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In public, Joyce’s manners were impeccable and his letters demonstrate a remarkable courteousness but at home, it was very different.Quite apart from the regular drinking binges, his life was driven by his one-eyed obsession to fulfil his destiny and there was perhaps only one woman in the world who could have put up with the selfishness that such a vocation entailed.
’ I snapped back immediately, appalled that he dared to doubt my enterprise. The final sentence reads: ‘A way a lone a last a loved a long the’Who ever ended a book with the word ‘the’?
This is not the first time I’ve broken up with Joyce.
‘To Joyce reality was a paradigm, an illustration of a possibly unstateable rule…
According to this rule, reality, no matter how much we try to manipulate it, can only shift about in continual movement, yet movement limited in its possibilities…’ giving rise to ‘the notion of the world where unexpected simultaneities are the rule.’ In other words, a coincidence such as sitting down to dinner with James Joyce is actually just part of a continually moving pattern, like a kaleidoscope. My house companion is not the only contemporary writer to feel that Joyce’s legacy is a curse.
So perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’ve tried to give up the dependency. The only way I can really give up is by putting myself in the thick of it.
So I have taken up a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie House in Country Monaghan to write, ostensibly, the first draft of a manuscript that, for the first time in decades, has nothing to do with James Joyce. I have brought no Joyce books or copies of the chat groups. On my first evening at Tyrone Guthrie House on the Annaghmakerrig estate in Ireland, I sat down at the long table for the communal meal and was immediately introduced to a crime novelist whose name I assumed I had misheard.‘I beg your pardon? The middle-aged gentleman showed me his blue Visa card to prove it: James Joyce.‘I use a pen name instead,’ he said. ‘Until recently.’ Just a few months ago, he confessed, he finally and wrote an essay about the curse of being a contemporary writer named James Joyce. Do I break my commitment to abstain from reading, thinking or talking about Joyce?It is actually a number of adjoining rooms; a spacious study with wide bay windows allowing for the best view of the lake, a bedroom closed off with folding doors and a bathroom. Despite the jetlag and the wine, I can’t sleep, so some time after midnight I give up and go outside to look up at the northern hemisphere constellation.In rural Monaghan the night sky is clear and I can immediately pick out the starry plough.The author has determined my daily work of writing and teaching; he has also provided friends, colleagues, lovers, and once, a husband.Even my social life is arranged around Joyce, anchored each month by a meeting of the once accused, ‘the most pretentious book club in Sydney’.)In many ways, Joyce has been my longest long-term relationship.My companion waved the bottle away and then cocked his head to one side, asking me to speak up, explaining he had recently suffered sudden and complete hearing loss in one ear.Immediately I was reminded of the central male character in characters, has multiple names and identities.The great man’s shadow falls far and wide and writers, especially Irish ones, continually complain about the effort to crawl out from under it.I am just one of many cowering under his monumental weight.Even the stars in Ireland have literary connotations.I stared up hoping to see a comet or a shooting star, a sign of some sort, something special I could make a wish on.