Neil J. Burns: Joyce, a Life, a Beggar’s Opera

Recently, I was in a bookshop in Edinburgh, Scotland and picked up the 1922 text of James Joyce’s insurmountable Ulysses; I say ‘insurmountable’ as in, not for any potential readers, that it may just possibly be, to them, an imposing, looming presence similar to that of, say, the harder faces of The Eiger in the Bernese Alps; one thinks here of The White Spider, an ice-field on the North Face of the mountain which is deadly treacherous and only attempted by the more experienced climbers. I say this, as the man, the bookshop assistant, behind the till, noted the hefty work in my hand as I approached to purchase the said text, and relayed to me, somewhat tentatively, after eyeing it over, ‘I’ve never read it.’ I sat it down on the counter as he scanned it and continued, ‘I find the thought of it, intimidating.’ I replied mildly, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t find it “intimidating”, and then I thought for a second on any advice to give this chap so he could ‘access’ Joyce and his cannon, ‘You could try Richard Ellmann’s biography on James Joyce; that may be a way into him and Ulysses – Ellmann was a Professor of English Literature and his biography is well-written and gives you Joyce as a man; and, of course, details about his character – and he was very much a character.’ As I was saying this with a smile perched upon my lips, a colleague of the bookseller’s, was leaning in and listening to what I was saying. The initial assistant proceeded with the sale and took my credit card on the little swipe machine, which was contactless – very handy, just a touch and transaction implemented – and replied, ‘I just may do that.’ And with that, I nodded, picked up the book and was soon out on the street and boarding a bus to home with the masterpiece in situ in the main hold my backpack. Soon it would be in the main hold of my hands, pages splayed open as I consumed, languidly and, yet, eagerly too.

Let us cut back to autumn 2016, I had the biography of Ellmann’s on loan from a library in Manchester, and in my rented room in Altrincham, I began…

On Reading Richard Ellmann’s Biography on James Joyce

When I was thinking of writing a book review, and I was trying to conjure up an analogy of James Joyce’s life – and the recording, minutely, assiduously, thereof by one Richard Ellmann – be-suiting him, and so, I entered a reverent chamber room of whereupon Joyce’s life could be summarised by a viewer looking up from the vestibule’s gloomy entrance to a triptych in stain-glassed window(s) representation of James Joyce’s existence. I imagined the first window depicting a young Joyce in Dublin being pandied by a Jesuit for breaking his glasses ‘on the cinder-path’; the dealings with a loveable rogue, but rambunctious in nature of an alcoholic, but yet, witty, father; the Martello Tower shooting incident, and the uncompromising role he played watching his dying mother in her bed succumbing to liver cancer, and his final clearing out of Ireland in 1904.

The next scene(s), illustrating Joyce’s tugging the sleeve-coat of one Nora Barnacle and his, their, exilic shambolic life in Europe; and it was shambolic, comprised of small, often damp, rooms, Joyce’s personal and committed alcoholism. Nora’s, almost, religious, devotion to ‘Jim’ and her overall piety, and their flitting from Trieste (then under the rule of the Austrian Empire) to Italy, to Trieste again, to France and onto Switzerland and sometimes back again. (When Joyce’s father learned of Nora’s surname, ‘Barnacle’, he retorted, ‘She’ll never leave him!’ A wonderfully witty quip and where his son caught his own particular jocular, erring on the dark, humour from.) One cannot under-evaluate the rock that was Stanislaus Joyce; he was the steady mountain range which was leaned upon time and time and time again. He was the key-stone in his wayward brother’s life – the settler of increasing debits, the rationalist who tried to keep his brother’s counsel and failed leaving him with a ‘blaggard’s’ insipid language and burbling, unresolved anger.

The third window?

Ah, but then my analogy fragmented into a million pieces and fell from my mind into many colourful shards and were sent pinging onto the cold vestibule floor, coming to a settled rest after a clap of dust.

Why? Because Joyce’s life, I comprehended, had all the drama and detail which was legion and leagues ahead of anything I could envisage.

Last year, I read Gordon Bowker’s James Joyce: A Biography and could often be seen on a train, on the trundling Metropolitan line, in London, nose perched in the book sniggering at some outlandish Joycian-led testimony. I emailed and asked a former friend about Bowker’s effort(s), and the recipient, who also happens to be a Professor of English, replied he had not read it but had read, ‘The Ellmann bio.’ There was a stock-term I had not been aware of before; so, there was a ‘bio’ out there which I did not know of and it was referred to as the go to work for Joyce’s life? I consulted Google and typed in, ‘The Ellmann biography’ and noted many articles from The Guardian and The Good Reads’ website coming up on the screen; I glanced, briefly, at the articles, not desiring to let the reviews permeate into my mind before I had a chance to read it. Latterly, I spotted the same biography displayed prominently in Skoob books, in Bloomsbury, one day last year but choose not pick up as I knew it would be rather pricy and refrained all but a cursory look at the front-cover and paid for my other books, before heading up past the pale-oak hue, studio-piano and on up the stairs into the Saturday afternoon, central London air.

Creatio ex nihilo

Back in Dublin, the youthful Joyce, with concerted reading of quality literature, conspired to write rhythmic verse and some essays, and one piece on the dramatist Ibsen, When We Dead Awaken which was published in the Fortnightly Review in the spring of 1900. Joyce was only eighteen. Ibsen read it and they corresponded by letter, which must have made the young man very happy indeed. He worked on one poetry collection which came to be known as Chamber Music; and its title derived from a real-life episode with Oliver St. John Gogarty, his spiritual brother, in the ‘Nighttown’ district so it happens.

Recently, Dubliners was dramatised for Radio 4’s Book of the Week and listening in with a relenting ear, I soaked up the soft narrations which lend themselves so easily to the plots of the short stories. A Portrait of an Artist, a reworking of Stephen Hero was the growing of the Artist into the wilful, maturer writer he had championed, aligned, himself to become.

Ellmann outlines Joyce’s desires to transpose the Greek Odyssey into one day in that Fair City of his birth, Dublin. So in its infancy, in the womb of gestation, Ulysses was bound to Joyce as Joyce was tethered to Ireland; Ulysses was a dawn of a new era, a new field of literature which was about to give birth to fertile idealism and Joyce knew it. Here is a paragraph from Ulysses which has me every time, relishing the man’s genius and creative glimmer:

Their dog ambled about a bank of dwindling sand, trotting, sniffing on all sides. Looking for something lost in a past life. Suddenly he made off like a bounding hare, ears flung back, chasing the shadow of a lowskimming gull. The man’s shriek whistle struck his limp ears. He turned, bounded back, came nearer, trotting on twinkling shanks. On a field tenney a buck, trippant, proper, unattired. At the lacefringe of the tide he halted with stiff forehoofs, seaward pointed ears. His snout lifted barked at the wavenoise, herds of seamorse. They serpented toward his feet, curling, unfurling, many crests, every ninth, breaking, plashing, from far, from farther out, waves and waves.’[1]

He often courted controversy, in factum, Joyce went out of his way to antagonise those he believed belittled him; and he irked many with his machinations and with his piercing lancings. James Joyce had a well-fettled inferiority complex which his fellow countrymen, and mine, still groom to this very day. That of the audacity of MOPE syndrome: Most Oppressed People Ever. (Will we ever learn to heal due to years of oppression? I know this reviewer has.) Joyce tried to don the integument exterior of a devil-may-care genius but he was a deeply sensitive man and bore his ills heavy in his mind, and used his writing as a catharsis, and a wall to score up his reprisals. There were many.

He claimed a British passport when it suited and then latterly put the boot into John Bull’s colonialist ways if they did not conform to his own stratagems; his nationalist leanings were of Parnellite traditions which the Joyce household back home held. He was a walking bag of contradictions and could not make a hap’penny travel the length of himself; there were the outrageous schemes such as Joyce trying to be the Irish Tweed representative in Trieste, the failed cinema venture(s) and other endeavours; anything to make easy, accessible money. Joyce the failed, usurped businessman, threw himself, head and heels, in totality to ‘being a man of letters.’

On a rare return to Ireland, Gogarty, – better known in character as ‘the stately Buck Mulligan’ – trying to needle Joyce as what he was going to commit to eternity on paper about him and finding Joyce’s answers laconic and maudlin, finished their last meeting together with some exasperation, ‘I don’t give a damn what you write about me as long as it is literature!’

Ellmann’s bio informed me on why ‘yes’ became the last word in Ulysses; it informed me, more so, on the avuncular Leopold Bloom, the Hamlet, Stephen and the natural, red in tooth and claw, Molly.

Gay Paris

As to why Paris became a capital to flocking intellectual writers in the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, one can only summarise that it was big enough, that the large city had a neutral inertness which was not concerned with predisposed political ideologies bar progressiveness; and its location made it accessible.  A Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey citadel of liberal, progressive thought? I believe so.

Back in Parisian literary circles, there was a dinner Joyce attended with Marcel Proust which was formal and lacked substance and the two minds failed to have the Promethean vigour which otherwise their sub-conscious selves would commit to paper. Then there was Ezra Pound’s initial, established galvanising of Joyce, his championing of Joyce, and his latter despair of him; and Wyndham Lewis’, and Virginia Woolf’s, social class attacks on ‘that lower-middle class man.’ This was jealously of intellect masquerading as class distinction. Joyce, however, intentionally antagonised those he deemed beyond him but he still roused excitement in others. Robert McAlomn helped type his work. Harriet Weaver worked tirelessly as his financer. Shakespeare & Co., became a place of refuge. Ford Maddox Ford, one of his visitors among many others of the literary age.

Joyce helped resurrect the writing careers of Édouard Dujardin and Italo Svevo; Dujardin was one of the first writers to use the stream of consciousness technique, exemplified  in his 1888 work Les Lauriers sont coupés  and Italo Svevo was ‘an overlooked writer’ as Joyce said to him, and did his utmost to help these men which illustrated an innate kindness. How many writers would do that today in the post-modernist, neoliberalist era of the ‘selfie’?

There was a line in an American Court from Joyce lawyer, John Quinn on referring to Ulysses – and it supposed indecency – that the work was Joyce’s literary efforts of trying to write ‘in a cubist style.’ And its language was exploring human beings and life. The impropriety charge was later dropped. You see, James Joyce, was not the totality of modernity but he sure was one sum of its integral parts in Western Art and thought in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

‘How would Hume depict history?’ Joyce asked new acquaintance Samuel Beckett one afternoon. ‘By the history of representation,’ the faithful pupil answered promptly. Joyce’s wit sated and he mused silently at the young man; he smiled a parenthetical smile.

‘Beckett’ became a regular feature of the Joyce’s until Lucia’s infatuations drove him from the Joyce flat in Paris, one such flat of many, to figure less, but he still remained in contact with Herr Satan. They were a travelling clan, the Joyce’s; often their Bedouin caravan moved from place to place never finding a place called ‘home’ to settle in. Joyce played the errant troubadour and he sought out to recreate a similar eulogy about himself, to construct a mythology, and quoted less than familiar, usually from Ancient Greek, sayings he was fond of and would refer to ‘you know, the grey eyes of Athena’ or a similar image which beheld his fascination in that world. His own eyes let him down. He had many operations which made me recoil in empathy of going under the cold hard steel of the scalpel.

Joyce lived excessively, tipped lavishly and dined out nightly – he lived on a false economy – his pride outsourced an already stretched income. His young family suffered. Nora suffered unimaginably so. Yes, she was from the West of Ireland and, yes, she was derived of hardy stock but people, like any decent human beings, they have their confines, and when they are tested to and beyond their limitations, they respond in kind: once in a fit of rage in remonstrations of his drunken behaviour she said, ‘I hope you go drown yourself.’ In Trieste one evening, upon his return from a drinking bout she told him she threw the only manuscript of Ulysses into the fire where it burned incessantly and whereupon Joyce became ‘immediately sober.’

Joyce was all too keenly aware of his possible Scandinavian, Norse roots and sought out to commandeer them as his own; and one wonders at the splendour of the image (the reviewer’s own) of Joyce on a Viking Long Boat scything up the Liffey, circulating the crow’s nest in round spectacles, a small oak scimitar in his belt, a straw-boater on his head, and bedecked with a green ribbon fluttering on the lapel of his jacket, clams and lobster claws strewn on the main deck’s boards. And atop the main mast, a skull and cross bones flag – raised; his attention clear: to retake Dublin, literally; a returning Odysseus all too ready to raze Gorgarty’s Hellenic pride to the ground. (I myself am Hyperborean. Or would like to think so, however, possibly more pictish.)

Past the circadian rhythms of Ulysses, Joyce headed next towards a work referred to as ‘A Work in Progress’, about one state of human experience which we all share: being unconscious, which as Ellmann states, ‘Sleep is a great democratizer: in their dreams people become one and everything about them becomes one. Nationalities lose their borders, levels of discourse and society are no longer separable, time and space surrender their demarcations.’[2]

Carpe Noctem

Nora referred to Finnegans Wake as ‘Chop Suey’ as the style of the language was incomprehensible to her; and to many. Gobbets of speech: the Latin, the Danish, the French and the English, word contractions dashed together in the belfry of Joyce’s mind into muddlespeak which have musical resonances. For it is a musical book; and the title is taken from a well-known roaring Irish song of the same name and recounts a recently dead man’s Wake and the drinking and clattering din which all that raucous behaviour entails. It is an Irish music traditional session, whirling up to a crescendo and levelling out over the sea of sleep; the heaving wild boar of night hurrying through the dark woods of incomprehensibility towards the naïve reader. (It is not a work to take lightly without some degree of intrigue and assertiveness.)

In the biography, Richard Ellmann details the Knock-knock joke, ‘Knock, knock. War’s There! It’s the Twwinns.’ Joyce’s unpacking of this joke is lucid and I found myself amazed at his ingenuity; it has biblical connotations. The ‘Three quarks for Muster Marks’ line and its derivation: seagulls’ cries on the beach at Bognor, England, were an inspiration.

An American lady called Mary McCollum defiant at the ‘unreadable’ work relayed her sentiment to him when they met, ‘I believe it to be outside literature, Mr Joyce.’ This stumped him and left him ruminating and in silence and his monologue intérieur of ‘they do not get it.’

Then there were the further insights from this biography which were not known to me – Red wine was, to Joyce, ‘beefsteak’ and white wine ‘electricity.’ His fear of Thunder: the din of the hooves of Heaven’s floor was enough to frighten him and he would often fling himself to the ground for safety if thunder roared and lightening flickered. He had a longstanding fear of what he perceived as aggressive canines and canine manoeuvrings towards his person being bitten. His ‘spider-dance’ where he would flay his arms around, dancing on the spot in his black cape and cane in one hand; I would pay a king’s ransom to witness this – maybe in another life I will have a chance to. Who knows?

His daughter, Lucia, and his sense of obligation and in a way, blind denial of her schizophrenic plight was sorrowful to learn of, and Freud’s one time pupil, Carl Jung tried to treat her but failed and he remarked that Ulysses could be read front to back and back to front again and he theorised that it was ‘schizophrenic’ like its author; and of Jung, after the two met to discuss Lucia’s illness, Joyce called him ‘an imbecile.’ Lucia, she ended up in a Mental hospital in Northampton alone. She still was in love with Samuel Beckett and asked a visitor, in the 1970s, if she knew of Beckett and the lady replied in affirmative, Lucia asked lots of questions of the ilk, ‘Was he with a woman? Who was she?’ Lucia died alone and one cannot feel a deep sorrow as to the life’s path she ended up upon.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Nazi’s came to Paris. Nora and Jim moved to Zurich. One thinks of Joyce sick during these illogical times, at the end, his stomach ulcers so ‘feckened’, so put upon by stresses, from his worries about his daughter, his son, and the financial aspect and his artistic legacy, and how the ulcers pulsated and turned him into a stygian-union of rhapsody, writhing, dark bilious thoughts, depression and the inevitable – the end. He died alone in a hospitable bed in Zurich, never recovering from a coma on the 13th of January 1941; a great modernist mind decanted, the library of a great mind immolated while Europe entered the gates of Dante’s Inferno and all would change, and change utterly. (In the end Joyce had few true friends left.)

There are not, in my view, enough superlatives in common English usage to lay upon what Richard Ellmann crafted here in this work; one can only assume that while he laboured like an obedient colossus, similar to King Sisyphus, he laughed at Joyce’s roving intellect and good humour… and winced at the immense foolish nature of Joyce’s lack of control over his monetary situation(s) often leaving him going cap-in-hand to whomever would have him.

The biography of this genre does not lend a clichéd hand to tautology or to the paucity of information, no, this life history shows the skill in the work which was brought on home to roost and then, well, the Italian sculptors had their block of cool marble and some chisels and hammer, this too is a work of Art. Richard Ellmann was a master-craftsman, dedication and patience were the tools of his trade. I was honoured to read what he had compiled. I have learned a thousand things about a life which lived a thousand fathoms in pace under, and above, the foamy, plashing seas. I have entered an infamous literary circle and can, proudly, announce that I have now read ‘The Ellmann Bio’.

Joyce, in the later part of his life, was asked if he would ‘ever go back to Ireland?’ He replied – eyebrow cranked aloft cynically – ‘Sure, have I ever left?’

Cervantes depicted his Knight errant tilting at windmills with skittish Rocinante and wiser than a fool, Sancho Panza, in tow and James Joyce, had his quotidian trek through Dublin packed with an already ensemble live-in cast, and lived his life in a close approximation to the Quixotic and sure enough that was the way it was, had, to be. I wonder if he realised Ireland’s misery and its drinking problem: from the stale, flabby porter gushing into, and down, an unending, enduring throat, re-erupting onto the Dublin cobbles, shimmering in moonlit pools; this did not suspend his own cork in the bottle and he drank heavily on into his later life which, no doubt, impacted on his nerves and added to his financial woes…

James Joyce’s stream of consciousness was a tsunami waiting to be unleashed onto the fresh sandy beaches of literary thought in the Western World. He flashed his mercurial Irish antlers in the air to be taken into account, and often and well. And after his death the world of literature looked on and raised an obelisk to him. But ‘truth be told’ it was he, Joyce himself, who cut out the heavy rock and raised it; everyone else just patted down its granite-like flanks – and where the wind will continue to ripple over its heft and contours – for generations to come.

‘A raindrop spat on his hat.’

E Pluribus, Unum



Two short fiction pieces inspired by James Joyce

Swinging Ashplant

What is the fabric of life? Plucking primroses from off the duvet-cover, coitus and death and glittering denouements; fragmentary Joycian molecules in a coracle immutable against the tide of silence – dark form, odourless wave – archipelago of North Down and slow loughs, stove in a boat, run-aground shoarside by the cloth-work earth where the glum worm turn’d and this was the creative lock which once opened spattered water; and now crooked assembly and bow down before cassocked men and sucking and lip-lapping their salty, tyrannical words verbatim. The Sock of Cashews and the Rock of Cashel and thundering nuns flying in the atrium on brooms under the clocks in a formation fashion; unwritten Postcard Diction of Merit. Morning gossamer thinly cloaking hedgerows in the backlane suntramped and moocows nosing a glassy-case, an ice-trough and gunnery jim-jamming weaponry under the sopping bridge of another promised utopia; and the spick-spat of rainy-language in puddles and a Diogenian lamp by a cottage window in Oreland’s cultural home.


Round towers and Patagonian mountain rabble-babble and thunderous pulpit venom; and scrimble-scramble political baronage and power mongers  spray-paying in a hand, palming off salt as gold; and cabbage leaves and pages from books flip-flapiliy growing in the Salley Garden(s) and wind-wavering and ash-plant reason lurching forward.  I have tasted the prefabrication of the degradation of the soul which is poverty and with a Duckegg spirit, and through noisy perambulations, I flashed my knotty antlers in the air for the acolytes to dampen foglamped evenings and I wassailed in my symphony, all in my lonesome in my gizzard quavering. I tallowed my Irish Exile coracle with candles at nightsome. Crêpes neck-fold(s) under the feminine-induced niceness of his Sugar Loaf-led lilt. On the telly he was: the Jabba Hut of Orish cultural Diaspora; a famous word wrangler and acres of self-guilt for being a man-lover, self-reputedly. Dictum: Crayola languor. Mid-morning peregrination(s) between chattering coffee shopped smokers and gimlet-eyed energy drink wantons.


My current sub-conscious: a study in graphite and a prelapsarian triptych in post-modernist Tupperware thinking. Think of a painter’s smock drex and lashed and lapis lazuli and plashed and in-memoriam – double indemnity and double extremity, there is no point of grief past the Bell-Curve human experience. Quantify. He smiled a parenthetical smile. In the western cosmos, fly-flecked hemisphere, a man digs his own grave with a fork – temporal indifference? The brain is a fare dinkim, mate; stand at a bar and tussle with your own reflection – idea of to real-self – speculum sine macula? Ferdinand de Saussure: signified and signifier. Am I just an apostate potato fondler? Maybe.  Amen.

Little Snoopkims

Early. Before the green Monk has put his sling-back sandals on and a crump of brownhood is unfurled under a tureen of mute glistening white stars, I turn in my bed and upend. And Sssup. Ablutions with the roar and thirst of the cistern, pea-blossom, wash face – red eyes stare back – in a crimson cloake he turns away and shirks back into the darkness. Gone.

Mint-grout. Spin of the buzz-buzz toothwannoing, scuzz, scuzz and dance over the pinnacles, crags and rooks. White-griny; humann again.

Little Snoopkims, throat bell jangle, welcome engine purr, is at the back kitchen door miaowing and looking up at me with want; I withdraw the bolts and turn the key – Snoopkims out in a black slink.

Snoopkims ploughs rain sniff plodder, questioning the new rain, the new smells upon the fresh relenting grounds.

Grounds. Upturnsed. Snoopkims gooes along sniffing the dawn grass zigzag, then an ellipsis…head antenna, questioning, and away again, zipzip his dollskull at new earth, sensing something on his little pink nosesome, what does he get? Primrose on green. Lattice-white on rock-cold garden corner. Wet rose on delicate pink petal? Small ships docked.

A snail’s aerodrait trail caught in a filmy length.

He jangles quick back into the kitchen. Leaps a faith to the sill. Hides.

Snoopkims behind the curtain and I go to peak and Snoopkims’ saucer-filled eyes looking back playing agame. Happy little Snoopkims. Down on the tiled-floor again. Padding along. He comes thrutting purr to me. Shruve my hand over arching cat-black hair-coat, shiny, warm little living animal, jumps at my hand to rub his face. Kindness I showed it.

Little pusskins purring and the green-flints reflecting in shine-light, puzzled by the milk I just poured and then its coarse- rough, little ribbon tongue one lap, then another, just to test. Then hunkering down in the lactose wash, and lapping cermionusly, haune-shouldered and down to the ground and over the white fluid pour, lap, lap, lap. Repeating. Then up and away from the bowl with an arcing back and a sprawl of claws on the tiled floor and a yawn cast wide and looks at me with smacking chops and a miaow, I think of catisatfaction, of milk tasted and enjoyed on the porous lapel of pink and in moggy’s system now all plushy and milky, little dark affirming harvester.

Factory settings –

Black puddle full of black ink mass. Full of speak. Puddle mutters. Try to write it down, I say. Try to fish in apuddle a frudd. Spatters quarter minnows of wet.

Flomp. Open it –

my umbrella becomes a parabola; inside I bowl a long in nylonball and metal supports. Walk walk against a fragmented tidefall in a purse of shalloted drops some spinney fine, some fat pelts; I am warm in coathood. Safe. Walk. Walk. Walk.

Down brella. Zup. Waf, waf. Shake shake silver drools into the shivery hungry ground. Acre of church reverence. HOLY SHRILL.

Clock in. Bing-bong.

Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. All day’s a longyyy. Long. Work. Work. Laugh. Chat. Work. Work.Work. Repeat. Repeat. Break. Work. Work. Trussled belt. Relief. Zip. Flush. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Stop. Feet hurt. Clock out. Trudge to locker. Get things. Leave.

Flomp. Brellay open. Out into the chattering evening rain.

Walk. Luff luff, luffage of leafage. Pavementbank tide of yellowing-to-brown, harvest gold and some darker-brown, the colour of old leather, leaf-field sludge soon. Leaf-wine, trinkling into a brook. Drunk time for the earth folk. Dance in thicket hedgerows. Luttle peepls. Hawthorn crowns. Musical twig on goatskin beating rhythm.

Walk. Walk. Walk. Music. Radiohead. Ah. Bliss. Lyrics. Blliss. Music. Tempting solace. Walk.

Home. Mandible munch. Hot food. Homely. Crumbfort. Washup under a bead. Sud cloud swill. Drain goblin.

Shower the day’s exclaminations off.

Snoopkims curltailed into his bed. Climb the wooden hill stagger. Up. Britlebrus teeh. Yawney. Into my own bed. Taken away into encephalon’s swirling half-things. Sleep. Body at rest. Sleep. Immense warm black. Sleep. Fire Z’s ZZZzzzzzzzz into the ceiling. Dream away faces. Talk. Brain enlievened somehow. Sleep sleep. Turn. Turn. Turn again. Reality shaak shake. Come to. Awake wake. Hand to clock. 4.40am. Suuuppp.

*Recently, I worked in a warehouse outside Manchester (England) and this was my morning routine and walk to work and back again; three miles each way. I was usually so tried, that I was in bed for 20:30pm and asleep soon thereafter.


[1]  Ulysses, page 387 James Joyce, Wordsworth Editions

[2] James Joyce, 1936-1939 page 716, Richard Ellmann



Bowker, G. James Joyce: A Biography   Publisher W&N 2011

Ellmann, R. James Joyce: The First Revision of the 1959 Classic, Oxford University Press, 1982

Joyce, J. Ulysses Wordsworth Edition 1999

Joyce, S. My Brother’s Keeper Da Capo Press, export edition 2003


N.J.Burns, in his late thirties, hails originally from Co.Antrim and currently lives in the North West of Ireland; has been published in The North, The Rialto, The London Magazine and The Honest Ulsterman respectively. He is a self-confessed Joycian nut and is trying to read himself through the entire Western Literary Canon. When the notion is upon him, he spends a lot of time walking, hiking in nature. He finds the West of Ireland is where his spiritual heart lies. His Twitter: @foreverantrim







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