Happy Birthday, Sir Joyce!
Its a bit of an injustice that you never lived long enough to see me, since if you had, you would have felt pleasantly proud and inflated in nurturing vanity at the sight of a fan so bewitched that she continued holding onto your works for almost an entire year, fearing if she let go, she might lose a part of her insanity.
Yes, I share your insanity; that dogged, rigid, stain-like thing which revels in its unfathomable DNA and sticky demeanour. Many a scholars and historians, academicians and mere admirers, have written pages and pages about you – about your life, your death and everything in between. But for me, you lived beyond all of them. You settled at a higher level that just hovered over the tarred, defined roads of the society. Like a film that suspends in air, you levitated deceptively close to the ground, so one could spring up and touch you but you weren’t within anybody’s reach. You lived in a world that connected the known and unknown and you sealed that pathway with a barrage of thoughts that you penned in incessant frenzy. I remember my induction into your world through Dubliners which left me without much impression. And then, for some reason, I stumbled upon Chamber Music that was so atypical of what I had heard of you. That simple fabric of delightful musings about nature, love and compassion was so soft on my soul that I felt like part of a live audience in your recital hall. I wanted to hear more; more about the person reciting it. And so I read Exiles. A unique concoction of self-questioning and character-sketching took me by surprise and I was more intrigued to know about you. And so, I swiftly picked A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and allowed myself the privilege of a glimpse of your whirlwind mind. An unsettling account; quite definitely, a searching mind’s multifarious reflections. The visual of you, running helter-skelter, in search of the meaning to your existence, drilled a hole in me, through which I could hear my timid heart beat a lot louder, as if it was scooped and brought closer to my ears. It was one of the best works I had read, even though it pounded on doors housing religion and faith, right and wrong, ethics and morality and I had no clear window to peek into these rooms and find the truth myself. Then again, you left issues open and allowed me to walk the path of discovery, sometimes with you and sometimes, without you. But I had come to like your company much and hence, despite discouraging calls, I ushered into the world of Ulysses. I knew it was a labyrinth of diverse observations, served on each page with an urgency of a writer running out of ink. Upon reading it though, slowly, sipping a mug of coffee at every 20th page, I realized the urgency was a façade; all you wished to do was talk. Talk because you were compelled to; compelled by the stunning sprouts of life and death around you, compelled by the inundating significance of routine and triviality engulfing you. Even while I suffered a string of failures in grasping the entirety of your revelations dripping from each page of this 800 pages+ text, I reveled in the overwhelming gusts of illuminating thoughts, made more precious by the numerous references to world culture, language, traditions and beliefs.
As I sit here today, thinking about all that I have gained by reading the books that you chose, in some carefree (or deluded) moments perhaps, to pen, I feel a happy and sad knot tightening in my pit. A happiness to have the honour to read your works and a sadness to have never lived earlier enough to breath the same air as you did.
You see, its your birthday, and I wish to make a promise – I will attempt to read Finnegan’s Wake. Despite its madness, just for its madness.
[Image courtesy http://www.latimes.com ]