Monthly Archives: July 2022

addendum (his character)


Elaborating further on my latest post

his character

his character

Was my praise of my father fulsome? A Falstaff and all that.

Enumerating such things (as James Joyce did in the case of his own father), I would say that I got from my father:

– intelligence

– good nature towards all and sundry

– conscientiousness

– a sense of humor

Regarding personal flaws, mine and everyone else’s:

I don’t choose friends or intimate acquaintances (to the extent one chooses one’s spouse, significant others, and closest friends) based on a checklist.

If I see good in someone, humanity, sincerity, etc., that is enough for me. There may be egregious failings as well.

I greatly value the friendships I have formed with intellectuals and deep thinkers. I do not, however, look down per se on people less well read or educated than me. This is not just out of kindness of indulgence on my part. There are all sorts of wisdom and intelligence that one can profit from. And, character means a lot to me. Plus – as an afterthought – I have observed wit and insight in persons who don’t necessarily read a lot. This is something my father, who was entitled to pride himself on his education, was very capable of.

I have tended for most of my life to be very self-critical. I am more able now to live with myself when I do something “wrong” out of heedlessness or resulting from willful misbehavior. But I don’t just forgive myself or give myself a pass. I have not changed in that respect.

Regarding friends and acquaintances of mine who have been guilty of transgressions or have character flaws — or what seem to be misguided beliefs — I err far on the side of tolerance. And the same with those who have problems causing them to be castigated as deviant or abnormal.

I was greatly influenced by the Bible when I was young, how Jesus treated sinners: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.


Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2).

And Walt Whitman:

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited,
The heavy-lipp’d slave is invited, the venerealee is invited;
There shall be no difference between them and the rest

— Watt Whitman, Song of Myself


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022

his character


Taking the Staten Island Ferry this morning and enjoying the cool breezes and the City, I thought of my parents and when they took me to New York in the summer of 1953 (or was it ‘54?) when I was age seven.  We took the ferry to cool off.  Our hotel, in Times Square,  was four dollars,  I seem to recall.

Why did they take just me? I had a younger brother who was around three years old and an older brother who was around ten.

They may have thought I needed special attention.  I was,  deep down, unhappy and insecure.  I adored my mother and was needy of love and attention.  She gave it, but it did not seem like enough.  My father often seemed remote and distant.  I was afraid of him.  He was so imposing.

Then there was the time in 1969 when my parents, with my younger brother and sister, came to visit me in New York. I was doing CO  (conscientious objector) service. I was barely making enough to live on, but I had found an apartment.

took them to Wo Hop, 17 Mott  Street, in  Chinatown.  No frills. Cheap!  My coworkers on East 18th Street had introduced me to the  place. What became of them? Where are they now?

My father was delighted.

My father relished every such good moment in his life,  every day. People and quotidien experiences.

I miss him greatly.

A Dickens or Shakespeare would have appreciated him for what he was.  A sort of Sir John (aka Jack) Falstaff,  a Mr Micawber, a Simon Dedalus.  A man liked by all and unfairly maligned by a few narrow minded relatives  for faults real or imagined that most of us have and few like to admit.


— posted by Roger W.   Smith

   July 25, 2022

Handy gleanings


Handy gleanings


Please see downloadable Word document, above.

My mother, Elinor (Handy) Smith, was descended from Richard Handy of Sandwich, Massachusetts, an original settler on Cape Cod.


– posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022

H. L. Mencken on Haydn


Mencken on Haydn


Posted here (PDF above), excerpt from:

H. L. Mencken

“Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)”

The Baltimore Evening Sun

November 23, 1916


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022




The introduction to Ulysses in the 1934 Random House advertisement got me to thinking. To quote from the introduction: Ulysses “is essentially a story and can be enjoyed as such. …. one of the greatest novels of our time.”

Is Ulysses really a novel? — is it even a novel? Is it a good story?

The parallels to The Odyssey and the characters are explained schematically. Leopold Bloom is Odysseus and Stephen Dedalus is Telemachus. Stephen is the young James Joyce, the artist as a young man. Simon Dedalus (Stephen’s father) represents Joyce’s father.

My therapist, Dr. Ralph Colp Jr., and I discussed Joyce quite a lot. It began, as I recall, because I was reading Richard Ellman’s definitive biography of Joyce. Around that time I also read Stephen Hero, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, some but not all of Dubliners, and a few of Joyce’s poems. I also read My Brother’s Keeper by Stanislaus Joyce. Dr. Colp and I discussed Joyce’s epiphanies; and epiphany became a sort of code word between us on all sorts of subjects.

Dr. Colp recognized and acknowledged Joyce’s genius. He said to me, could you imagine if I had him for a patient?

I also took a course on Joyce at Columbia University with Joyce scholar William York Tyndall. The course was devoted solely to Ulysses. I have read and am familiar with a good part of the book, but have never read it in its entirety or straight through.

I told Dr. Colp that I found Stephen Dedalus to be boring. A self absorbed character whom one would not find interesting in real life. Dr. Colp agreed with this assessment.

Professor Tyndall said several times in his lectures that Joyce had “a medieval mind.” I did not quite understand what he meant by that. Now I think I do. He also mentioned scholasticism and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Leopold Bloom is everyman. Molly Bloom is everywoman. The book happens on a single day in Dublin and is about Bloom, Stephen, Molly, and the people they encounter during that day. It could be any day, the point being the commonality and universality of human experience as described by Homer, by Joyce, by the giants of literature, as experienced by you and I, by Leopard Bloom making his breakfast of kidneys on a particular morning, by my own father toasting marshmallows in the fireplace when I was a boy, by your father or mother, by all of us.

Bloom is everyman and his life could be ours. The Odyssey is an epic for all time with universal applicability. Ditto for Ulysses. There is a great continuity from Homer through Beowulf, Chaucer, Mallory, Shakespeare, Milton, Defoe, and I forget who else. See Ulysses, Chapter 14.

Joyce belongs in this company. But Ulysses is more like a treatise than a story or novel. An exegesis. A treatise by an Aquinas, a medieval doctor. I understand Professor Tyndall’s comment now.

Can you imagine, Dr. Colp said to me, that Joyce said: “The only demand I make of my reader, is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works” (and had given scholars enough to keep them busy)?

Joyce was a genius and his use of the interior monologue, indirect discourse; Freudian insights; stream of consciousness are brilliant and unprecedented. It’s like Beethoven. Literature post Joyce will never be the same.

But let’s take characters. Charles Dickens’s are unforgettable. Realer than real. The major and minor ones: Pip; Joe Gargery; Mrs. Joe, Pip’s sister; Biddy; Magwitch; Estella; Mr. Jaggers; Wemmick, Mr. Jaggers’s clerk; the Aged, Wemmick’s father, who toasts sausages and repeats himself in conversation.

Huckleberry Finn is a novel about boyhood. You can say that this is its theme, boyhood. Two memorable characters: Huck and Jim. A damn good yarn.

What about Theodore Dreiser? His first novel, Sister Carrie? Intellectually, and as a writer, one could say, Dreiser, compared to Joyce, is a pygmy. There is no comparison. Sister Carrie is a “plain” tale drawn from real life. While Joyce was a genius of language, Dreiser in his maturity was still struggling to write acceptable English prose and showing off by using obsolete “literary” words such as “vagrom” and “distrait.”

Sorry, dear readers, but I can get into Sister Carrie, whereas I can’t manage to finish Ulysses. And, An American Tragedy, which is several hundred pages longer than Ulysses, carried me through from beginning to end. So did Moby-Dick, which is the work of a genius which tells a good story.

This is an egregious understatement: Ulysses impresses one. But does it engage the reader the way a novel by an “inferior” writer like Dreiser does, the way Mark Twain, Steinbeck, and, by comparison, “plebeian” writers like James T. Farrell do? I would answer in the negative.

But Ulysses, as Dr. Colp noted, will continue to challenge and delight readers and scholars. As it should.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022

advertisement for Ulysses, 1934


‘How to Enjoy Ulysses’

Ulysses ad – Saturday Review 2-10-1934 pp 474-475


Posted here (PDFs above) is an advertisement for James Joyce’s Ulysses, which (the advertisement) is now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University.

The advertisement is dated 1934, the year in which a ban on the book was lifted, enabling its publication by Random House. The advertisement was published in the Saturday Review of Literature, February 10, 1934.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

    July 2022

CONTEMPO Volume III, Number 13; James Joyce Issue


Contempo, Vol. III, No. 13


I am posting what I believe to be a very rare item, which I have copied at the New York Public Library:

CONTEMPO Volume III, Number 13

James Joyce Issue (edited by Stuart Gilbert)

February 15, 1934

I was alerted to this issue in the following article: “ ‘Ulysses’ Arrives in the United States: A Perspective from Eighty Years Ago.” By Richard J. Gerber, James Joyce Quarterly, Fall 2013, pp. 163-167.

As Gerber explains, Bennett Cerf’s Random House published one hundred copies of Joyce’s Ulysses in January 1934 in order to secure its copyright in the United States. U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey had ruled that the book was not pornographic, enabling the book’s publication.

Contempo was a so called “little magazine” offering literary and social commentary. It was published only for three years, between 1931 and 1934. Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, and Eugene O’Neill were among the authors featured. Ezra Pound served as the magazine’s foreign editor. In addition to the James Joyce issue, Contempo published special editions devoted to work and criticism by and about William Faulkner, Hart Crane, and George Bernard Shaw. The editors of Contempo asked Stuart Gilbert, one of the first Joyce scholars, to serve as guest-editor for their final, special edition devoted to Joyce.


James Joyce’s “Work in Progress [published as Finnegans Wake],” Part I

Random House co-founder Bennett Cerf’s “Publishing Ulysses”

commentary by Stuart Gilbert, one of the first Joyce scholars: “We’ll to the Woods No More”

Modern Library advertisement for its editions of Joyce’s Dubliners (1926) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1928)

Richard Thoma, “A Dream in Progress,” a discussion of “Anna Livia Plurabelle” (a character in Finnegans Wake)

Samuel Beckett’s acrostic poem “Home Olga.” based on Joyce’s name and written in 1932

William van Wyck’s “To James Joyce, Master Builder,” a poem in tribute to Joyce

Eugene Jolas’s “Verbirrupta for James Joyce,” a parody of Finnegans Wake

a review by Padraic Colum of Charles Duff’s Joyce and the Plain Reader

Gotham Book Mart’s advertisement for the Egoist Press edition of Ulysses and other works. (A personal note: I used to patronize the Gotham Book Mart.)

Contempo advertisement for the Random House Ulysses

Gerber concludes:

Contempo III.13 is an important document in the Joyce and Ulysses history, with Gilbert’s recollection of Joyce’s rediscovery and iconic use of the monologue intérieur technique representing the immediate past, Cerf’s account of publishing Ulysses embodying the remarkable present, and Joyce’s excerpt from Finnegans Wake presaging the imminent future. From start to finish, the brilliance of Contempo III.13 is that it captures, in part, a sampling of the critical atmosphere at the initial high point of modern literature–that moment when Ulysses first burst upon the American scene, like a comet, a shooting star streaking across the literary sky.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2022

James Joyce on his father


James Joyce said of his father, John Stanislaus Joyce, “I got from him his portraits, a waistcoat, a good tenor voice, and an extravagant licentious disposition.” In Ulysses, Simon Dedalus is a version of the author’s father. While the fictional character is a bad provider for his family, leaving his daughters penniless, James Joyce also portrays Simon as witty and good company outside of his home, popular in bars and gifted with a wonderful tenor voice that soars in the novel’s “Sirens” episode. Of his father’s influence on the book, Joyce told a friend, “The humor of Ulysses is his; its people are his friends. The book is his spittin’ image.”’

— James Joyce exhibit, Morgan Library


I can relate to this portrayal.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2022