Tuesday, 7 October 2008


As I said a few posts down, I've been re-reading Joyce's Dubliners for the nth time in the last few days. Before leaving the house (okay, before leaving my bed) today I read 'A Little Cloud', which was always - along with 'Araby' and 'Two Gallants' - my favourite story in it. The combined forces of Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Raymond Carver, Eudora Welty and Elizabeth Bowen could have tried for as long as those monkeys have been attempting to write Timon of Athens and they wouldn't have come up with anything as good as 'A Little Cloud'. I'll do it little justice with a single quote, but here is one anyway:

Little Chandler sat in the room off the hall, holding a child in his arms. To save money they kept no servant, but Annie's young sister Monica came for an hour or so in the morning and an hour or so in the evening to help. But Monica had gone home long ago. It was a quarter to nine. Little Chandler had come home late for his tea and, moreover, he had forgotten to bring Annie home the parcel of coffee from Bewley's. Of course she was in a bad humour and gave him short answers. She said she would do without any tea, but when it came near the time at which the shop at the corner closed she decided to go out herself for a quarter of a pound of tea and two pounds of sugar.

Ernesto has been remixing poetry over at Never Neutral lately. If you haven't read this story, what might you do with this fragment? Where does it come? Is it a beginning, or an ending? The true measure of Joyce's stories in Dubliners is that, however small a fragment you select, it's always as though you're left with something that has the air of poetic autonomy in itself. Not self-satisfaction, or even narcissism, but a kind of self-reliance which is testament to the wroughtness of the stories: rivets and bolts that testify to, but also compete with, the aesthetic worth of the bridge itself.

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