Sunday, 5 July 2015

Joycean paradox

One of the most striking things I've learnt from Richard Ellmann’s monumental work was that Joyce had poor taste in art. Not in music (was a remarkable tenor and had a great understanding of opera), not in wine (he only drank white), not in poetry (he had his doubts about Ezra Pound) – but in the visual and decorative art.

As Ellmann writes, he brought to his home in Europe (and Ireland was not Europe, not in those days) absolutely hideous vases and such. Tasteless, utterly vulgar things. And this was not Nora – he was himself responsible for it, and in fact took some great pride in buying those pieces. 

Probably not a paradox at all. Could of course be an element of profanity in every genius. After all, his taste in literature was impeccable. But then I’m reminded of the first appearance of Leopold Bloom and I get this strong feeling that if you strip that scene of words – you are not left with too much taste. Are you. But then the words were all he had and the words were all that mattered.