Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
James Joyce’s Grandson Stephen and Literature’s Most Tyrannical Estate
June 14, 2012 - The Daily Beast
In a story of frustration—and ultimately, triumph—Gordon Bowker recounts the many hazards he faced writing his new biography of James Joyce; the biggest Cyclops of all is the author’s litigious grandson, Stephen.
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When I proposed a James Joyce biography to my publisher, I was aware that the deadliest booby trap on the road ahead was the Joyce estate's explosive trustee, Stephen James Joyce, the author's grandson.
He had denied the singer Kate Bush permission to include a few lines from the sexy “Penelope” chapter in Ulysses in a song, and got a program in celebration of Joyce banned from Irish radio. By threats of legal action he had prevented Brenda Maddox from including a postscript about Joyce's disturbed daughter, Lucia, in her book on his wife, Nora, and forced Carol Loeb Shloss, Lucia’s biographer, to cut extracts from letters between her and her father. But more imprudently, he had tried to prevent the National Library of Ireland from exhibiting some of his grandfather’s manuscripts—which it owned—and it took an act of the Irish Parliament to frustrate him.
James Joyce himself coined the term “biografiend,” suggesting that he also had a low opinion of biographers and would probably refuse to cooperate with anyone attempting to write his life story. But in fact he did commission an American author, Herbert Gorman, to write one, even though he then tried to control what went into it. When Gorman showed him what he had written, Joyce demanded he cut out anything to do with his dissolute father, his schizophrenic daughter, and his “irregular marriage.” Since 1904, when he eloped from Ireland with Nora Barnacle, the couple had remained unmarried for 27 years, during which time they produced two children. But he told everyone he had married Nora before leaving Dublin, a lie he did not want to see exposed.