Archive for the ‘Joyce’ Category

Has a single James Joyce short story unduly influenced contemporary American short fiction?

September 23, 2009

From the Baltimore City Paper:

Here at the beginning of the academic year, a wealth of talented writers are about to enter the system. They’ve got more to work with than ever. They should be thinking about what Joyce’s characters were thinking when they started repeating the word “galoshes”: about the weirdness that is currently seeping into our lives from all angles in a country that appears to have lost touch with itself. They should check out CNN and wonder what’s going on as our national discussions turn into bizarre rants. They should assume that 50 years from now, people will read stories to figure out who we are, not what we feel when we wish we could have been something else. That’s what Joyce was doing in 1914 when Dubliners was published. That’s why people still read it. That’s what young Americans writers should be trying to do every time they start clicking away. But they shouldn’t try to rob from the dead, because there isn’t anything there left to steal.

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I am the Walrus…

September 15, 2009

…was Lennon inspired by James Joyce and Finnegans Wake? I don’t much care, as the theories of obscurity for the two works are similar in effect.  But I like the idea that Lennon was inspired by my favorite book.

Originally released as the B-side of “Hello Goodbye” and as a track on the Magical Mystery Tour album in November 1967, “I Am the Walrus” has been an endless source of lyrical debate. And that’s just how Lennon wanted it: he reputedly constructed the song to be as confusing as possible, in order to keep the Beatle-ologists busy. The chorus of the song goes, “I am the eggman, They are the eggmen, I am the walrus, Goo goo goo joob.” The “walrus,” Lennon later confirmed, was an allusion to the Lewis Carroll verse, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” from the children’s classic Through the Looking-Glass. It’s believed that the “eggman” is a nod to the character of Humpty Dumpty in the same book. But what of “goo goo goo joob” (also transcribed as “goo goo ga joob” or “goo goo g’joob”)?

One widely circulated tidbit is that Lennon was inspired by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake while writing the song. This would fit nicely with the Lewis Carroll homage, since Humpty Dumpty figures in Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness masterpiece as well. (Finnegan’s fall from a ladder resonates with the fall of Humpty Dumpty and the Fall of Man.) According to Beatles lore, “goo goo goo joob” are “the last words uttered by Humpty Dumpty before his fall.” This was a popular notion among the conspiracy theorists who were convinced that Paul McCartney had died in a mysterious accident and looked for clues to his demise in Beatles lyrics.

The only problem with the Joycean theory is that “goo goo goo joob” does not actually appear in Finnegans Wake. The closest approximation in Joyce is “googoo goosth,” which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. There’s also no evidence that Lennon was actually reading Finnegans Wake at the time, so the imprint of Joyce is not nearly as clear-cut as that of Lewis Carroll.