Monday, May 10, 2010

The World of James Joyce

James Joyce is arguably Ireland's most famous author, and tributes to him and his amazing but not very accessible novel Ulysses can be found all over Dublin.  He even worked at the Dublin Woollen Mills (featured in yesterday's post) for a while.  This plaque is embedded in the sidewalk outside the National Library.
Joyce was the reason for our trip to Dublin in the first place.  Paula is reading Ulysses in a class, which is why Dublin was on her mind.  So on Sunday, Ann, Paula and I took an excursion on the DART to the James Joyce Museum in Sandycove while Pete went off to the Museum of Decorative Arts.  The museum is housed in a Martello tower overlooking the Irish Sea.  Joyce only lived in the tower for six nights, but it became immortalized in Ulysses.
Sandycove is a nice seaside town with rocky shores, lovely vistas, and lots of dogs that the residents do not clean up after.  (If you walk from the train station, watch where you step!)  There's a beach right at the foot of the tower called Forty Four, famous for the fact that residents swim there all year round!  We stopped in our tracks, jaws dropped, when we saw a group of people changing from swimsuits to street clothes in public; their skin as red as cooked lobsters!
The living space in the tower is quite small, so it is easy to understand why Joyce fled less than a week after moving in.  I climbed the very narrow, steep stairs to the roof.  The day was gray and damp and very Ireland.

The museum contains lots of Joyce's personal items, including a needlepoint vest made by his grandmother, a tie given to him by Samuel Beckett, and many portraits of the writer.
We spent some time in the gift shop, chatting with a lovely woman named Antoinette, who very kindly called us a cab back to the station.  I have copies of Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses here at home, but I bought a book of Joyce's poetry, which I had never read.  Paula found some treasures to take back to her Ulysses classmates.   We toured the Irish Writer's Museum the next day, which gave us some insight into Joyce's very difficult masterpiece and was a great way to wind up our trip.

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