For as long as I can remember, I have looked for signs and patterns; anything to help me navigate the impossible map that is the business of living.And I have realised that my attempt to craft a narrative is little more than an attempt to discern patterns.
Sometimes he is the mythical Irish hero Finn Mc Cool. And sometimes he is a lowly insect called an earwig.
Beckett wrote that Joyce believed fervently in the significance of chance events and of random connections.
I wonder now why I ever wanted to be your friend in the first place. The need to be seen hanging around with an Important Man. You always believed that thirteen was an unlucky number. So it was absolutely true that his mother has been in the employ of James Joyce for as long as he could remember.
My son was nine when a professional man in a suit asked: ‘And what does your mother do?
‘To Joyce reality was a paradigm, an illustration of a possibly unstateable rule…
According to this rule, reality, no matter how much we try to manipulate it, can only shift about in continual movement, yet movement limited in its possibilities…’ giving rise to ‘the notion of the world where unexpected simultaneities are the rule.’ In other words, a coincidence such as sitting down to dinner with James Joyce is actually just part of a continually moving pattern, like a kaleidoscope. My house companion is not the only contemporary writer to feel that Joyce’s legacy is a curse.Joyce had a knack for picking up just what he needed.‘Chance furnishes me with what I need,’ he wrote, ‘I’m like a man who stumbles; my foot strikes something, I look down, and there is exactly what I need.’ Nora Barnacle was the most important chance stumble of his life.The great man’s shadow falls far and wide and writers, especially Irish ones, continually complain about the effort to crawl out from under it.I am just one of many cowering under his monumental weight.’ I snapped back immediately, appalled that he dared to doubt my enterprise. The final sentence reads: ‘A way a lone a last a loved a long the’Who ever ended a book with the word ‘the’?This is not the first time I’ve broken up with Joyce.’ I said to the screenwriter from Galway, who was gesturing to the balding, middle-aged man sitting next to me.‘I said, this is James Joyce’. It must be a misunderstanding, I thought, or as Joyce puts it, a ‘missed understanding’. Or do I admit to my table companion that I too feel cursed, but for other reasons.Getting things right is something I had learnt not to expect; getting things wrong, Joyce has taught me, is the more natural, more human, and often, more comical way. I opened my mouth.‘Well,’ I said, reaching for the wine and offering to fill his glass, hoping that some bolt of inspiration might rescue me from relapse.In public, Joyce’s manners were impeccable and his letters demonstrate a remarkable courteousness but at home, it was very different.Quite apart from the regular drinking binges, his life was driven by his one-eyed obsession to fulfil his destiny and there was perhaps only one woman in the world who could have put up with the selfishness that such a vocation entailed.