James Joyce and Cormac McCarthy

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  • 29 Jun 2015 at 11:37 pm #7284

    cantona
    Member

    Forgive me if this has been picked up before, but, for me, the following opinions proffered by Joyce and McCarthy are similar in outlook.

    “What makes most people’s lives unhappy is some disappointed romanticism, some unrealizable or misconceived ideal. In fact you may say that idealism is the ruin of man, and if we live down to fact, primitive man had to, we would be better off …… In Ulysses I tried to keep close to fact.” (James Joyce, to his friend Arthur Power.)

    The remark about primitive man seems to especially foreshadow McCarthy’s notion of “optical democracy.”

    And the oft-quoted:
    “There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed. I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.” (Cormac McCarthy)


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    30 Jun 2015 at 9:26 am #7285

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    That particular point is new to me, Jim. But…um…who is this James Joyce you’re talking about?


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    30 Jun 2015 at 9:50 am #7287

    cantona
    Member

    Rick,

    Who cares? You’ve finally answered one of my posts! I can now die a happy man.


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    30 Jun 2015 at 11:26 am #7288

    Richard L.
    Member

    My hat is off to all of you Joyce/McCarthy scholars.

    Of course Rick pioneered the Ulysses/Suttree connections which, thanks to the material in the Archives, are now proven to be McCarthy’s intentions. The very excellent recent work, IRISH CATHOLIC WRITERS AND THE INVENTION OF THE AMERICAN SOUTH, quotes Rick as saying that:
    “From James Joyce’s ULYSSES, the masterpiece of Cormac McCarthy’s Appalachian canon derives its very motor power. . .”

    As for the two author quotes about idealism, I daresay that both are about political or chauvinistic idealism. Artistic idealism was something that they both believed in at the time when they produced their own respective masterpieces.


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    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by  Richard L..
    01 Jul 2015 at 5:43 pm #7290

    Richard L.
    Member

    I’m sure anyone dropping here might already be aware of this, but since it seems especially interesting to this reader, I’ll quote the Gierniza book here, leading up to the bit about the Henry Miller ‘gnomic aorist,” which I do not recall being talked about previously in this forum.

    “. . .if one lets the accents fall in “His busy freckled fist ferrying folks to sleep” (SUTTREE 186), it becomes clear that this sentence is a flurry of blows made by the fricative f, imitating the gasps of a fistfight, pulsing with the energy of the melee before coming to rest–like the poor pummeled victim–with the final drop of “sleep.” The epic alliteration is a nice touch too.

    Beyond dialogue, both Suttree and Ulysses engage readers with a narrative voice that is hard to pin down. Suttree offers a floating second-person you that is close kin to what Joyce called the “initial voice” of Ulysses. Eventually, the you unobtrusively extends McCarthy’s canvas into the territory of the reader’s soul.

    The composition notes for Suttree contain a handwritten not–“Miller ‘gnomic aorist’ 1st person history–apparently referring to the Henry Miller-Lawrence Durrell correspondence, where Durrell explains, “In order to destroy time I use the historic present a great deal–not to mention the gnomic aorist.”

    The gnomic aoris is used in Greek to present timeless, general facts, and one sees it in Suttree with a shift from past action to present tense timeless. . .”Somewhere in the gray wood by the river is the huntsman.”

    Reading this, I could not help but think of the reference to Twain’s MYSTERIOUS STRANGER (see the passage quoted in that thread), which not only enters the gnomic aorist for talk of the huntsman in like manner, but also says of the stranger that he is timeless, that past and present and future are all the same to him.


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    20 Oct 2015 at 1:12 pm #7774

    Mike
    Member

    Cantona,

    My posts under the Dos thread could easily include Joyce in many ways. Rather than facing a firing squad, being forced to work for a tyrant, or living an ascetic life, Joyce left his native homeland in order to avoid the stagnant and dying values of his locale and church.

    Yes, survival and thriving in the middle of nothingness (aka nihilism) is a recurring trope in Modern literature.

    It has been at least a decade, but I do remember Joyce mentioning Dostoevsky in his published non-fiction.


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    20 Oct 2015 at 10:08 pm #7779

    cantona
    Member

    Mike,

    Re: “Cantona, My posts under the Dos thread could easily include Joyce in many ways. Rather than facing a firing squad, being forced to work for a tyrant, or living an ascetic life, Joyce left his native homeland in order to avoid the stagnant and dying values of his locale and church.”

    I agree with you about the interface of the writers aforementioned – shame we can’t put it all under one umbrella.

    A case in point: I’m just about to start ‘The Idiot,’ a novel that was written in Italy, I believe. The preface to this novel says that Dostoevsky’s exile/self-exile allowed for a different kind of novel and perspective. Remind you of anyone?

    As for your point about Joyce fleeing the stultifying atmosphere of church and society of his native Ireland – all I can add to that is a variation of an amusing refrain in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan: Sure Ireland cannot be such a bad old place, so if Joyce was able to write so much about it.


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    • This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by  cantona.
    21 Oct 2015 at 3:25 pm #7786

    Mike
    Member

    Cantona,

    Joyce is not sentimental about the “past” as Dos is. I’d say Joyce’s character of magnanimity(Stephen) is constantly trying to overcome or continually out-do the grotesque locals that we meet in Dubliners and even the average “Joe”, Leopold Bloom.

    Joyce is much more Scientific than Dos. Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake venture into the uncharted areas of our tools for recollection, whereas Dos views the tools for recollection as something divine or holy, and being a key to not just our spiritual health.

    I think McCarthy borrows heavily from both with John Wesley, JGC, The Father, and in a highly ironic manner with Lester Ballard.

    Mike


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    22 Oct 2015 at 11:34 am #7793

    JVH5
    Member

    I think Joyce once wrote to his brother that he was unimpressed with Crime and Punishment saying that the novel contained neither crime nor punishment.

    Love that quote about living down to fact. Shows Joyce’s kinship with Diogenes the Cynic.


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    22 Oct 2015 at 12:46 pm #7795

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    Look, I love Joyce and freely acknowledge his genius, but he wrote a lot of stupid things in his letters. I’ve read quite a few and have often just flipped over to the next one from halfway through its predecessor for that reason. I suspect folks read his letters because he’s James Joyce more than because they’re inherently enlightening. I make an exception for his correspondence with Pound only because it distracted me in grad school from a slog through Clarissa. There are just some things for which one cannot be too grateful.

    If Joyce really did claim that Crime and Punishment contained neither, then I think that he either really had it in for little old ladies and scant regard for the operations of conscience – since it evidently didn’t reside in his dick – or he waited far too long to get his failing eyesight treated.


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