Friday, August 31, 2012
The caption under the illustration for Louis Menand’s “Silence, Exile, Punning” (The New Yorker, July 2, 2012) is inaccurate and misleading. It says: “The detritus of reality is the material of Joyce’s fiction.” Detritus? In his piece, Menand doesn’t use the word “detritus.” He says, “the materials of Joyce’s fiction are found objects, ‘the reality of experience,’ as Stephen puts it at the end of A Portrait of the Artist.” Richard Ellmann, in his brilliant James Joyce (1959), states, “The initial and determining act of judgment in his work is the justification of the commonplace.” He further says, “Joyce’s discovery, so humanistic that he would have been embarrassed to disclose it out of context, was that the ordinary is the extraordinary.” Joyce’s materials were humble, but they weren’t trash.
Credit: The above portrait of James Joyce is by Delphine Lebourgeois; it appears in The New Yorker, July 2, 2012, as an illustration for Louis Menand's "Silence, Exile, Punning."