Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A pause by the wayside


“A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.

'James, what’s wrong?' the friend asked. 'Is it the work?'

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. 'Of course it was the work; isn’t it always?'

'How many words did you get today?' the friend pursued.

Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): 'Seven.'

'Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.'

'Yes,' Joyce said, finally looking up. 'I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”

― Stephen King
James Joyce
I began this blog on December 21, 2012, thinking it might be a fun project for the holidays. Since then, I've written 7 posts (this is my 8th), and I've had over 1,800 hits on my blog.  Thanks to everyone who's visited the blog and read its posts -- as you can see, it's a work-in-progress, but I didn't think we'd get this far this fast.   

As James Joyce once said: "Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives."   Still, I've enjoyed the process of generating ideas, formulating topics, spinning them into posts, and then starting over the next day in Sisyphus-like style.   

So now that the calendar has flipped over to 2013, I thought I'd change gears a bit and write a post about what I've learned since I first embarked on this blogging journey.  

Targeting the right audience: At first, I wasn't sure which audience I should target: new readers of Joyce's work or sophisticated Joyceans.  Ultimately, by deciding to focus my blog on my journey to understand Ulysses, I settled on a middle ground:  starting each post with a question or challenge that I faced when I first began reading Ulysses, sharing how I worked my way through it, and telling the story about what I learned along the way.  I hope this approach appeals to both the newcomers and the experts (I think of it like a Pixar movie that primarily targets kids, but has enough inside jokes and retro music to keep the adults entertained too).  

How long should a post be?  I'm thankful for all the positive feedback I've received on my posts so far -- yet one reader mentioned that my posts have been a bit too long.  It's sometimes hard to keep them short, as I try to tell a story and take reader through a journey of discovery.  Perhaps I'll mix it up in the future and experiment with posts of different lengths (like this one).

Setting the context:   By now, my thesis should be relatively clear.  I believe that Joyce's writing is brilliant and remarkable, but it's intensely more satisfying once the reader gets some context: whether it's by visiting Dublin, reading Joyce's other works, listening to the songs in Ulysses, reading Homer's Odyssey and on and on.   Without this context, it's like a home that's incomplete -- with it, it's an abode of bliss.  (By the way, the last sentence is an example of my "Pixar" approach to writing)

Blogging into the abyss: Sometimes you write a post, press the "publish" button, and it just disappears out there into the abyss.  You never know who's reading your blog and what they think.  Feedback is so important ...so if you're reading this and you find something that you like -- or even something you don't like -- please let me know.  Send me a tweet, an email or just leave a comment. It changes the monologue into a dialogue.  

Ways to provide feedback: I've added a mini-poll to get your thoughts on what should be next.  Please click on the poll or send me a note.  Also, I was thinking of writing a blog about the funniest parts of Ulysses...so if there's a particular section of Ulysses that makes you laugh and you'd like me to include it in a future blog, just let me know.

Thanks and Acknowledgements:   I'd like to thank the following people for the help they've given me in getting this blog off the ground:

- Thank you Sylvie Hill for sending me my first words of encouragement from the twittersphere (your message was much appreciated)

- It was an honour to receive my first correction from Sailpix (who prodded me to change Sandymount to Sandycove).  I also greatly appreciated Sailpix's clever reply to my "thank you note" in both Latin and Gaelic!   

- Thanks to the editor of liberateulysses.com for posting the very first comments on my blog.  You can visit this great site by clicking this.

- The Wise Serpent sent me a nice tweet introducing me to her blog.  It's terrific, and I encourage you to check it out  here.

- Thanks to blogger extraordinaire, Eden Spodek, who gave me some helpful tips on blogging (including telling me to include a blogroll)

- Thanks to @2lysses for forwarding my tweet to so many of you.  

- and a very special thanks to my sister Cindy for her insight, support and marketing panache -- she's been my Sancho Panza on this wild journey.  

I hope everyone has a healthy and happy New Year and I look forward to sharing more journeys with you in 2013.


  1. Thanks so much for linking to my blog, thewiseserpent.blogspot.com! As for your future posts, I'd love a blog on the funniest parts of Ulysses. So many people think of great literature as dreary or deathly serious, and one of the things I love about Joyce is how funny he can be.

  2. Bottom line: Blog on! -- Steve