About Nora

Most of us carry about a particular picture of ourselves, seldom the same picture others have of us. Some carry a portfolio of pictures about, anxious to show all they meet all about themselves – their family, schools, jobs, homes, accomplishments, disappointments, hobbies, books read, movies liked, places visited, lived, abandoned. Friends. Others don’t like having their picture taken, the only photo about them on their driver’s license, and that they don’t like either. Acquaintances may be more interested in your market value than in your face value.

Taken at face value, that is, legal value, net worth at birth, which may or may not bear any resemblance to one’s market value at the end of a life of living, of struggle, of getting by, of adapting to, or avoiding where possible, the more absurd cultural mores, steering as clear of the wildly ridiculous ones met on the street as one possibly can, Nora Barnacle’s life story is nominal, average, without great distinction. Most of us share a similar story. But, as the lifelong partner of the famous writer James Joyce, Nora’s life story far exceeds its salvage value – it’s a life worth a ticket-scalping.

But how should Nora’s story be told? Nora never read her husband James’s books, though he often read aloud to her from them, and she put no stock in literary values other than as a means to put food on the table, and which, as a means to make a living, for most of their lives proved woefully inadequate. They were never, until later in life and only then to satisfy the legal issues of the passing on of debts and assets and to protect their children, married, though they remained devoted to one another, having two children they were almost never separated from, living literally on top of one another in a seemingly endless succession of rented rooms, flats, shared spaces, hotel stays, sustained by gifts from sacrificing siblings and wealthy benefactors, until at long last Joyce’s reputation and writings began to produce earned royalties, distinction, and then the trappings of fame.

Joyce was always, and in all ways, a difficult man to live with. He was impractical, stubborn, inattentive, wasteful, and drank to excess. They fight and argue, Nora threatens to take the kids and leave, but of course she’s nowhere to go, but more importantly nowhere she wants to go – she wants her life with Jim to settle in with the peace and love of its original promise, which was to take her away from a life and family and place of destitution, beggary, and abuse. At the same time, they love and celebrate – their family, birthdays and holidays, their marginal achievements and successes, their apartments, the air and freedom of life away from dreary and unfair Ireland. They celebrate food and drink, family and friends, music and poetry, dance and lovemaking. Meantime, they’ve the bad luck of having to live through two World Wars and the Great Depression.

But how is the life just described, at face value, any different than most? Why do we want to know Nora’s story, particularly when, as we probably already know, she’s destroyed Jim’s letters to her and requested him to destroy her letters to him to keep private their private lives? They both remain victims, or feel victimized, to attempts to shame to control – attempts by the state, the church, society, friends and acquaintances, critics. Their attempt to live an existential life, defined by free choice, true to one another and to Jim’s belief in himself and his ability to make a difference with his writing (a difference to art, literature, and to all of the above), is a messy affair.

Readers familiar with the James Joyce story, whether fan or foe of his writing, may feel differently about the Nora Joyce story. In Nuala O’Connor’s “Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce,” we experience the James Joyce story through the eyes and ears – the sentiments and temperament – of Nora, who tells the story in her own voice. And we get the Nora Joyce story. Nuala’s book is neither straight biography nor straight fiction. Readers may choose to focus on one or the other, but the blend is a perfect mix, and you can’t have the one without the other. The Nora here is Nuala’s Nora, not Joyce’s Nora nor even Nora’s own selfie. But you come to see that you can’t have James Joyce without Nora Joyce, nor can we have Nora without James. What a glorious and perfect union.

Nora: A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce, by Nuala O’Connor, 2021, Harper Perennial.

Inventories

Part human, part deity, these working gods are restless. What happens when one wants out? Episodes of a god on the run, “Inventories” is now available in paperback book format. “Inventories” first appeared here, at The Coming of the Toads, near daily installments over several months in 2020, a quarantine exercise. The text was revised for this book publication first edition.

ASIN : B08VM82YRK
Publisher : Independently published (February 2, 2021)
Language : English
Paperback : 190 pages
ISBN-13 : 979-8702891125
Item Weight : 9.4 ounces
Dimensions : 5 x 0.48 x 8 inches

Jessica Sequeira’s “A Luminous History of the Palm”

“As I sit under the lamplights, I feel happy, I laugh, I talk to myself, I talk to the books. I talk to the trees, and in my mind the palms form a swaying jungle of stories” (57).

So ends Jessica Sequeira’s beautiful book, “A Luminous History of the Palm” (Sublunary Editions, 2020), twenty-four short stories in which the author “imagine[s herself] in other lives” (1). The stories range from around 500 to 2,000 words, and are organized in triplets, set off by short notes that illuminate the form of the work; for example,

“To be luminous is not the same as to be enlightened. Enlightenment comes from the outside and implies progress. To be luminous is to generate affections and affiliations from the heart, belly and bowels of a situation in time, and form part of an organic system that is possibly infinite. It is to avoid abstraction, at least at the start, to prefer the concrete and sensual, the soft light forged by the bodies of stories as they crush together in violence or embrace” (29).

The concept, of occupying different characters over time, works using the human tool of empathy. What is known? What can be known, and how? How does one get to know? Where and how does the engine of cognition get started? This is not appropriation. It is a sharing of thought and experience. As argument, it is pathos, grounded in the emotional with passion. The reader becomes detached from any kind of narcissistic rendering, from identifying with, relating to, finding relevance to one’s own life. One disappears into another. One’s own interests are subsumed by history, and what emerges are anthropological vignettes, finds.

The vocabulary is exquisite: “Chinoisierie”; “crassulas, euphorbias, stapelias and aloes.” The words used in each piece form a brilliant cover, the style fitted to the personality of the character: a “Healer, [from] Yemen”; a “Housewife, [from] New Zealand”; a “Surfer, [from] California” – and that surfer dispels and defies stereotype to get to the heart of the new and original. The vocabulary is natural to the character. “I’ve got my shortboard, bright orange, and a new haircut.” That new hairdo – foreshadows a surprising identity, personality, transfixed and transposed by expectations and breaking away from the confines of one’s predicament.

“We get through the book in about an hour, silently noting its patterns” (53). But why hurry? The Sublunary Editions copy is professionally bound, recognizable as a series, and “A Sublunary Object,” a form that enshrines the short work in a book the reader will want to keep and save and, most importantly, reread and share.

I love the kind of writing found in “A Luminous History of the Palm.” The design, the ideas, the language, the brevity, the characters, the places and descriptions, how easily they seem to change, the reader entering a new land, country, weather. And the book is encyclopedic, the way Borges can be, and full of mystery, the way Lispector wrote – brief, compressed. As each story opens, the reader feels a kind of petrichor of a particular place and time and the close smell of a person suddenly near and unexpected. The palm trees spread and growing throughout the book are also very cool.

A Luminous History of the Palm, by Jessica Sequeira, 2020, Sublunary Editions, Seattle, WA, sublunaryeditions.com

Photo: Lisa at Refugio, 1976, Joe Linker.

About “end tatters”

“end tatters” is now available in paperback. I don’t intend an e-book version. As indicated on the copyright page, “Some of the End Tatters pieces previously appeared, some in different form, in these publications: Berfrois; Berfrois: the Book; Queen Mob’s Teahouse; Sultan’s Seal: The Hotel Cosmopolitan; One Imperative; and The Coming of the Toads.” The book does offer some new pieces also, though, so it collects previously published and new pieces. My primary purpose in publishing the book in paperback form is that I wanted to save, on paper, a number of pieces a bit scattered on-line, while I had some new pieces I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with. Besides that, I enjoy making books, reading books, collecting books.

Distributing and selling indie books is a different matter. Even giving them away does not at all ensure they’ll be read. Nevertheless, I’ll be giving away a few copies of “end tatters” to innocent bystanders. So be on the lookout.

With “end tatters,” I’ve attempted a kind of imprint, the somewhat clumsy, perhaps, “a Joe Linker book.” Below, we see the “CONTENTS” page:

CONTENTS

Bells…11
Milk…17
Trees…23
This and That…25
Taking the Call…27
Nativity Scene…33
In One’s Dotage…45
Divine Comedy…47
To Surf…49
About Confusion…57
Epiphanic Cat…67
The Tyger…69
Wealcan…71
Horny Theology…88
Withdrawal…91
Cliff Notes…93
Vintage…95
In Transit…97
Cricket…99
Remaindered…101
Typewriter…103

And a bit more info. for this post, with some pics:

Product details

  • Paperback: 105 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (January 8, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1654268291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1654268299
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item