Tweet for Joyce

I can’t remember which blogger was talking about tweeting when you get to a good part of a book but I want to send out a quick Tweet! for James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Here is the opening section to refresh your memories:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.

O, the wild rose blossoms
On the little green place.

He sang that song. That was his song.

O, the green wothe botheth.

When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.

I love the toddler’s delight in the moocow (with all its associations) and then the observations of his dad (glasses, hairy) and the joy of words. The wetting of the bed introduces another element but it’s sensory rather than traumatic. It’s described in terms of the sensations (warm and then cold) and the queer smell of the oilsheet.

This book always reminds me of high school English classes, which were my favourite (together with History). When I picture English lessons my mind starts in the chapel (domed, Byzantine, rows of wooden seats) and then zooms over the little quadrangles of grass (not to be walked on) up the stone steps into the old classrooms. On the right is a tunnel (with wooden noticeboards and a majestic staffroom) while the passage to the left leads down to the library (modern, big windows, the quiet hush of reading). The English classrooms were some of the best in the school – shady, cool, in easy walking distance.


On a personal note, I will be away doing exercises with the troops until Weds. I think the best part of the trip will be having my own personal chauffeur (a devoted P) driving me to and from the airport. Thanks P!


5 Responses to Tweet for Joyce

  1. It was Ms Smithereens. I’ve been tempted to do the same this week, as I’ve had the joy of reading Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book. I keep wanting to tweet.

    As for English lessons, they were my favourite too, despite our terrifyingly clever and intimidating English teacher. I think I’m still trying to impress Mrs Irvine.

    Have fun on exercises …

  2. Dick says:

    My favourite all-time book. That blistering sermon! For me, the intensity of memory and the precision of the prose outclassed Proust in the evocation of time and place by a million miles.

  3. seachanges says:

    Enjoy the trip – a chauffeur in these cash strapped times does not sound at all bad eto me :). As far as Joyce is concerned I have to admit here I still have not finished any of his books, but then I did not go to English English classes, if that makes sense – I caught up with English and English literature later in life…

  4. Litlove says:

    Have a great trip! I have never got on with Joyce, but I’m wondering about listening to it on audio book. Should make for some interesting dreams if nothing else!

  5. Pete says:

    Charlotte – Mrs Irvine sounds very interesting (you’ll have to blog about her sometime). And am interested to hear more about People of the Book too. Will be looking out for the other tweets.

    Dick – I don’t remember the sermon at all but it is more than 20 years since I last read the book. It’s very evocative writing so I can see why it’s such a hit.

    seachanges – Yes, it does make sense and I’m guessing that you had Dutch English classes perhaps? And as much as I like Joyce I think I also battle to finish his books.

    Litlove – I love the tactful way that you say that “I have never got on with Joyce”. It’s not a criticism of him but a matter of taste, as in not liking Guiness. I wonder if it is a gender thing – that women take to him less than men do? And I have never even attempted Ulysses and have just agreed with seachanges that his books are rather difficult to finish so perhaps I like my Joyce in small doses 😉

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