Before we walked into the free exhibition, a docent informed us that photography and note-taking were not permitted. It was an exhibition only for the looking---no touching and for christsakes, no copying.
So in a tastefully low-lit room with pictures and timelines on the walls, under glass in a free standing case in the center of the room were the words that would eventually be in the GREATEST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. Cue the angels singing Hallelujah. Bring in the scholars and critics. Should we be genuflecting? Or should we shake-it-shake-it-shake-it-shake-it?
There! There under the glass were. . .were. . .student workbooks with scribbles and crayons. Joyce worked at the Berlitz school and apparently ‘borrowed' just a few workbooks for himself. Yep, James Joyce stole office supplies. Woooohooo! That's so freaking cool.
So next time you get caught making a few too many copies of your stuff or spending a little too long on the robot or you wonder if you should borrow an office legal pad to write your latest manifesto, just remember, James Joyce did it too.
Looking closely at the notebooks (but not quoting or copying them), I started to see the sense in it all. Joyce really worked in the workbooks---crossing out, drawing arrows to something which had another arrow going to something else crossed out but with an arrow leading to another thing. My god, what he would have done with post-its.
Then he had the whole color pencil/crayon thing going. He could highlight, cross out, draw more arrows and organize. His mind is working right there on the page. On one hand, I thought, wow, this is going to be ULYSSES. On the other hand, I marveled at the simplicity of it. It's human and worked on----not some huge intimidating printed text.
Maybe it's all the stories around the book. The story of how he threw the manuscript in the fire and Nora pulled it out. Or how about those Bloomsday revels that happen every June. Maybe it's because it's a difficult book to read and requires the reader to go into it. Maybe it's Molly Bloom's yes speech. Whatever it is about Ulysses, it does have enough stuff to have its own exhibition.
But at the heart of it all is the book and the guy who wrote it. He sat down, worked though it and wrote the fucker (or whatever he called it).
And no, I have never read all of Ulysses. I've never even picked up Finnigan's Wake (that one's really scarey). Maybe when I sit down to read Ulysses, I'll have pack of crayons next to me. It's all about the colors, man.