In newspapers and correspondence in England and France, the reviews are coming in…
Ulysses by James Joyce
No book has ever been more eagerly and curiously awaited by the strange little inner circle of book lovers and litterateurs than James Joyce’s Ulysses…Mr. James Joyce is a man of genius…I cannot, however, believe that sex plays such a preponderant part in life as Mr. Joyce represents…[Molly Bloom’s soliloquy is] the vilest, according to ordinary standards, in all literature…[But] there are phrases in which the words are packed tightly, as trim, as taut, as perfect as these things can be. There are fine ellipses in which a great sweep of meaning is concentrated into a single just right sentence. There is a spot of colour which sets the page aglow…And yet its very obscenity is somehow beautiful and wrings the soul to pity…Has he not exaggerated the vulgarity and magnified the madness of mankind and the mysterious materiality of the universe?”
—Sisley Huddleston, London Observer
London Observer, March 5, 1922
It took, I understand, nearly six years of Mr. Joyce’s life to write, and it will take nearly six of ours to read…The book is a staggering feat which, once attempted and more than half achieved, may never be attempted again.”
—George Slocombe, London Daily Herald
“An Irish Revel: And Some Flappers”
Our first impression is that of sheer disgust, our second of irritability because we never know whether a character is speaking or merely thinking, our third of boredom at the continual harping on obscenities (nothing cloys a reader’s appetite so quickly as dirt)…Reading Mr. Joyce is like making an excursion into Bolshevist Russia: all standards go by the board…The maddest, muddiest, most loathsome book issued in our own or any other time—inartistic, incoherent, unquotably nasty—a book that one would have thought could only emanate from a criminal lunatic asylum…[Joyce is] the man with the bomb who would blow what remains of Europe into the sky…His intention, so far as he has any social intention, is completely anarchic.”
—S. P. B. Mais, London Daily Express
S. P. B. Mais
I’m reading the new Joyce—I hate it when I dip here and there, but when I read it in the right order I am much impressed. However I have but read some thirty pages in that order. It has our Irish cruelty and also our kind of strength and the Martello Tower pages are full of beauty. A cruel playful mind like a great soft tiger cat—I hear, as I read, the report of the rebel sergeant in 1898: ‘O he was a fine fellow, a fine fellow. It was a pleasure to shoot him.’”
—William Butler Yeats, near Oxford,
letter to a friend in London
Joyce has a most goddam wonderful book. It’ll probably reach you in time. Meantime the report is that he and all his family are starving but you can find the whole crew of them every night in Michaud’s where Binney [his wife Hadley] and I can only afford to go about once a week. Gertrude Stein says Joyce reminds her of an old woman out in San Francisco. The woman’s son struck it rich in the Klondyke and the old woman went around wringing her hands and saying, ‘Oh my poor Joey! My poor Joey! He’s got so much money!’ The damned Irish, they have to moan about something or other, but you never heard of an Irishman starving.”
—Ernest Hemingway, Paris,
letter to a friend in Chicago
By the end of the month the $12 copies of Ulysses have sold out.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
This June I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after the Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.