Please Unplease Me: A Review of Laura Frost’s The Problem With Pleasure

First, I want to get a bad joke out of the way: it seems cruelly apt to review a scholarly text titled The Problem With Pleasure: Modernism and Its Discontents (Columbia UP 2013), especially one, while passionate and provocative, that may preclude pleasure for the casual reader. To be expected from a scholarly text, hence the bad joke, but Frost’s study of the vicissitudes of modernist unpleasure performs its argument quite well — The arrays of Unpleasure found in this book do delight and prod the reader in its investigations of everything from stalwart modernist topoi to perfume and farts. Frost’s mission, in her own words, is to “present the interwar debate about pleasure and the rise of unpleasure … as a new way of defining literary modernism more capaciously” (14). Frost wants to collapse the schism between the two divergent interwar poles of “high” and “low” culture and their shared mission to re-stabilize the shocked and distended interwar subject. Frost’s contribution to her field isn’t quite revolutionary, but the methods in which she ties the affect of text and media on the body is pressing and important, and carries weight outside the academy. For it is not simply that the “high” modernists wanted its world to repudiate fast & easy entertainment to engage with the post-World War One space. Rather, they wanted their readers to engage with pleasure in a different key — unpleasure. Seeing the beginnings of literary modernism with the more inclusive Unpleasure rather than Eliotian disdain or Poundian militancy allows us to see how literary modernists not only critiqued vernacular entertainment, but how  Jean Rhys, James Joyce and Aldous Huxley were themselves subject to mass cultural motifs in their own texts.  “High” and “low” culture were not as mutually exclusive as previously thought, Frost asserts, and the interwar period set the stage for our current moment of pleasure, cultural division, and technological innovation considerably more than we think.

Continue reading “Please Unplease Me: A Review of Laura Frost’s The Problem With Pleasure”

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Word Index from James Joyce’s Ulysses: From “Catheter” to “‘cello”

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From Miles L. Hanley’s Word Index to James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Word Index from James Joyce’s Ulysses: From “Daybreak” to “Debts”

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From Miles L. Hanley’s Word Index to James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Foreign Words and Phrases (from “Indiges” to “Mahamanvantara”) in James Joyce’s Ulysses

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From Miles L. Hanley’s Word Index to James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Money Expressions in James Joyce’s Ulysses

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From Miles L. Hanley’s Word Index to James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Numbers and Symbols in James Joyce’s Ulysses (“0” through “26”)

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From Miles L. Hanley’s Word Index to James Joyce’s Ulysses.

James Joyce Dies

James Joyce Dies; Wrote ‘Ulysses’

ZURICH, Switzerland, Monday, Jan 13- James Joyce, Irish author whose “Ulysses” was the center of one of the most bitter literary controversies of modern times, died in a hospital here early today despite the efforts of doctors to save him by blood transfusions. He would have been 59 years old Feb. 2.

Joyce underwent an intestinal operation Saturday afternoon at the Schwesternhaus von Rotenkreuz Hospital. For a time he appeared to be recovering. Only yesterday his son reported him to have been cheerful and apparently out of danger.

During the afternoon, however, the writer suffered a sudden relapse and sank rapidly. He died at 2:15 A.M. (8:15 P.M., Eastern standard time).

His wife and son were at the hospital when he died.

Hailed and Belittled by Critics

The status of James Joyce as a writer never could be determined in his lifetime. In the opinion of some critics, notably Edmund Wilson, he deserved to rank with the great innovators of literature as one whose influence upon other writers of his time was incalculable. On the other hand, there were critics like Max Eastman who gave him a place with Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot among the “Unintelligibles” and there was Professor Irving Babbitt of Harvard who dismissed his most widely read novel, “Ulysses,” as one which only could have been written “in an advanced stage of psychic disintegration.”

Originally published in 1922, “Ulysses” was not legally available in the United States until eleven years later, when United States Judge John Monro Woolsey handed down his famous decision to the effect that the book was not obscene. Hitherto the book had been smuggled in and sold at high prices by “bookleggers” and a violent critical battle had raged around it.

From James Joyce’s obituary in The New York Times (January 13, 1941). Read the rest.

“The same blue rocks and spectral grottos could be seen in Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks” | J.G. Ballard

From J.G. Ballard’s short story “The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon”:

‘There’s a postcard from your mother. They’re near Malta, somewhere called Gozo.’

‘Give it to me.’ Maitland felt the card in his hands.

‘Gozo – that was Calypso’s island. She kept Ulysses there for seven years, promised him eternal youth if he’d stay with her forever.’

‘I’m not surprised.’ Judith inclined the card towards her. ‘If we could spare the time, you and I should go there for a holiday. Wine–dark seas, a sky like heaven, blue rocks. Bliss.’

‘Blue?’

‘Yes. I suppose it’s the bad printing. They can’t really be like that.’

‘They are, actually.’

Still holding the card, Maitland went out into the garden, feeling his way along the string guiderail. As he settled himself in the wheelchair he reflected that there were other correspondences in the graphic arts. The same blue rocks and spectral grottos could be seen in Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks, one of the most forbidding and most enigmatic of his paintings. The madonna sitting on a bare ledge by the water beneath the dark overhang of the cavern’s mouth was like the presiding spirit of some enchanted marine realm, waiting for those cast on to the rocky shores of this world’s end. As in so many of Leonardo’s paintings, all its unique longings and terrors were to be found in the landscape in the background. Here, through an archway among the rocks, could be seen the crystal blue cliffs that Maitland had glimpsed in his reverie.

 

Film Footage of the First Bloomsday Celebration in 1954

Film footage of the first Bloomsday celebration (June 16, 1954)–a great find by Antoine Malette, who posted the video along with an account of the journey as told in Flann O’Brien: An Illustrated Biography. The film was shot by John Ryan, and shows an extremely inebriated Brian O’Nolan (aka Flann O’Brien) having to be helped around by pals Anthony Cronin and Patrick Kavanagh. We’re also treated to a scene of Kavanagh taking a piss with Joyce’s cousin Tom Joyce, a dentist who joined the merry band. (The scene will undoubtedly recall to you that marvelous moment in Ulysses when “first Stephen, then Bloom, in penumbra urinated“). The troupe didn’t quite finish their mission, getting sidetracked by booze and quarrels. Read the full account at Malette’s site.

Handwritten Fragment of James Joyce’s Ulysses

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A fragment from the “Circe” episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Via/more.

Ulysses (1967 Film Adaptation)

Summary of Bloom’s Day in Ulysses — Evan Lavender-Smith (From Old Notebooks)

Makes breakfast for his wife. Goes to the butcher. Goes to the post office. Goes to church. Goes to a chemist. Goes to a public bath. Goes to a funeral. Goes to a newspaper press. Goes to a locksmith to canvass an ad. Feeds some seagulls. Goes to a bar. Helps a blind man cross the street. Goes to the museum. Goes to to the library. Visits a bookseller. Window-shops. Goes to a restaurant. Listens to some live music. Writes a love letter. Goes to another bar. Nearly gets in a fight. Masturbates to a beautiful eighteen-year-old exhibitionist giving him a private show. Takes an alfresco nap. Takes up a collection for a widow. Goes to a hospital to visit a pregnant woman. Flits with a nurse. Feeds a stray dog. Goes to a whorehouse. Helps avert a row with the police. Goes to a cabman’s shelter and listens to a sailor tell stories. Breaks into his own house. Urinates under the stars with another man. Watches the sunrise. Kisses his wife on her arse.

It would have been the single busiest, most adventurous day of my life.

From Evan Lavender-Smith’s From Old Notebooks.

 

Bloomsday

Portrait of James Joyce by Djuna Barnes

How to read Ulysses

Ulysses art by Roman Muradov

Selections from one-star Amazon reviews of Ulysses

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Ulysses manuscript page

A list of Irish heroes (from “The Cyclops” episode of Ulysses)

“Words,” a page from one of Joyce’s notebooks for Ulysses

Another page of Joyce’s notes, plus links to more

James Joyce talks dirty

Filming Finnegans

James Joyce’s eye glasses prescription

William Faulkner’s Joyce anxiety

Ezra Pound on James Joyce

Marilyn Monroe reads Molly 

Biblioklept’s lousy review (the review is lousy, not the book) of Dubliners

Joyce’s entry on the 1901 Irish Census

Joyce’s caricature of Leopold Bloom

Biblioklept’s review (not so lousy, the review) of a superior full-cast audio recording of Ulysses

James Joyce explains why Odysseus is the most “complete man’ in literature

James Joyce’s passport

Leopold’s Bloom’s recipe for burnt kidney breakfast

“What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?”

James Joyce’s death mask


Jerry (Nude Reclining with Ulysses) — Paul Cadmus

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Manuscript Fragment from James Joyce’s Ulysses

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(Via/about/zoom in!).

“What past consecutive causes, before rising preapprehended, of accumulated fatigue did Bloom, before rising, silently recapitulate?” (Ulysses)

What past consecutive causes, before rising preapprehended, of accumulated fatigue did Bloom, before rising, silently recapitulate?

The preparation of breakfast (burnt offering): intestinal congestion and premeditative defecation (holy of holies): the bath (rite of John): the funeral (rite of Samuel): the advertisement of Alexander Keyes (Urim and Thummim): the unsubstantial lunch (rite of Melchisedek): the visit to museum and national library (holy place): the bookhunt along Bedford row, Merchants’ Arch, Wellington Quay (Simchath Torah): the music in the Ormond Hotel (Shira Shirim): the altercation with a truculent troglodyte in Bernard Kiernan’s premises (holocaust): a blank period of time including a cardrive, a visit to a house of mourning, a leavetaking (wilderness): the eroticism produced by feminine exhibitionism (rite of Onan): the prolonged delivery of Mrs Mina Purefoy (heave offering): the visit to the disorderly house of Mrs Bella Cohen, 82 Tyrone street, lower and subsequent brawl and chance medley in Beaver street (Armageddon)—nocturnal perambulation to and from the cabman’s shelter, Butt Bridge (atonement).

A summary of sort of Bloom’s day. From the penultimate chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

“What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?” (Ulysses)

What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?

Its universality: its democratic equality and constancy to its nature in seeking its own level: its vastness in the ocean of Mercator’s projection: its unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8000 fathoms: the restlessness of its waves and surface particles visiting in turn all points of its seaboard: the independence of its units: the variability of states of sea: its hydrostatic quiescence in calm: its hydrokinetic turgidity in neap and spring tides: its subsidence after devastation: its sterility in the circumpolar icecaps, arctic and antarctic: its climatic and commercial significance: its preponderance of 3 to 1 over the dry land of the globe: its indisputable hegemony extending in square leagues over all the region below the subequatorial tropic of Capricorn: the multisecular stability of its primeval basin: its luteofulvous bed: its capacity to dissolve and hold in solution all soluble substances including millions of tons of the most precious metals: its slow erosions of peninsulas and islands, its persistent formation of homothetic islands, peninsulas and downwardtending promontories: its alluvial deposits: its weight and volume and density: its imperturbability in lagoons and highland tarns: its gradation of colours in the torrid and temperate and frigid zones: its vehicular ramifications in continental lakecontained streams and confluent oceanflowing rivers with their tributaries and transoceanic currents, gulfstream, north and south equatorial courses: its violence in seaquakes, waterspouts, Artesian wells, eruptions, torrents, eddies, freshets, spates, groundswells, watersheds, waterpartings, geysers, cataracts, whirlpools, maelstroms, inundations, deluges, cloudbursts: its vast circumterrestrial ahorizontal curve: its secrecy in springs and latent humidity, revealed by rhabdomantic or hygrometric instruments and exemplified by the well by the hole in the wall at Ashtown gate, saturation of air, distillation of dew: the simplicity of its composition, two constituent parts of hydrogen with one constituent part of oxygen: its healing virtues: its buoyancy in the waters of the Dead Sea: its persevering penetrativeness in runnels, gullies, inadequate dams, leaks on shipboard: its properties for cleansing, quenching thirst and fire, nourishing vegetation: its infallibility as paradigm and paragon: its metamorphoses as vapour, mist, cloud, rain, sleet, snow, hail: its strength in rigid hydrants: its variety of forms in loughs and bays and gulfs and bights and guts and lagoons and atolls and archipelagos and sounds and fjords and minches and tidal estuaries and arms of sea: its solidity in glaciers, icebergs, icefloes: its docility in working hydraulic millwheels, turbines, dynamos, electric power stations, bleachworks, tanneries, scutchmills: its utility in canals, rivers, if navigable, floating and graving docks: its potentiality derivable from harnessed tides or watercourses falling from level to level: its submarine fauna and flora (anacoustic, photophobe), numerically, if not literally, the inhabitants of the globe: its ubiquity as constituting 90 percent of the human body: the noxiousness of its effluvia in lacustrine marshes, pestilential fens, faded flowerwater, stagnant pools in the waning moon.

From the penultimate episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses.