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A thread for all queries directed to Dr The Pinefox...

PJ Miller, Thursday, 29 March 2012 07:36 (eleven years ago) link

Is this new James Joyce biography any good?

PJ Miller, Thursday, 29 March 2012 07:37 (eleven years ago) link

Well I have met the author, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last year - he did a Q&A and I talked to him a bit afterwards. He was a very nice old chap indeed. But I don't think he is especially a Joycean - his other books have been on Orwell, Lowry and the like, and the Joyce book seems to have come up on a whim.

I think if one wanted to read a biography of Joyce now, it would be quite refreshing to read this new one rather than any other. I daresay it is readable and enjoyable I have an idea that it does contain a FEW things that others have not done. But I don't think it is the landscape-changing new biography that some Joyceans have apparently been hoping for for the last 20-odd years.

the pinefox, Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:20 (eleven years ago) link

dr the pinefox, what (if anything) is wrong with the Ellmann biography?

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:22 (eleven years ago) link

It is widely regarded as one of the great literary biographies and it is arguable that whatever is wrong with it is more than made up for by its achievement and qualities. In any case, RE was first on the scene in the 1950s or even 1940s (if we discount Herbert Gorman's earlier work - perhaps we shouldn't) and did work that no one else could now do.

There have been relatively few significant biographies of JJ: Gorman, Ellmann; Stan Gebler Davies was the first one I read and is not a major work of new research; Peter Costello's THE YEARS OF GROWTH (1992) is, though. John McCourt's THE YEARS OF BLOOM (2000) is also worth consideration.

But what, if anything, is wrong with RE's book? This is a large topic and I would be inclined to refer you to Hugh Kenner's review of the 2nd edition, 'the impertinence of being definitive', TLS, 1982; also to Philip Herring's essay on Ellmann in a collection on biography from c.1989; and perhaps to McGinley's pamphlet 'the uses and abuses of the biografiend' (1996); also in fact to Empson's original review in 1959 which complained that RE had slighted JJ's politics.

I think RE got some facts wrong; relied on hearsay and gossip and presented them as stronger evidence than they were; could have a slightly condescending attitude to JJ as well as a heroizing one; sometimes used the fiction as a basis for factual claims. I don't right now recall much detail about specific errors he is alleged to have made.

the pinefox, Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:31 (eleven years ago) link

I hope that PJM will read the new biography and REPORT BACK on it.

the pinefox, Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:40 (eleven years ago) link

thank you pinefox, this is already a v great thread

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:49 (eleven years ago) link

Dr The Pinefox, I ask this question because I saw it yesterday in Blackwells on Charing X Rd in their 3 for 2 offer and I thought about attempting to text you to see if you were around for an intellectual chat over a coffee or something, but I had been awake since 4, so it didn't seem like such a good idea, upon reflection. So I went home. Without the book. I did get some colouring books though, for the Easter holidays.

PJ Miller, Thursday, 29 March 2012 09:36 (eleven years ago) link

It would have been good, to have that meeting with you. I would almost certainly have encouraged you to buy the book.

the pinefox, Thursday, 29 March 2012 09:55 (eleven years ago) link

reminds me somehow of a cross between PJ Miller and Robert Smith

the pinefox, Thursday, 29 March 2012 10:03 (eleven years ago) link

Hard to believe there was ever a time when Sean Penn needed people to stick up for him.

What was the comeback single?

He does remind me a bit of me, if I hadn't had it all thrashed out of me.

PJ Miller, Thursday, 29 March 2012 11:34 (eleven years ago) link

That is a moving statement.

I would think that the 1987 45 was 'My Bag'?

the pinefox, Thursday, 29 March 2012 11:38 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, I don't even know 'My Bag'.

I don't mean physically thrashed out.

PJ Miller, Saturday, 31 March 2012 06:59 (eleven years ago) link

dr. the pinefox, what is your opinion of the work of b.s. johnson

thomp, Saturday, 31 March 2012 10:23 (eleven years ago) link

I have read very little of it. I am sure it is important or distinctive in the way that people say it is. But I get the impression of a choleric mood of anger and despair around it which I don't find very appealing.

I like the idea of The Unfortunates talking about everyday life, football and memory in a provincial town. This seems like subject matter I can get behind.

He has many big fans who can, unlike me, give very extensive answers to the question.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 11:17 (eleven years ago) link

PJM, 'My Bag' was like a 'subterranean homesick blues' for the 1980s, or so I said in my LC article for PAPERCUTS.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 11:18 (eleven years ago) link

dear informed fans of the writer b.s. johnson, what is dr. the pinefox's opinion of the work of b.s. johnson

thomp, Saturday, 31 March 2012 11:42 (eleven years ago) link

Dear Dr The Pinefox,

Have you noticed how, in general, fellow posters adopt a significantly more polite and formal register when conversing with you? I imagine that this would be somewhat pleasing to you, though I apologise should that come across a tad presumptuous.

Yours lol

Ismael Klata, Saturday, 31 March 2012 12:21 (eleven years ago) link

No, I haven't noticed this in general, because in general it is not true, and quite often it is even the reverse of the truth.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 12:31 (eleven years ago) link

Then the fault is mine and I apologise, my liege.

Ismael Klata, Saturday, 31 March 2012 12:38 (eleven years ago) link

Dear Dr. the Pinefox, I don't have a question as such but am enjoying this thread and hearing from you 'n' all so I just thought I'd say so.

tempestuous alaskan nites! (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Saturday, 31 March 2012 12:46 (eleven years ago) link

Thank you, Tempestuous Alaskan Nites.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 13:50 (eleven years ago) link

Dr The Pinefox,

1. What do you think of The Restored Finnegans Wake ? I just got my copy yesterday. Haven't read FW yet in any form, except for excerpts, and I don't know if I've done the wrong thing by buying this.

2. Do you like Samuel Beckett? I just finished 'The Unnameable' yesterday. I am intrigued by one reviewer's suggestion that it is told from the point of view of Malone's/Molloy's penis.

glumdalclitch, Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:09 (eleven years ago) link

sup pinefoxy,

what is the difference between tragedy and comedy?

also, i second the question about molloy's molloy.

j., Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:27 (eleven years ago) link

Glumdalclitch: I did not know much about the Restored FW at all. I do know that people are bringing out JJ in general for copyright reasons and Oxford Worlds Classics will issue a FW soon, which will also, I think, be re-edited somewhat. I guess Danis Rose knows what he is doing, more than I would, but he has been a controversial figure in JJ scholarship since 1997 when he brought out his Reader's Edition of Ulysses which I believe inserted a lot of commas into 'Penelope'. I have a feeling that this new Restored FW may also be controversial among those who know a lot about such things. But if this volume brings some freshness to reading FW then maybe it is a good thing and I would like to know how you find it.

I think Beckett is easily one of the greatest modern writers - in English, probably in the world. The early clever Beckett can be irritating but once he gets going at his peak in the 1940s he is devastating, like no other writer I have read. I suppose the virtues of his best work are well known and do not need my advocacy -- the black humour, the confrontation with despair, degradation and bodily limitation, and a bit less obvious, sometimes the lyricism.

(I don't think I can be bothered with the later drama though, diagrams of characters with letters for names moving in and out of shadows and the like.)

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:36 (eleven years ago) link

j: I have heard that it is time.

I have not previously heard that theory and to be honest I very much doubt that it makes sense in terms of what the text says.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:36 (eleven years ago) link

Hi, did someone mention B.S. Johnson on this thread? *waves*

emil.y, Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:40 (eleven years ago) link

[ps / it is incongruous to say that Beckett was a great writer 'in English', but then the texts I know are English texts, several of which he produced himself from the French, so it is literally true, he is a great writer in English]

yes, emil.y is the kind of person I meant who could give you many opinions and facts about BSJ, whose work I believe she admires greatly.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:45 (eleven years ago) link

Some clues re The Unnameable: His alternate names are 'Ma(n)hood' and 'Worm', he has no limbs, or head, he is continually weeping from his eye, he seems to have little volition of his own, but to be told what to do or say by others...

glumdalclitch, Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:48 (eleven years ago) link

well that last part's totally backwards

j., Saturday, 31 March 2012 14:51 (eleven years ago) link

the beckett thing sounds the worst kind of trick reading, but enh

emil.y are you presenting at the johnson symposium in brighton in may? i was dicking around with a proposal for it but i figured the odds of my getting accepted vs the extent i felt like i had something with any point to it to say seemed kind of off. i am tempted to go, still.

thomp, Saturday, 31 March 2012 15:27 (eleven years ago) link

Dear Dr. The Pinefox,
Which is the best Flann O'Brien?
James Redd

Singularities Going Steady (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 31 March 2012 23:10 (eleven years ago) link

Thomp, I am indeed presenting there. My work has been shitty for a while, though, so I'm pretty much terrified. But if you come down then we should meet up! I live in Brighton, so am up for incredible post-conference boozing.

emil.y, Sunday, 1 April 2012 02:37 (eleven years ago) link

JR, a short answer is that best FOB is the early work - all the way from, say, 1932 to 1945: from the student writings and Blather (1934-5) which are available in the superb anthology MYLES BEFORE MYLES, to AT SWIM TWO BIRDS itself, to THE THIRD POLICEMAN and finally the first few years of Cruiskeen Lawn, which are fairly adequately represented in THE BEST OF MYLES.

That is a rangy answer but for me it is difficult to pick between this stuff. If it comes to it I would probably say:

Blather for youthful exuberance
early Cruiskeen Lawn for the most sustained brilliance in comic writing that I have encountered
The Third Policeman for somewhat different reasons - unlike these other works it carries menace and a power to unsettle.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 April 2012 11:32 (eleven years ago) link

(by the same token you could also say that it is intellectually serious and subversive, in a way, while still being comic -- it troubles thought and ideas. Its special brand of Hiberno-English is also remarkable.)

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 April 2012 11:34 (eleven years ago) link

Dr The Pinefox,

I recall you spending an awfully long time engrossed by a book about Barry Davies. What prompted the fixation, why did it take so long, and was it worth it?

Ismael Klata, Sunday, 1 April 2012 11:46 (eleven years ago) link

I love Barry Davies, as a sports commentator. Indeed he is my favourite of all sports commentators.

It took a long time because I am a slow reader.

It was worth it.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 April 2012 12:26 (eleven years ago) link

Dear Dr. The Pinefox,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Had not known about MYLES BEFORE MYLES, will investigate. I have another question for you: which chapter of Ulysses does this image remind you of?

Singularities Going Steady (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 1 April 2012 12:58 (eleven years ago) link

I really do not know what the answer to that question should be -- which I regret, as believe it or not, that is probably my favourite Elvis Costello LP; I am fond even of the cover art.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 April 2012 13:29 (eleven years ago) link

Maybe I should have asked which character instead

Singularities Going Steady (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 1 April 2012 15:38 (eleven years ago) link

well Stephen Dedalus needs glasses but doesn't have them during the book. I'm not sure if you think EC's is a 'Latin Quarter hat'. EC by the time of the photo was a fair bit older than 22.

Leopold Bloom doesn't wear glasses and does wear a brimmed hat - not a cap like EC's.

There is of course a Punch Costello who I think only really appears in 'Oxen of the Sun'.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 April 2012 15:50 (eleven years ago) link

Yes, that was what I was getting at

Singularities Going Steady (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 1 April 2012 16:33 (eleven years ago) link

Punch Costello?

Oh! At last I see.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 April 2012 16:41 (eleven years ago) link

Sorry, probably wasn't worth the trouble. Now I see that he is only in Oxen in the Sun, but I had mistakenly thought he might have first appeared earlier in Cyclops, perhaps.

Singularities Going Steady (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 1 April 2012 16:45 (eleven years ago) link

eleven years pass...

Dear Dr teh Pinefox,

Do you still consider yourself a Joycean, if you ever did, or have you moved on?


Shifty Henry’s Swing Club (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 16 November 2023 01:25 (three weeks ago) link

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