An intemperate man

James Joyce (Oxford Lives)

How could James Joyce have such penetrating insight into the nature of mankind and still be such an insufferable bore? Did his muse require him to throw away money as fast as he got it, keeping his family impoverished, or was that merely an unfortunate coincidence? We always forgive our geniuses, and he was the great genius of the age. But it must have worn thin at times to those around him. A friend in Paris said of him “He had not taste, only genius.” Ellmann tells the often bleak story of Joyce’s Ulysses-like wanderings around Europe, picking fights and drinking away his funds. I was constantly veering between feeling bad for Joyce and wanting to throttle him. Also, I hadn’t realized how important Ezra Pound was in taking him from anonymity to great fame.

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