James Joyce


Born: 2 February 1882
Died: 13 January 1941 (perforated ulcer)
Birthplace: Rathgar (near Dublin), Ireland
Best known as: Author of Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake

Name at birth: James Augustine Aloysius Joyce

Joyce was to modern literature what Picasso was to modern art: he scrambled up the old formulas and set the table for the 20th century. Joyce's books Ulysses (1921) and Finnegan's Wake (1939) ignored traditional plot and sentence structure in favor of sprawling, witty, complex mixtures of wordplay, streams of consciousness, and snatches of sights and aromas woven in with the rambling reveries of the characters. Joyce grew up in Dublin, set all his major stories there, and is intricately associated with the city; Ulysses tells the story of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom as he travels the city's streets. (Bloom's wanderings are compared to those of mythical hero Ulysses -- hence the book's title.) Finnegan's Wake went even further with dreamy wordplay and inventive genius, but also cemented Joyce's reputation as a challenging, even difficult author to read. Joyce moved from Dublin in 1904 with his girlfriend Nora Barnacle; they had a son (Giorgio) in 1905 and a daughter (Lucia) in 1907, but were not married until 1931. They lived in Paris from 1920 until World War II forced a move to Zurich, where Joyce died in 1941. His other works include The Dubliners (1914) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916).

Extra credit: Joyce worked on Finnegan's Wake for 17 years before its publication in 1939... Joyce suffered from weak eyesight throughout his life and wore thick, owlish glasses... The day described in Ulysses is 16 June 1904, and in some cities 16 June is whimsically celebrated as "Bloomsday"... Though Joyce is closely tied to Dublin, he never returned to the city after a visit in 1912... Joyce's birthday also happens to be Groundhog Day... The main character of Finnegan's Wake is named Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker... The famous first line of Finnegan's Wake is: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

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