Saturday, February 12, 2011

djuna and james

And then one day I came to Paris.

Sitting in the café of the Deux Majots,
that faces the little church of St. Germain des Pres,
I saw approaching out of the fog and damp,
a tall man, with head slightly lifted
and slightly turned, giving to the wind
an orderly distemper of red and black hair,
which descended sharply into
a scant wedge on an outthrust chin.

He wore a blue grey coat,
too young it seemed,
partly because he had thrust
its gathers behind him,
partly because the belt which circled it
lay two full inches above the hips.

He sat down opposite me, ordered
a white wine and began talking at once.
"The pity is the public will demand
and find a moral in my book--
or worse they may take it in some more serious way,
and on the honour of a gentleman,
there is not one single serious line in it."

There was silence. His hands
peculiarly limp in the introductory
shake and peculiarly pulpy,
running into a thickness
that the base gave no hint of,
lay, one on the stem of the glass,
the other, forgotten, palm out,
on the most delightful waistcoat,
purple with alternate doe and  dog heads.
The does, tiny scarlet tongues
hanging out over blond lower lips,
downed in a light wool,
and the dogs no more ferocious
or on the scent than any good master
who adheres to his master through
the seven cycles of change.

He smiled, "Made by the hand
of my grandmother for the first hunt
of the season".  He lit a cigar.

"All great talkers have spoken
in the language of Sterne, Swift,
or the Restoration. Even Oscar Wilde.
He studied the Restoration through
a microscope in the morning and
repeated it through a telescope
in the evening.

In Ulysses, "They are all there,
the great talkers, them and the things
they forgot. In Ulysses I have recorded
simultaneously what a man says sees thinks
and what such seeing thinking saying does
to what you Freudians call the subconscious,--
but as for psychoanalysis its neither more nor less
than blackmail."

People say of him that he looks both sad and tired.
It is the sadness of a man who has procured some
medieval permission to sorrow out of one time
and in no place;
the weariness of one self-subjected to the creation of
an over abundance in the limited.

If I were asked what seemed to be the most
characteristic pose of James Joyce I should
say that of the head; turned farther away
than disgust and not so far as death,
for the turn of displeasure is not so complete,
yet the only thing at all like it, is the look in the throat
of a stricken animal.

Think of him as a heavy man yet thin,
drinking a thin cool wine with lips
almost hidden in his high narrow head,
or smoking the eternal cigar,
held slightly above shoulder level
and never moved until consumed.

We have talked of rivers
and of religion
of the instinctive genius of the church
which chose for the singing of its hymns
the voice without overtones
the voice of the eunuch.

We have talked of women,
he seems a bit disinterested.
Were I vain I should say
he is afraid of them but
I am certain he is only
a little skeptical of their existence.
We have talked of Ibsen, Stringberg,
Shakespeare: "Hamlet is a great play
written from the standpoint of the ghost."
Strindberg: "No drama behind the hysterical raving."

We have talked of death, of rats
of horses, the sea;
languages, climates and offerings,
of artists and Ireland.
"The Irish are people who
will never have leaders
for at the great moment they always
desert them.  They have produced
one skeleton---Parnell--never a man.

Joyce has few friends.
Callers have often found him
writing into the night, or drinking
tea with his wife Nora.  I myself
once came upon him as he lay
full length on his stomach poring
over a valise full of notes
taken in his youth for Ulysses.

Once he was reading out of the  book
of saints(he is never without it)
and muttering to himself that his day's saint,
"A devil of a fellow for bringing on the rain,
and we wanting to go for a stroll."

He described Stephen Daedalus
"Alone, not only separate from all others,
but to have not even one friend," stating
"I will not serve that which I no longer believe,
whether it will call itself my home,
my fatherland, or my church:
and I will try to express myself
in my art as I can, using for defense
the only arms I allow myself to use,
silence, exile and cunning."

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