Tag Archives: Richard Ellmann

Richard Ellmann: JAMES JOYCE The First Revision of the 1959 Classic

      “In the midst of writing ULYSSES he (Joyce) confided in Ezra Pound, ‘I have little or no inspiration or imagination and work very laboriously, exhausting myself with trifles.’  Later he (Joyce) said to Jacques Mercanton, “Why regret my talent?  I haven’t any.  I write so painfully, so slowly.  Chance furnishes me with what I need.  I’m like a man who stumbles: my foot strikes something, I look down, and there is exactly what I’m in need of.’  On the other hand, he often agreed with Vico that ‘Imagination is nothing but the working over of what is remembered,’ and said to Frank Budger, ‘Imagination is memory.'”

         Footnote pp. 661 JAMES JOYCE The First Revision of the 1959 Classic by Richard Ellmann Oxford University Press Copyright 1959

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From Richard Ellmann’s classic JAMES JOYCE-“As regards ULYSSES”

      (As to Joyce’s method of working, Richard Ellmann quotes the author directly: such insight I think not only helps us understand a great author but also gives us ideas about the creative process.  Here are a few examples recorded during the creation of ULYSSES.)

      Joyce: “As regards ULYSSES I write and think and write and think all day and part of the night.  It goes on as it has been going these five or six years.  But the ingredients will fuse unti they have reached a certain temperature.” Ellmann: “His method was to write a series of phrases down, then, as the episode took form, to cross off each one in a different colored pencil to indicate where it might go.  Surprisingly little was omitted, but no one looking at the notesheet could have predicted how the fragments would coalesce.”  p. 416

      Ellmann: “Writing a novel, he (Joyce) said, was like composing music, with same elements involved.  But how can chords or motifs be incorporated in writing?  Joyce answered his own question, ‘A man might eat kidneys in one chapter, suffer from a kidney disease in another, and one of his friends could be kicked in the kidney in another chapter.”  p.436

      Ellmann:  “He (Joyce) hoped, as a rule, not so much to obtain the right answer (he would ask questions to get materal for his writing) from a friend as to stimulate his own imagination.  As he said to Budgen (close friend), ‘Have you ever noticed, when you get an idea, how much I can make of it?’  Since the material of ULYSSES was all human life, every man he met was an authority, and Joyce carried dozens of small slips of paper in his wallet and loose in his pockets to make small notes.  When he had filled up the front and back of these, he continued to write on them diagonally.  At home he would decipher his notes with a magnifying glass, a hint of what he had written being usually enough. ”  p.439

        (Richard Ellmann’s classic biography JAMES JOYCE has been on the top of my must-reread-list for a very long time.  I try to surround myself with the likes of Joyce, hoping I can learn from them.  JAMES JOYCE New and Revised Edition Oxford University Press Copright 1959, 1982 by Richard Ellmann)

        Good night, Randy Ford

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Richard Ellmann-from JAMES JOYCE: on a technique that has become commonplace

      James Joyce “cradles here (his epiphanies) the technique which has beome a commonplace of modern fiction.  Arrogant yet humble too, it claims importance by claiming nothing; it seeks a presentation so sharp that the comment by the author would be an interference.  It leaves off the veneer of gracious intimacy with the reader, of concern that he should be taken into the author’s confidence, and instead makes the reader feel uneasy and culpable if he misses the intended but always unstated meaning, as if he were being arraigned rather than entertained.  The artist abandons himself and his reader to the material.”

      “The more eloquent epiphanies are sometimes splenetic, but often portray the accession of a sudden joy.”

Page 84   JAMES JOYCE THE FIRST REVISION OF THE 1959 CLASSIC by Richard Ellmann  Published by Oxford University Press

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