The Political Fray Replay

What does it mean to “vote one’s conscience”? Isn’t the conscience that comfortable place where sleeps one’s presuppositions, unquestioned assumptions, background biases, wishes, wants, and whimsy? James Joyce was three months old when in May of 1882 two high-level government men associated with British rule were assassinated in what came to be called the Phoenix…

How to Build a Bed

Readers of “Penina’s Letters” may recall Salty talking about sleep. In the short excerpt below, he would have us believe he can sleep anywhere, anyhow: But one thing I had learned in the Army was the useful skill of how to sleep. I had written Penina I could now sleep in private or in public,…

Cherry Trees in City Park in Spring

It was such a perfect day in the park. You might have been reminded of the Lou Reed song “Perfect Day.” The cherry trees were drinking sangria: Oh, it’s such a perfect day I’m glad I spent it with you Oh, such a perfect day You just keep me hanging on The second person is…

Mkgnao!9: Alien Cats from Outer Space (A Minidrama)

Abducted by alien cats from outer space and whisked away to a faraway planet then shot back to Earth from a circus cannon cocked with physicist rubber string theory, a cat cannonball, Scamble tries to interest Cramble in a tabloid worthy extraterrestrial tale! Cramble: [Silence] Scamble: “And you have nothing to say?!” Cramble: “Does this…

Roddy Doyle’s “The Guts”

They were sitting in the living room, sharing stuff. – Your man Roddy Doyle has a new book. – I don’t have a man. – It’s just an expression. It’s Irish. – Are there any Sheas in the new book? – That’s El Porto Irish. – What’s my man’s new book about? – Your man…

Kirill Medvedev: “It’s No Good”

Kirill Medvedev’s poems are easy to get into. He explains situations, tells stories about people. You don’t mind listening and want to hear more. He’s contemplative and calm and reasonable, even when he’s making a wakeup call, dissing and dressing down, asking why things can’t be rearranged. The vocabulary isn’t hard. The figurative language is…

Notes on Experience, Story, and Voice

“The idea that everyone has a story to tell (which underlies the notion that anyone can write since all a writer needs is a story) is strictly correct,” Jenny Diski said, writing in the London Review of Books (7 Mar, 21) about Marco Roth’s memoir, “The Scientists: A Family Romance.” Well, Henry James thought so,…

“Mkgnao! Mrkgnao! Mrkrgnao! Gurrhr!”

…from the 4th chapter of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” as Bloom prepares breakfast, his cat lingering by: Another slice of bread and butter: three, four: right. She didn’t like her plate full. Right. He turned from the tray, lifted the kettle off the hob and set it sideways on the fire. It sat there, dull and squat,…

New Repost at Berfrois!

“James Joyce on Writing: ‘write dangerously,’” posted here at the Toads back on August 20th, has been reposted at Berfrois.

Bob Dylan & Clarice Lispector: Bewildering, Transfigured, & Redeemed

Perhaps no star’s luminosity glows murkier than Dylan’s in his interviews. Louis Menand, in “Bob on Bob: Dylan Talks” (New Yorker, 4 Sep 2006), a review of Jonathan Cott’s Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews, comments on the absurdity of taking any Dylan interview as a gospel light. Menand opens by comparing Dylan’s interviews to Elvis’s, “who…

Four Dubliners and a Scholar’s Mirror

When Richard Ellmann wrote his Library of Congress lectures in the early 1980s on four Irish writers (Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett), later issued in book form under the title Four Dubliners, Beckett was still living (barely; he died 18 months after the book’s publication). Most of Beckett’s work comes after WWII, work that often…

James Joyce’s Guitar Chord in the 1915 Ottocaro Weiss Photo

What guitar chord is James Joyce playing in this photo? The original photo, taken by Ottocaro Weiss, in 1915, is housed in Cornell’s James Joyce collection, in an exhibit in a glass closet titled “Poetry and Music.” I first saw the photo of Joyce playing the guitar years ago in the Ellmann biography, and I…