What about the spawn of Ulysses, the fiendishly difficult novels that came in its wake decades after, those which weren’t really worth the reader’s effort? ‘The dog is not responsible for its fleas,’ answers Norris.
With all the controversy over Ulysses the massive Bloomsday celebration to come this year, there seems a danger that this one novel will overshadow Joyce’s entire oeuvre. Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist were groundbreaking works in their day, yet now seem no more than an athlete’s warm-up before the main event. Not so, according to Norris:
‘Well, of course, I think Joyce wrote one enormously long treatise on humanity, which is Dubliners, A Portrait, ,i>Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, and it’s a continuous expansion. You can almost predict Finnegan’s Wake from Ulysses, with its wonderfully subtle use of verbal patterning and so on. Dubliners is an immensely sophisticated book, considering the youth of the author. I think one of the reasons Ulysses has taken over is that it’s difficult enough to be regarded as a Mount Everest, but at the same time, it has been scaled by various mountaineers in the past, and now more and more people are doing it, so it’s almost becoming a tourist destination. On top of that, a scandalous and controversial aura has attached itself to it – that’s attractive to people and has led to its celebrity. Then of course, it revolves around a particular day and that wonderfully romantic story, so it’s become a kind of Dublin and international fiesta, so for all those reasons, it has achieved a kind of pre-eminence, but it should not be allowed to eclipse the works on either side of it.’
ThreeMonkeys would like to thank artist Barrie Macguire for the use of his Joyce print. You can see more selections of his work at MaguireGallery.com