Pictures for Finn

After Lunch (1975) by Patrick Caulfield [1936-2005]

After Lunch (1975) by Patrick Caulfield [1936-2005]

Foyer (1973) - Patrick Caulfield

Foyer (1973) by Patrick Caulfield

The Splash (1966) by David Hockney [1937- ]

The Splash (1966) by David Hockney [1937- ]

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney

A Bigger Splash (1967) by David Hockney

California Bank (1964) by David Hockney

California Bank (1964) by David Hockney

Ed and Mariane (2010) by Julian Opie [1958- ]

Ed and Mariane (2010) by Julian Opie [1958- ]

Graham Coxon (2000) by Julian Opie

Graham Coxon (2000) by Julian Opie

Darcey Bussell (1994) by Allen Jones [1937- ]

Darcey Bussell (1994) by Allen Jones [1937- ]

Coincidence No. 545 – Jackals

I am out running in St Pancras & Islington cemetery, listening to an Audible podcast about writer Robert Harris. He says:

“it’s like coincidences, which happen all the time in life, you can’t have them in fiction, they just don’t work…”

Just before this bit he was talking about how you can write novels about things where we know the ending and gave as his example The Day of the Jackal.

Yesterday I go to my bookshelves to find two things: a crappy entertaining thriller to read again and my copy of Kafka’s complete stories – see Coincidence No. 544. In the pile of crappy thrillers is The Day of the Jackal. It is behind another pile of books and I haven’t set eyes on it in years. I think about reading it (asking myself have I ever got through all of it? maybe I only know the ending from the film) but in the end pick another book set in Berlin in 1963 which appeals to me. And I find the Kafka in an equally obscure spot where two shelves meet and overlap forming a sort of hidden compartment.

Last night I begin both books. The Kafka story I pick out to start with is called Jackals & Arabs and features an old jackal.

When I finish the short Robert Harris podcast I switch to an audiobook I’ve had for a while but not listened to yet – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. In the opening few minutes it explains the terms Species, Genus and Family. In illustrating the biological Family it mentions, alongside dogs and cats, jackals. 19 minutes in, he explains early man’s position in the middle of the food chain by describing the scene of a giraffe being eaten by hyenas and jackals.

jackal

Coincidence No. 544 – Kafka

The day before yesterday I start reading Kafka’s Last Trial by Benjamin Balint. It is about the court case settling where Franz Kafka’s manuscripts should reside.

Yesterday I see that Facebook has added to People You May Know a certain Beverley Kafka. I don’t know her, it looks like she may be a friend of a friend of my mum.

Today I am walking in East Finchley Cemetery – it is perhaps only the second time I have been in here. (I am writing this in the shade of a spreading old oak.) At the turn to this side of the extensive mid-19C cemetery is the grave of Dorothy Kafka, born 1930, died 1988. The objective of my walk in the cemetery is to find a quiet spot out of the sun to read Kafka’s Last Trial.

I have never met or come across anyone called Kafka before.

In Your Face wins Best Documentary in Lockdown Showcase

As mentioned in the recent Teach us rightly to number our days post, In Your Face, a mid-form documentary I conceived and commissioned for Real Stories/Little Dot Studios, directed and produced by my friend & colleague Simon Goodman of Showem Entertainment who worked his usual magic on the format, won Best Documentary in the Lockdown Short Film Showcase run by London Short Film. The standard of the showcase was very high with such excellent films as The Call Centre and UB-13.

Best-Documentary lockdown short film showcase

Here’s a short Q&A I recorded in lockdown for the showcase:

[8 min watch]

 

 

Wider Wake

I’ve noticed something reading Finnegans Wake for the first time – I call it ‘Wake Hang-over’. During the Corona lockdown I begin every morning by going out in the garden and reading. Latterly I start with a couple of pages of the Wake and then whatever book I’m reading, currently a light whodunnit by Anthony Horowitz entitled Magpie Murders, easy reading for hard times. When I go to read the second book I find that for a while I’m still in a different reading mode, hyperalert for word play, connections, double meanings; somehow floating a bit above the text; inhabiting a strangely comic world – or is it a comically strange one? That unique reading mode gradually fades but the overlap is interesting and enjoyable. As a linguist, it’s a bit like when you come out of a foreign language, back to English, and the shapes and dynamics of that other language are still what’s shaping your consciousness and thinking.

Picking up from my previous (second) Wake post I’m quickly going to update my lists:

hce food service equipment logo

HCE

  • Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (p30) – see last post
  • Howth Castle and Environs (3) = 1st line of the novel, a key location in both the Wake and Ulysses
  • Haveth Childers Everywhere (a section published in 1930 as part of Work in Progress) = Adam, father of mankind
  • humile, commune and ensectuous (29)
  • Here Comes Everybody (32) = Everyman – “for every busy eerie whig’s a bit of a torytale to tell” (20)
  • habituels conspicuously emergent (33)
  • He’ll Cheat E’erawan (46) = a sinful fella
  • haughty, cacuminal, erubescent (55)
  • Humpheres Cheops Exarchas (62)
  • Haveyou-caught-emerods (63)
  • Hyde and Cheek, Edenberry (66)
  • House, son of Clod, to come out you jew-beggar to be Executed (70)
  • Et Cur Heli! (73)
  • at Howth or at Coolock or even at Enniskerry (73)
finnegans wake plaque mullingar house chapelizod

On Mullingar House pub, Chapelizod, Dublin

Dublin

  • Dabblin (p16)
  • (Brian) d’ of Linn (17)
  • dun blink (17)
  • durblin (19)
  • Devlin (24)
  • Dumbaling (34)
  • Poolblack (35) = Dub/black Lin/Pool : dubh linn (Gaelic) black pool
  • Dablena Tertia (57)
  • Doveland (61)
  • Dulyn (64)
  • Dubblenn (66)
  • deeplinns (76)
  • blackpool (85) Blackpool (88)

And I’m starting a third such list- variations on “Ireland”. There is a linkage between HCE and Ireland: HCE > Earwicker > Earlander > Eire > Ireland

Joyce surname ireland map 1901

Ireland

  • Errorland (62)
  • Aaarlund (69)
  • aleland (88)

(So these are all cumulative lists.)

To round off this post I’d like to start highlighting some of my favourite neologisms and word-collisions. Like the lists above, these highlight the variety and persistence of Joyce’s ludic approach to language. Joyce is “a mixer and wordpainter” as he describes Hyacinth O’Donnell on p.87.

The playfulness and transmutation of language is the essence of the dream state and the act of “sewing a dream together” (28) which is this fluid, complex book. “intermutuomergent” (55) is a wordflow that captures the dynamics of the language of the Wake. This is the “meandertale” (18) to end all meandertales. (The wandering river, the Liffey, runs through that heart of it, personified in ALP. And the neanderthal is just beneath the skin of us hairless apes, we Chimpdens.)

  • tellafun book (86) [telephone]
  • lexinction of life (83) [lexicon/extinction]
  • nekropolitan (80)
  • timesported across the yawning (abyss) (56) [transported across time]
  • to clapplaud (32) [clap]

BTW my favourite Wake website so far is From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay, a blog by Peter Chrisp.

Returning to lockdown, on the basis that the Wake touches on everything, this seems like a good Corona sentence: “the obedience of the citizens elp the ealth of the ole” (76).

 

 

Quotation: Teach us rightly to number our days

On holidays and such circumstances we have a conversation in my family about tattoos. I’ve made 51 tattoo films in my career including In Your Face for Real Stories/Little Dot Studios (100M+ views) and The Male Body Handbook: Tattooed for Channel 4. The conversation springboards from the question: If you were to have a tattoo, what would it be? I always end up saying the only thing I would want to see every day is something that was or meant “Carpe Diem”.

As I sit writing this at my desk there is a marble tablet to my right – a cheap bit of tourist tat from when I visited Rome a couple of years ago to speak at MIA – the Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo film festival/market. The tablet, quite heavy, says:

CARPE DIEM

QUAM MINIMUM

CREDULA POSTERO

Quinto Orazio Flacco

So the phrase we are familiar with actually has a broader context: Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow. It comes from Book 1 of (Roman poet) Horace’s Odes (23 BC). Quinto Orazio Flacco in Latin is Quintus Horatius Flaccus, better known as Horace.

I don’t really like the look of Carpe Diem. Carpe reminds me of carp, the fish that Eastern Europeans love to consume for some reason. Diem contains “die”. So I was pleased to find another quotation this week (at the funeral of my step-father) which means much the same thing. It is from the Old Testament, Psalm 90 (verse 12):

Teach us rightly to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I read this as an exhortation to value each day and recognise that it is one of a limited number we are each allotted – through that perspective, brought to mind daily, we can become wise at heart (as opposed to at head).

The nearest tattoo I can find is Psalm 90:14, two doors down, nicely done but not at all the same:

I am big on the word “joy” though – my daily mantra is “I will enJOY my day” – and I’m all up for being “glad all our days”, but it’s not for me.

However Psalm 90:12 is not quite snappy enough – it is great for an arch in a cemetery but not quite right for my arm.

Back to the fantasy tattoo drawing board…

In the meantime In Your Face has just been awarded the Best Documentary accolade in the Lockdown Short Film Showcase run by London Short Film, of which more tomorrow…

Maurice Podro 1928-2020

Maurice Podro 43 Group by Stuart Freedman

Maurice Podro photographed by Stuart Freedman 2020 (copyright Stuart Freedman)

Maurice Podro was 91 which is one reason why he hardly appears on the Web. He has two search returns: a listing as a company director – inactive and a piece to do with his time in the 43 Group, a post-war anti-fascist group mainly of Jewish ex-servicemen who took on Mosley and the blackshirts, pretty successfully. Maurice’s older brother was quite political and led the intelligence operation. Maurice wasn’t political – he just said “I knew it was the right thing to do”. That second search return is an article entitled ‘Remember the day they did not pass’ – it’s about the Battle of Cable Street.

Maurice Podro fought the resurgence of fascism in post-war Britain and his response is unambiguous.

“I am a firm believer that you fight violence with violence. I don’t see it any other way.”

The journalist, Alex Davis, seems a bit disapproving of this plain-speaking response. Maurice had a catchphrase to conclude any debate or discussion: “…and that’s simplified it.” That meant, that’s the plain truth.

The photograph above was taken by Stuart Freedman to capture the last half dozen surviving members of the 43 Group. I had connected the historian Daniel Sonabend, author of ‘We Fight Fascists’, a definitive history of the 43 Group, to Maurice and he interviewed him. Daniel then connected Stuart to Maurice and he photographed him. Maurice was not too well at the time and he didn’t much like the photo for that reason. Ditto his wife, my mother. But I really like it because it captures Maurice’s determination and fighting spirit in those pursed lips.

The last outing I went on with Maurice was to an evening discussion about Daniel’s book at King’s Place, York Way. He was wearing a camel hair coat and looked like the dapper cross of a mafioso and a Wingate football club supporter of the 70s (minus the cigar). Every inch the swagger don. I was well proud of him that night.

In the foyer he bumped into some men whose families worked in Petticoat Lane/Wentworth Street market. Maurice knew their relatives in detail – crystal clear memory. It was like the time I took him to a Sinatra show at the Palladium – the children of some market traders of the golden age recognised Maurice at the interval and eagerly questioned him about their parents’ generation down the Lane. He knew every name without fail. He was a living link to a past now almost vanished. I’m glad that I got round to interviewing him at length on video and I’m going to give the video to the Jewish Museum in Camden Town now. I did the interview with David Rosenberg who is a specialist on the history of anti-fascism and radical politics in the East End. I once took Maurice on one of David’s ‘Anti-fascist footprints’ walks and every time we stopped at one of the landmarks Maurice would pipe up and add more first-hand testimony to David’s commentary. Such as details of the mini-train that snaked around the playground at his school, JFS. And the time they beat up a blackshirt, broke his legs and chucked him in a bin.

So I wanted to get Maurice properly on the internet with this post to mark his passing to the big jazz club in the sky yesterday afternoon. I’m writing this listening to Buddy Rich. Maurice loved drumming, learnt to play during his time in the RAF, hung out in Archer Street, Soho in the days when it was in effect the jazz musicians’ labour exchange. He took me to see Buddy play twice. The second time, at the Festival Hall, I got to meet him and get my record signed. I was in my school uniform still. Buddy told me I should be at home studying on a school night, not out listening to jazz.

The last time I saw Maurice he was at home in the Corona Lockdown. I saw him through the open side door at the front of my childhood home. He was frail and not doing that great. I cracked a joke slightly at his expense and he laughed – I can’t remember what it was but I remember being pleased it was a good one and was appreciated. I’m glad that was our last ever interaction.

He took me to jazz. He took me to the other Lane (Spurs, where he got me hot Ribena and we sat next to a man who sucked on a huge cigar but never lit it) – in latter years, we would go to a caff opposite before the match and he would engage with all and sundry, the highlight of the afternoon eclipsing the actual football. In the good old days he had an 8-track in his car on which he introduced me to some great music such as ‘Hot August Night’, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder. He gave me a job down the first Lane as a teenager – as we passed Hoxton on the early morning way into work he would pronounce “‘Oxton – ares’ole of the universe!” (it’s improved some since then), and get me good grub at Mossie Marks or Kossoff’s, sausage sarnies with lashings of ketchup a favourite on cold mornings. All a far cry from my dad who was a research scientist.

Maurice was my step-father and the best way I can capture him is to say that whenever he was introducing me to anyone he would always say “this is my son, Adam” – never “my step-son”.

maurice podro sadiq khan mayor london cable street commemoration

Maurice with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan when he was honoured at a Cable Street commemoration

The Casting Game No. 76

Monica Vitti actress Italian

Monica Vitti (L’Eclisse 1962)

AS

princess diana

Princess Diana

In the Wake of Waking Up

I’m writing this after having just finished an online session about the Sirens chapter of Ulysses with the Charles Peake Seminar group – it’s the chapter centred on music. I switched straight from that which finished at 8pm to a live online gig from the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin by Iarla O Leonaird (singer in Gaelic) & Steve Cooney (guitar player) which started at 8pm. Music is a Big Thing for Joyce – this morning I got to The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly at the end of the second chapter of Finnegans Wake, marking the culmination of the rumours about HCE’s shameful act, fixing that moment for the long term in folksong. It actually opens with musical staves and notes, underlining the collagey, encyclopedic and scrapbooky nature of the Wake.

Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And he curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
At the butt of the Magazine Wall,
The Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?

He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he’s kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he’ll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.

I noticed this morning after finishing this section and the couple of pages before it that when I went to read another (conventional) novel it took a good few minutes to go back to conventional reading – you get into a different mode of reading and thinking when immersed in the Wake. It was a really interesting reading experience. The way you read the Wake is more engaged, playful and energetic than normal reading.

I want to finish off this second post by starting a couple of lists. The central character, HCE, has his initials explained in a number of ways in the book and I want to start capturing them:

  • Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (p30) – see last post
  • Howth Castle and Environs (3) = 1st line of the novel, a key location in both the Wake and Ulysses
  • Haveth Childers Everywhere (a section published in 1930 as part of Work in Progress) = Adam, father of mankind
  • humile, commune and ensectuous (29)
  • Here Comes Everybody (32) = Everyman
  • habituels conspicuously emergent (33)
  • He’ll Cheat E’erawan (46) = a sinful fella

HCE Group-Logo-Landscape-Colour

Another list I want to begin here is one of all the different ways Joyce refers to the city at the heart of the novel (as with Ulysses) – Dublin:

  • Dabblin (p16)
  • (Brian) d’ of Linn (17)
  • dun blink (17)
  • durblin (19)
  • Devlin (24)
  • Dumbaling (34)
  • Poolblack (35) = Dub/black Lin/Pool : dubh linn (Gaelic) black pool

phoenix-park map finnegans wake

The focus of Wake’s Dublin

(I’ll keep building these lists as I read through.)

 

Waking Up

My favourite book is Ulysses by James Joyce. I first read (most of it) at university, completed it six years later. By that time it resonated far more for me – I’d got to know and love Ireland in the interim. It has a reputation for being difficult but once you let go a bit and let it flow over you to some extent it becomes both readable and enjoyable. It feels to me like it’s about everything.

finnegans wake james joyce book novel

Inevitably after a few years the thought occurred to read Joyce’s follow-up, Finnegans Wake. In November 2017 I bought myself a copy of A Shorter Finnegans Wake, edited by Anthony Burgess. The longer original seemed so intimidating that I felt this attractive slimmish Faber volume might be the route in. But on opening to the first page it looked absolutely unreadable. A codebook with no key. Like nothing I’d ever seen, apart from perhaps the most obscure, chaotic parts of Ulysses – reminiscent but far more convoluted.

At the beginning of 2018, on 5th January, I joined the Charles Peake Seminar at the University of London, a monthly gathering at Senate House of mainly academics close-reading Ulysses, which I’d first been told about years before by Fritz Senn, the director of the James Joyce Institute in Zurich. “Good timing”, the person beside me whispered, “we’re just starting a new chapter!” I wasn’t particularly impressed until it came to light that the last one had taken 5 years. We’re talking close reading here.

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we’ve got

One of the regular attendees at the Charles Peake was Finn Fordham from Royal Holloway who led another sister seminar on Finnegans Wake, also monthly, same place. He persuaded me to try it out, reassuring me that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the book. My first session was on 23rd February 2018. we were on page 538. Now we’re on page 547. Two and a bit years to cover 9 pages!

But these two years proved crucial. A few weeks ago, during the Coronavirus lockdown, our seminar having shifted online for now and doubled in frequency through demand and enthusiasm, I realised, after a particularly enjoyable session, looking back to page 1 that I could now read what once seemed unreadable. On 26th April (2020) I embarked on the journey through the Wake. Reading at least a couple of pages every day, usually to get my day under way, I have now read the first couple of chapters, the first 50 pages, in half a month.

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.

I’m glad to get a name-check in the opening line. The central character is HCE. By my reading so far HCE is Adam (among others). HCE is a man who has a great fall by committing a sin in a garden or park, Phoenix Park in Dublin. It involves sex and breaking the law. He might have been exposing himself to some young ladies or wanking in a hidden place. He may have been frolicking with some soldiers. His crime changes with each telling. Rumours abound. HCE stands, we are told at the start of Chapter 2, for Harold or Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Humphrey connects him to another bad egg (or ego) who had a great fall, Humpty Dumpty. Chimpden is a reminder that we are but bald apes. Earwicker renders him/us lower, creepy weird insects (earwigs). But at the same time HCE is also some kind of a king. This is the night book to Ulysses‘ book of a single day around Dublin city. This one takes us to dawn through the obscurity and dream-world of a typically chaotic, but not without pattern, human sleep. Humphrey becomes Humpty becomes Adam becomes Everyman, struggling with identity, guilt and self-justification, interacting with a family equally fluid, in a language playful, funny, obscure, frustrating, innovative and plumbing the depths for things that don’t really want to come to light…

James Joyce portrait Irish writer novelist

To see or not to see, that is the question

 

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