Updated: Feb 23
I find myself asking why James Joyce? What drew me to Mr. Joyce and how did I become absorbed? Answering this is undemanding.
First I did not hear of the author, but the book Ulysses. Roughly in 2007, my good friend introduced me to the musical artist, Mason Jennings. He created the song “Ulysses”. The verse goes:
I went into twelve bookstores looking for Ulysses
Motherwell led me to believe all my questions would be answered
Now I have it here sitting on the table
Another word for the universe
I never dove into the meaning of Motherwell until now. Apparently Motherwell is Robert Motherwell. He was a American abstract expressionist painter, printmaker, and editor. Motherwell was attracted to Joyce’s style of “stream of conscious” writing and felt inspired to create art that is a expression of your inner most thoughts and feelings of the artist.
I have no idea what kind of influence Robert Motherwell and James Joyce had on Mason, but would be interested in finding out this information. Possibly during one of those meet and greets with Mason, after his shows, could I scuttle up enough courage to ask.
The verse sung in Mason’s song left me mystified. Questioning what kind of answers were hidden in this book and what I would find. I immediately did some research and found out the modernist author was an Irishman who lived in exile by the name of James Joyce. Ulysses was on every “100 books to read before you die” list, usually number one. But why? And why have I never heard of this book or author until I was 20 years old?
I didn’t immediately search the pages of this book to answer all my questions. It wasn’t until about 6 years later, did I even purchase the book. I attempted to start reading it at that time, but did not come anywhere near completing a single chapter. I was mystified but didn’t have the drive to put the effort in that was needed. I ended up giving that copy to my close friend.
In 2020 I was able to stir up a drive to read this book. I picked up a thrifted copy to try to power through it. Luckily a wonderful man by the name of Chris Reich posted some great videos on YouTube to support the cause. I don’t believe I would have spent the time needed without his assistance. The madness, the enlightenment to history, and the way Joyce educates you on the world has lit the fire inside me. I love to accomplish things you have to work for. There is something about pushing through hardship that keeps me going. This is the same with hiking. Sometimes the best views are the ones that take the effort, and not everybody is going to put in that effort. I always wonder if the reward tastes so much better because of this?
I enjoy the treasure trove that James Joyce is. His books keeps on giving. Every time I pick his books up, I find myself down another fox hole of worldly information. Joyce brings many languages of the world, religious insights, historical figures, conscious thoughts, made up words that somehow make sense, and cultural backgrounds together all in one place. From German to Latin, Catholic Mass parodies, Sir Tristram, the word peloothered (meaning drunk) to penisolate war (meaning masculine ego driven peninsula war), and Humpty Dumpty and his tumptytumtoes. It’s like going on vacation to a new place and all the unique sensations that come along with it. Like you are a child again, rediscovering the world for the first time.
Tate. (n.d.). Robert Motherwell 1915–1991. Tate. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/robert-motherwell-1673
Tate. (1970, January 1). 'Ulysses', Robert Motherwell, 1947. Tate. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/motherwell-ulysses-t07137
Mason Jennings – Ulysses. Genius. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://genius.com/Mason-jennings-ulysses-lyrics