Tag Archives: Ulysses

Mattie Lennon Irish Author – SENSLESS CENSORS

SENSLESS CENSORS.

By  Mattie Lennon

Flann O Brien had a burning ambition to have at least one of his books banned. When he invented the character Fr Kurt Fahrt he said, “  The name will cause holy bloody ructions. It will lead to wirepulling behind the scenes here to have the book banned as obscene.”           But the book wasn’t banned, which brings me to sensors.

It has been said that every editor should have a brother who is a pimp. To give him (the editor that is) somebody to look up to.  Should every censor have a similar sibling?

There is a World Day Against Cyber censorship. It is celebrated every year on the twelfth of  March. (Next Tuesday.)  Should there be a world Day against the other sort of censors?     My namesake,  the critic Michael Lennon wrote that Ulysses was,” . Not so much pornographic as physically unclean……” I am not in a position to agree with or contradict him. Because despite numerous attempts over the years I have not yet got to Molly Bloom’s “Yes I said yes I will yes.”   Of course contrary to popular belief  Ulysses wasn’t ever officially banned in Ireland   so  ninety-seven years after its publication I can’t blame the censor for my lack of erudition in that area.

However, though I am reluctant to use the word “victim”,   for more than three score years I have

been a soft touch for “censors” of various hues.  Although in most cases I took Sam Goldwyn’s advice to, “Don’t even ignore them.”

As a bus inspector I once submitted a report on a complaint from an irate passenger.  I had transcribed, verbatim, his objection which included many expletives, known in polite society as “the vernacular of the soldier.”  My Divisional Manager asked me to change the wording,   explaining, “I can’t ask the girls to type that. “

As   fifteen year old,  due to strict parental supervision, I was obliged to devour the exploits of The Ginger Man,  Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield , and his fantasies about Miss Frost,   in the semi-darkness of the cow-house in remote  west Wicklow.  While “the shelves of Patrick Kavanagh’s library” were the hedges of his small farm at Shankaduff my book collection  was kept on   the wall-plates of a thatched byre  which lacked diurnal illumination  By the time I got my hands on “Goodbye to the Hill” a neighbour had moved out, his cottage was empty and I could savour the carryings on of Paddy Maguire around Ranelagh and Rathmines  in relative comfort.

A wise man once said that if you want something to last for ever you should either carve it in stone or write a song about it. Although I grew up within spitting distance of Ballyknockan granite quarries I am no stone-cutter.  But I did on  occasions make a feeble effort to record local happening in ill metred verse. Court cases were threatened more than once  but , sadly,didn’t materialise . And before you ask .  . . I haven’t ever been prosecuted under the Obscene Publications act.

My verbosity didn’t escape censure either. My olfactory organ, you will have noticed,  has a Grecian bend. And what, you may well ask ,has that got to do with censors?  I didn’t acquire my nasal fracture through walking into a wall, falling down, or being hit accidently. No. It happened in Blessington  fifty-five  years ago when a civic-minded man, head-butted me on the grounds that I had been using un- parliamentary language in the company of females. The ultimate in censorship I think you will agree.

When my one-act Play,  “A Wolf by the Ears” was staged by an amateur drama group in Kildare the producer removed just one line. “In case there would be somebody sinsitive in the hall “, he said.

I have no way of knowing when I will be finished with censors but I know when it started. I was eight years old and it was 1954. The year that Sean O Faolain was commenting on the powers that were and their criticism of crossroad, dancing,  V-necks, silk stockings and late dances.  To this list of debauchery was added mixed bathing and advertisements for female underwear. And either close dancing or bikinis was a passport to Hell.  One Sunday my  mother arrived home from first Mass with news. The curate, in a stentorian voice only a few decibels below that of a Redemptorist  Missioner had warned the congregation against “turning over the pages of the rags of Fleet Street.”   Despite her less than perfect eyesight  my poor mother managed the decipher the small print on the back pages of my Beano and Dandy which showed that they were printed  at D. C. Thompson’s outpost in Fleet Street. Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids weren’t actually banned from the house but my father reckoned it was “the thin end of the wedge.” 

My parents were unanimous in their belief that the relatively young Curate was well qualified to set the moral compass for the youth of west Wicklow. And why wouldn’t he; wasn’t his father a Guard in Bray?

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Randy-Emotion driven writing

      So Stephen in ULYSSES and PORTRAIT (Joyce again) and I had similar experiences with our mothers.   My mother was in hospice; and Stephen’s mother was on her deathbed; the story goes that Stephen (or Joyce) refused to kneel and pray for his mother and my mother read my short story SAVED! (published on this site).   In both cases the women became very concerned for their son’s soul.   Stephen’s mother was dying of cancer; my mother was dying of the same thing.   Both thought their sons had condemned themselves to eternal hell.   My mother worried that she wouldn’t see me in heaven.   SAVED! “was only a story,” or so I reassured her.   Unlike Stephen, I eased my mother’s mind in this way.   The idea of my story…personal, a part of me since childhood, and almost everything in it…was accurate.   (But I’m not sure my views will condemn me.)   But how else could I have eased my mother’s mind but by saying what I did?   Out of principal, Stephen didn’t try placate anyone.   However my short story, once it took shape, became a work of fiction.   Therefore, I don’t feel I misled my mother.   The truth is less clear.

      For me writing a story about salvation, no matter how I approached it, would always be more than an attempt to write fiction.   The Southern Baptist tradition of an altar call was something I knew about and had experienced since as far back as I could remember.   When I was caught up in it, that experience (as I’ve said) was a very emotional one; and I don’t seem to be able to write about anything unless I am very emotional about it.   Emotion always drives me forward; it always has.   I was a Christian boy; I grew up in the church.   I have memories of my grandfather who was a Baptist preacher; before he died I begged him to give me his audio tapes of the Bible.   He did.   I let my mother groom me into becoming a preacher.   It brought me attention.   I drew crosses on hilltops for it.   My story was my way of looking back and dealing with some of my emotions and why I rejected it all.   This was what gave me authority to write about it.

Randy Ford

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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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Randy-James Joyce YES.

My fascination with James Joyce began twenty years ago. I had read A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN in college, but I didn’t pay much attention to it then. Long after that I picked up ULYSSES; that was when my journey began.

Joyce offered me every style imaginable, and more. The author I got to know was challenging, daring, and ponderous but never boring or stale. One could get lost in him; on the other hand (for someone touted to have written the greatest novel of the century) Joyce always emerged in a way that kept my interest; if not by his content, his use of form and language served as a guide. Joyce didn’t stick to the rules; his prose was rarely neat. He was wild, without regard to punctuation, grammar, and wasn’t afraid of very long phrases. (I was tempted to use “sentences” here, but sentences were too limiting for Joyce.)

At age fifty I started writing novels. When I discovered Joyce around the same time, it is fair to say I copied him. He gave me freedom, and I thought of him as a mentor, the very best. So this business of copying Joyce…though it suggested plagiarism, I worked very hard to cover my tracks…always seemed to me to be dangerous. It seemed to me that Randy Ford could get lost. But it must have suited me because I kept coming back to it.

There was always the chance of being found out. So I freely admit it, but unless convinced otherwise I don’t think it is wrong. My relying on Joyce…if indeed it has become a crutch…remains central to me. I believe I could write without Joyce, just as I can write without Faulkner or any other writer, but I don’t think I want to. But maybe I’m fooling myself. The differences between Joyce and me are so obvious, our comings and goings, and our nationalities, that there shouldn’t be a question here. For example, my THE GOOD OL’ BOYS was set in Texas, the characters spoke Texan, and yet the tale was obviously Joyce. Yeah, Joyce. And I hope also it was Randy Ford. You be the judge. Bring it on.

Good night, Randy Ford

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