Friday, June 18, 2004

Apropos all the mania about James Joyce and the recent Blooms day, I think Edmund Wilson—over 80 years ago—got it exactly right, not just about Ulysses, but about Joyce himself:

"Since I have read it, the texture of other novelists seems intolerably loose and careless; when I come suddenly unawares upon a page that I have written myself I quake like a guilty thing surprised. The only question now is whether Joyce will ever write a tragic masterpiece to set beside this comic one. There is a rumor that he will write no more—that he claims to have nothing left to say—and it is true that there is a paleness about parts of his work which suggests a rather limited emotional experience. His imagination is all intensive; he has but little vitality to give away. His minor characters, though carefully differentiated, are sometimes too drily differentiated, insufficiently animated with life, and he sometimes gives the impression of eking out his picture with the data of a too laborious note-taking. At his worst he recalls Flaubert at his worst—in L'Education Sentimentale. But if he repeats Flaubert's vices—as not a few have done—he also repeats his triumphs—which almost nobody has done."

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