Harriet Shaw Weaver, 44, publisher of the Egoist magazine, founder of the Egoist Press, and benefactor of many novelists and poets, has come to a decision.
She has heard rumors that one of the writers she supports [well, at least one] uses the money she sends to regularly get drunk. Irish novelist James Joyce, 39, living in Paris, has written to assure her that these are just rumors. Although he does mention that he probably drinks a bit too much.
Weaver has decided that Joyce’s bad habits are irrelevant in the face of his tremendous talent. Not only is she going to continue to support him, she is going to become his only publisher in the United Kingdom. For £15 she purchases the rights to his book of poetry published 14 years ago, Chamber Music, as well as, for £150, the copyrights to his early short story collection, Dubliners, and his play, Exiles.
James Joyce’s Chamber Music
Joyce has told her that American ex-patriate Sylvia Beach, 34, has offered to publish his novel-in-progress, Ulysses, through her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. Harriet is working with Sylvia to time the publication of the novel in England so that it doesn’t hurt sales of Beach’s publication in Paris.
Joyce assures both women that he’s optimistic the novel could still be ready this fall.
In Paris, after Joyce collapses in a music hall from the strain of working 16 hours a day on his book, he decides to change his work habits.
Now he limits writing and revising Ulysses to five or six hours each day and spends more time on eight-mile walks around Paris.
His eye pain has become a bit more bearable, and he is working on 10 different episodes in the novel at the same time. Joyce has revised one section, “Aeolus,” to incorporate headlines which weren’t in any of the excerpts which appeared in the American magazine The Little Review. This changes the orientation of the second half of the book, which is being sent off to a printer in Dijon to be set into galleys.
The printer comes back to Joyce with all kinds of questions. Why so many compound words? Those are usually two words. Are you sure you want them as one word? Only one of the men who works there has any grasp of the English language at all.
And Joyce and Beach are running out of typists. They have all tried for a while and then given up in frustration over Joyce’s handwritten color-coded insertions to be incorporated into the text.
Recently they have enlisted an American drinking buddy of Joyce’s, fellow novelist and sometimes publisher Robert McAlmon, 26. He is doing his best with the four notebooks full of changes marked in red, yellow, blue, purple and green in Joyce’s scrawl.
For the first few pages of the all-important “Penelope” section, McAlmon is meticulous about determining exactly where Joyce means each phrase to go. He has even re-typed a whole page to make sure everything is in the right place.
But after a bit, McAlmon muses, does it really matter when the character Molly Bloom thinks this, that or the other? What difference does it make if those thoughts go here, or there, or a few pages later, or maybe not at all. So he just puts them in wherever he is typing.
He wonders if Joyce will notice.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volume I, covering 1920, is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.