I teach a class called Discovering Writing for the adult education program at Hoboken High School. The assignment for last night’s class called for each student to bring in the beginning of a short story, novel or article that appealed to her. One woman read the first two paragraphs of a James Joyce short story.
I smiled and had one of those moments where you think about the books on your shelf that you haven’t picked up in ages. And about how one of the best things about Joyce was that he decided the rules of literature as previously written didn’t apply to him, so he created a whole new set for himself. This all prompted me to pull down Ulysses and give it a look tonight. No, I’m not so masochistic that I set out to read it again. But I have favorite passages marked and decided to revisit them.
On a woman’s perfume:
“It’s like a fine veil or web they have all over the skin, fine like what do you call it gossamer, and they’re always spinning it out of them, fine as anything, like rainbow colours without knowing it.”
Now that’s attraction:
“She could almost see the swift answering flash of admiration in his eyes that set her tingling in every nerve. She put on her hat so that she could see from underneath the brim and swung her buckled shoe faster for her breath caught as she caught the expression in his eyes. He was eying her as a snake eyes its prey.”
On the philosophical side:
“The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.”
“The movements which work revolutions in the world are born out of the dreams and visions in a peasant’s heart on the hillside. For them the earth is not an exploitable ground but the living mother.”
“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
Joyce has spoken. Class dismissed.