Taken: July 30, 2010
Location: Healdsburg, CA
I know I said I was going to start putting up images but I just realized that I left some of them on the hard drive on my office computer. So much for my plan. However, I'm going to be a little crazy here and skip a few days (with a promise to return and post those images later). I'm also going to stop and comment on today's image too. A little give-and-take then.
Those of you who know me will be familiar with the binding at the bottom of this stack. For those who don't, it's mine. As in the first novel I wrote, also my first published work and the one book I've written (four penned, two published and one I hope will be published next year) that I can still read without cringing too much.
My rather large ego aside, I don't usually have one of my novels on the side table next to my bed, but I've been returning to its pages lately as a kind of research for my current book (and also as a starting point for my eventual return to the unpublished Book Three, which is a continuation of the series begun with "Zen and the Art of Murder.") I don't usually have James Joyce's "Ulysses" there either. And the juxtaposition of the two novels is not lost on me.
There is something truly wondrous about seeing a book you wrote on a bookshelf in a bookstore for the first time. I'll never forget it. It was a Barnes & Noble in West Los Angeles, just before closing on a rainy night. I stopped in to see if it was out yet, and there it was, right between between Connelly and Crais, saying "you've arrived, kid". I sat down on the floor in the Mystery Books aisle and paged through it, hoping I wouldn't catch an editing error (I probably found at least one). And then I called my mother. Naturally.
The memory may fade some with time, but it's always out there to be rekindled, like when you happen to glance at your bedside table one night and see your book under the weight of The Real Thing. Like James Joyce's "Ulysses". Oh, you know you're not in the same league, you with your little slice of noir fiction verses the great and good literary giant, but you have the binding in common and the cover, maybe even an author photo and yes, that precious ISDN number. You are now forever in the pantheon of published works that includes the great classics, the heavyweights, the Writers Who Led You to Writerville. No, you are not in their class, but you are, at the very least, in the club.
Now, as to why I happen to have the seemingly impenetrable "Ulysses" on my nightstand is another story. It all began with my searching iTunes for something other than music to listen to, a vague attempt to exercise my mind. I've been longing for a little enlightenment, to strike a blow at the growing and scary anti-intellectualism movement, and so it's been off to the virtual stacks of iTunes' Podcasts and iTunes University.
I've found a few I like. The How Stuff Works podcasts are very fun and educational and I enjoy listening to Fresh Air interviews and the Moth Radio Hour can be awesome, but it's been a relatively new podcast that has really wowed me. It's called Re:Joyce, a title whose double-entendre (at least) fits in perfectly in a podcast that explores the seminal work of a writer who never wrote a sentence that didn't have more than one interpretation.
Part of the appeal of Re:Joyce is its host, author and scholar Frank Delaney, who is Irish-born and fittingly quite an authority on Joyce. His task here? Beginning on Bloomsday of this year, Delaney began reading through the weighty "Ulysses" word-by-word in weekly podcasts roughly 5 minutes in length.
Full disclosure: I'm one of these people who loves a good Irish brogue and hearing Joyce's words read (expertly I might add) by a man with a fabulous one, is part of the appeal, but ah, we are but scratching the surface. Delaney isn't just reading the words, he's guiding you through them, sometimes spending whole podcasts on one paragraph, one word or idea. (I think it took him five podcasts just for the first page).
Far from being tedious, though, his annotations are endlessly fascinating as well as illuminating, sometimes funny, coy, and always, always positively endearing. His knowledge of the work, of Joyce, of fine literature, religion, Dublin, philosophy, writing, language and languages, is immense. His kindness in sharing it with the world -- for free I might add -- is a true and priceless gift. And it's all so full of love for the text, for writing, for the whole deal, that Mr. Delaney has currently displaced George Clooney as "The Person I'd Most Like to Have Dinner With." My low standards notwithstanding, this guy is just great. The best part? His affection for this work is positively infectious. And isn't that saying a lot for a novel of the heft and complexity of "Ulysses"?
And I just can't understate the value of this podcast on my own writing. Immersing myself now in a great writer's work is like going back to the place where I first discovered my love of the craft. It's a fine memory to have sparked again and again.
I'm already a fan of Joyce but while I've read and re-read "Portrait" and his short stories ("The Dead" being an all-time favorite), "Ulysses" has eluded me. It is the book I know I'd love if I just took the time to get through it. But I'm not equipped to do it alone -- far too many references for the many gaps in my education. Now, I don't have to do.
In this digital age, the fact that I have a copy of "Ulysses" now sitting, bookmarked, on my night table waiting for the weekly thrill of tackling one more page or paragraph, really warms my writer's heart. After all these years, it feels good to be back in in the world of turn-of-the-century Dublin on that long and fascinating day, a day that is finally beginning to make sense to me.
My biggest fear about this podcast is that he will stop before the end of the book -- which for 700 pages might take literally years. This is one reason I'm mentioning it here. If you've ever wanted to read "Ulysses" or re-read it with someone who knows the text as well as he knows his own heart -- and loves it just as much -- then crack open your copy and download this podcast.
I realize I'm gushing, but this podcast has been a true revelation for me -- as it would be for any lover of great art and literature, of words and their meanings, of language, philosophy and really, just the obvious pleasure one man has in sharing his joy. Almost every week, there's a moment in the podcast where I can almost see Delaney's wide, schoolboy grin -- and know how much fun he's having. Listen and you'll know too. Start with the introduction and work your way from there. It's a fine time to jump in and catch up as he's just getting through the first few pages. And for added fun, follow Mr. Delaney on Twitter @FDbytheword.
Come to think of it, you can follow me on twitter too. I'm @shyonelung, naturally. Make sure you mention this blog so I know how you know me. I'll be back soon to fill in the days I've skipped. Promise.