Among them was none other than James Joyce , whom Barnes interviewed and profiled for Vanity Fair in , months after Ulysses was published. The interview remains the most significant one Joyce gave in his lifetime, at once the most cryptic and the most revealing. Barnes met Joyce in Paris in Who has the nerve after this!
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But the admiration was far from one-sided: Joyce thought highly enough of Barnes to gift her the original, annotated manuscript of Ulysses. He may have been a major influence on her writing, but so was she on his, especially as later evidenced in Finnegans Wake. The thought that Joyce was once a singer may not come as a revelation to the casual reader of his books.
One must perhaps have spent one of those strangely aloof evenings with him, or have read passages of his Ulysses as it appeared in The Little Review , to have realized the singing quality of his words. For tradition has it that a singer must have a touch of bravado, a joyous putting-forth of first the right leg and then the left, and a sigh or two this side of the cloister; and Joyce has none of these. I realized Joyce must indeed have begun life as a singer, and a very tender singer.
And, because no voice can hold out over the brutalities of life without breaking, he turned to quill and paper, for so he could arrange, in the necessary silence, the abundant inadequacies of life, as a laying-out of jewels — jewels with a will to decay. Before that first meeting with him in Paris, Barnes held great admiration for Joyce the writer but what she knew about Joyce the man was somewhere between hearsay and legend — mostly based on the ludicrous rumors about him in America.
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 honor of a gentleman, there is not one single serious line in it. And yet it is quickly revealed that he takes language — and thereby his own writing — rather seriously as a sculptor of culture. Both works revolutionized the form, structure, and content of the novel. Joyce died in Zurich in Conversations with James Joyce.
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Conversations with James Joyce
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Conversations with James Joyce by Arthur Power (Lilliput Press, £)
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Conversations with James Joyce by Arthur Power (Lilliput Press, £7.99)
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