Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy birthday, James Joyce. Other people remember it's Groundhog Day. Every year I remember February 2 is James Joyce's birthday. It was an important day to him. He arranged to have several of his books published on this day. He was an important writer for me, beginning with the day in high school when a renegade nun slipped me a forbidden copy of A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man. His language, his legend became touchstones for me, unfortunately in some respects, throughout college and well into my 20s. Richard Ellman's biography of Joyce went everywhere I did. I still have a hefty Joyce collection. So for years I celebrated his birthday, often with some stout and an Irish whiskey (or two.) Once when I was doing so at a bar during my exile in Greensburg--I was also reading a paperback copy of one of his books--an astonished young man I didn't know expressed his astonishment. He couldn't believe there was actually someone else there who knew it was Joyce's birthday, or cared. He had to be halfway in shock. That's JJ's gift to all of us, I guess, even now that more people celebrate Bloomsday than have ever read Ulysses. Painting by Joel Issacson.

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