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Posts Tagged ‘James Joyce’

Cat Fancier

March 17, 2014 | by

james-joyce-the-cat-and-the-devil-uk-edition-L-VXhDbj

From The Cat and the Devil.

“I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency,” begins James Joyce’s The Cat and the Devil, first published in 1965. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on this book as a child, you know that the illustrations, by Richard Erdoes, haunt your nightmares for years, and that it’s quite impossible ever to think of James Joyce without visualizing the Mephistophilean entity pictured therein. 

The story is based on an old French folktale: the desperate mayor of Beaugency makes a deal with the devil in order to get a bridge across the Loire. In exchange for the supernatural structure, the devil may claim the soul of whoever crosses it first. In the event, the townspeople foil the plot by sending over a hapless cat instead, and in the grand tradition of diabolical law, the devil is forced to abide by their reading of the contract. Read More »

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The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People

February 5, 2014 | by

max factor primitif vintage perfume ad model jean patchett 1957

Jean Patchett, in a 1957 Primitif by Max Factor ad.

There are a lot of things I should be reading right now: great books, worthy books, new books, books that, quite frankly, I need to finish for work. But I cannot. Ever since I ran across The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People on my grandparents’ bookshelf, I have been unable to crack anything else.

As the title indicates, this is the best book ever written, and possibly the only book one need own. The table of contents lists such categories as “Late Virginity Losers,” “Outsize Organs,” “Minute Members,” “Orgiasts,” “Interfered with When Young,” “Overrated or Disappointing Lovers,” “Clean and Unclean,” and “Peeping Toms.” As of this writing, I am only as far as August Strindberg (cross-listed as “Mother-Fixated,” “Prodigious Progenitors,” “Sex with Partners Twenty Years (or More) Younger”). But I have every intention of dispatching Zola (“Bigamists,” “Sex Trials and Famous Scandals,” “Erotica”) before the sun sets.

Despite the subject matter, and the red-and-purple 1981-issue cover, the tone of the book is not lurid. It is objective, almost academic. Or at least, the authors make all their declarations with absolute authority. Each entry begins with a biographical sketch; these, in themselves, are worthy of much close attention. Of Somerset Maugham, the authors assert, “In his 92nd year, partially demented, often angry, sometimes euphoric, he died of lung congestion.”

Of course, the sex stuff is still the best. To wit:

Hemingway had several unusual theories about sex. He believed that each man was allotted a certain number of orgasms in his life, and that these had to be carefully spaced out. Another theory was that, if you had sex often enough, you could eat all the strawberries you wanted without contracting hives, even if you were allergic to the fruit.

Rousseau had numerous sexual eccentricities. He had the odd habit of going into raptures over inanimate objects. When living with Madame de Warens, he would wander through her house, kissing the armchair, the bedcurtains, even the floor.

James Joyce, meanwhile, “was a true underwear fetishist, and even carried a pair of doll’s panties in his pocket.”

Lately, my inbox has been flooded with desperate advertisements for inappropriate Valentine’s Day gifts. And if tubs of popcorn and sofa cushions qualify as tokens of love, I feel I may as well throw my hat into the ring and nominate The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People as the sum total of my 2014 gift guide. In this I follow family tradition: last year, my father gave my mother At Your Service, the unspeakably lurid memoir by the cheerful gent who, by his own account, acted as procurer and trick for everyone in Old Hollywood. (My mother talked so often, and so darkly and cryptically, about Charles Loughton’s fetishes that in the end I had to read it myself.) But really, who wouldn’t love it? Paper is ephemeral, flowers fade, diamonds are forever but pricey. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer four whole pages on Mary Baker Eddy’s obsession with “Malicious Animal Magnetism.”

(Well, I suppose a real Joycean might prefer a pair of dolly panties.)

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A Day in the Sun for Beleaguered Librarians, and Other News

February 3, 2014 | by

Librarian_accessing_pdq

Photo: Bill Branson

 

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Nabokov on Joyce

August 23, 2013 | by

Of teaching Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” Below is his.

UllysesMaplarge

 

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Jumping for Joyce, and Other News

August 16, 2013 | by

Gerald Mynott, "Towards the New World, Dublin Harbour" via Francis Kyle Gallery

Gerald Mynott, "Towards the New World, Dublin Harbour" via Francis Kyle Gallery

  • Sci-fi or fantasy fan? Hie on over to Tor.com, where the site is celebrating its fifth birthday by giving away a free anthology.
  • A class at the University of Utah will examine the Book of Mormon as literature. The actual book, not the musical.
  • The Francis Kyle Gallery is mounting a show titled “Jumping for Joyce: Contemporary Painters Revel in the World of James Joyce.” We would have gone with “Joyce Division,” but carry on.
  • A new study says journalism students are consuming virtually no print journalism.
  • Meanwhile, Penn Jillette is characteristically defiant about his abandonment of print: “I always read electronic. I won’t touch paper any more even if water damage costs me a few devices.”
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    Finnegans Wake, Spell-checked, and Other News

    July 18, 2013 | by

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