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W. Terrence Gordon quotes Anthony Burgess in the title above, a sample of the bit of ingenuity and cleverness that fill this very successful gallop through the writing of James Joyce based on the fact that Joyce's fascinating works - from 'The Dubliners' and 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' through 'Ulysses', 'Exiles', and 'Pomes Penyeach' to 'Finnegan's Wake' - can best be appreciated completely with the random art and photographs that create the matrix for this art book designed by Eri Hamaji and Jacob Albert. Influences on the development of Joyce's style are explored with special credit given to Joyce's mentor such as Charles Kay Ogden who as the first to claim 'language as a tool for the penetration of the unconscious'.
Even for the many who have delighted in the more accessible works such as 'Portrait...' and have spent countless hours adapting to the challenges of 'Finnegan's Wake' this book will illuminate the genius' output in a way that is purely visual in concept. As in most books published by Mark Batty Publisher the design element is an important part of the message transmitted. W. Terrence Gordon writes well and has obviously done extensive research into the writings and life of James Joyce, but he also has the courage to make some bold visual statements about the master's output. Every page is an art element that either opens the window on the more obtuse passages of Joyce or offers a symbolic tribute, tongue in cheek style, to what many readers have found to be incomprehensible writing so closely attached to Joyce's last epic.
This is a book for lovers of the English language, for those who are obsessed with understanding every word written by James Joyce, and for those who can think creatively about the visualization of what the man was thinking as he composed. It is an art book, a terrific study in design, and a thoroughly entertaining read! Grady Harp, September 09
What this is is a linguist's (W. Terrence Gordon) take on the language of James Joyce artfully arranged on top of colored pages with glossy photos of things pertinent or not, of things Joycean or not, in the spirit more or less of the Great Wordsmith. However...
Some of the text cannot be read with these old eyes in the light that even God and his Sun have given us. The photons bounce; and dark on dark does not sooth since the meaning of the words is unclear since the words can hardly be seen. Let's face it I do not like colored text on colored pages: it's hard to read, and Joyce is hard enough black on white.
But there is a certain beauty in the words so arranged and obscured and selected out of all the mighty lines that Joyce bequest to us, and clearly the spirit of the oeuvre is there. Gordon gives us a little of The Works: Dubliners (among "The Dead"--and BTW did you know they made a film of "The Dead"), The Portrait of the "Hero" as a Young Man, One Day in the Life Of... with Dedalus and Mulligan and Molly and the Bloom being off the rose, and on to the weirdness and the utter abandonment of the poetic Wake (without the apostrophe). For yes Joyce was a poet (and we learn herein that he was also a playwright of Exiles) whose influence extended to particle physics in a quarky way...
And yes it takes a linguist to translate Joyce who ironically wrote of, with ornate and lavish prose, the banalities of our lives. Speaking of which, on page--well, there are no page numbers--there's an unglamorous photo of Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses while seated upon a child's merry-go-round in a bathing suit in a playground.Read more ›
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When I first came across this remarkable volume with its plethora of carefully chosen pictures and numerous fonts of many sizes, I was reminded of nothing so much as that landmark collaboration between Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore "The Medium Is The Massage." So it wasn't surprising to find that Mr. Gordon is responsible for a biography of (as well as other works about) Mr. McLuhan. Joyce was a preoccupation of McLuhan's as well.
But Mr. Gordon has done much more than borrow the format; he has cleverly and expertly made it his own in a way that makes this brief book just as appealing to the hardcore Joycean as it is to the novice. Expecting little more than the usual regurgitated bromides and truisms about Joyce, I was astonished by how well the book put over the ideas and concepts behind what are admittedly some of the most difficult works to come out of 20th century Modernism. Not only that, but the book is peppered with perceptions that frequently made me wish I'd thought of them first. It's the book I would put into the hands of anyone who was interested in exploring what are thought of as forbidding works but are actually (as this book proves over and over) milestones of life, humor, and humanity. Very well done, indeed.
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