to short stories. (Source: Frank Magazine, Interview with Richard Ford. September, 2008.)

Joyce once estimated that he spent nearly 20,000 hours in writing Ulysses. In the same letter, he speaks of "enthusiastic expressions about my (unread) masterpiece." (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 510 – 511.)

If Joyce wasn't one of the greatest literary writers of all time, he might have made a good living at writing pornography. The 1909 letters to Nora are famous for their vivid sexual detail, and in won we find that Bloom's fantasy of being flogged by Mr. Bello didn't just spin out of nowhere. Joyce writes to Nora, "Tonight I have an idea madder than usual. I feel I would like to be flogged by you. I would like to see your eyes blazing with anger. I wonder is there some madness in me. Or is love madness? One moment I see you like a virgin or a madonna the next moment I see you shameless, insolent, half naked and obscene!" (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 287.)

Joyce was something of a mentor to a young Samuel Beckett. He dictated part of Finnegan's Wake to him, and later they had a temporary falling out when Nora thought that Beckett had been making advances on their daughter Lucia. It turns out Lucia was infatuated with Beckett and he didn't realize it. (Source: Richard Ellman's James Joyce, 649 and elsewhere.)

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