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Making the Wrong Joyce’: An Exchange

In response to:

Making the Wrong Joyce from the September 25, 1997 issue

To the Editors:

John Kidd, editor of a forthcoming rival edition, begins his attack on Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition [NYR, September 25, 1997] by disputing my balancing of Bloom’s budget. In this he displays—four times!—an astonishing ignorance of Ulysses. He writes that “Bloom hops a train during his Nighttown rescue of young, drunken Stephen.” The train ride occurs in the space between “Oxen” and “Circe.” He writes that “Bloom’s budget ignores his travels to Circe altogether.” All published versions of the budget include no less than five items from “Circe.” He writes that Bloom pays “Ten shillings for Stephen’s entertainment.” Stephen pays for himself and for Lynch and tries, twice over, to pay for Bloom, who pays for himself. He writes that the omission of the train fare and the payment to Bella Cohen is deliberate because the budget is part of Bloom’s account to Molly of his day’s wanderings. The budget is compiled straightforwardly in the front room as Bloom begins to undress; the censored accounting to Molly occurs later, in the bedroom, and explicitly excludes any reference to Bloom’s correspondence with Martha Clifford (to which in the budget two items refer).

As there is no plausible explanation for the omission from the budget of the train fare/payment to Mrs. Cohen, it is reasonable to assume that in the headlong rush to publication these were left out by oversight. The manuscript record supports this assumption. On four occasions Joyce emended his original compilation by correcting figures and adding in items left out in error, making the last of these insertions a mere few days before publication on 2 February 1922. Given more time to recheck, it is almost certain that he would have completed the list. A full and accurate budget rewards close reading, operating as it does as a kind of mini-Odyssey. We can now see, for example, that prudent Bloom has frittered away nearly as much as feckless Stephen. An incomplete, inaccurate, and impressionistic budget simply misinforms. In May 1922, Joyce wrote to Harriet Weaver: “In a second edition the mistakes must be corrected. Some of the blunders and omissions which disfigure Ithaca especially are lamentable.” They are corrected for the first time in the Reader’s Edition.

Which of the four manuscript versions, or the four previously published versions, each inaccurate in a different way, does Kidd propose to publish in his edition?

A reader’s edition is primarily a text to be read for pleasure, in which the reasonable expectations of the reader for accuracy, clarity, coherence, and an attractive physical format are accorded a say in influencing editorial decisions. This idea follows naturally from recent advances in editorial theory. No book is the work of the author alone. There is always an input from advisers, copyreaders, designers, printers, and so on. Traditional Greg-Bowers editing strives to remove this input (as being non-authorial), contemporary social-contract editing seeks to preserve it (as being an integral part of the original creation and reception of the work), whereas my idea (for, specifically, a “reader’s edition”) is to replace it with its modern equivalent (thus treating the work as if it were being published for the first time). Such an edition will inevitably upset academics and others who have become familiar with earlier editions. But it should not; those editions remain widely available and the relatively small number of changes (such as to Bloom’s budget) apart, the editorial input is concerned mainly with modernizing the surface features of the text (typography, spellings) and correcting the punctuation when it can be plausibly inferred that a typist, compositor, or Joyce himself made a mistake.

It is precisely the surface changes in the new edition that have provoked the greatest hostility. Take the so-called headlines in “Aeolus.” These were introduced on the proofs into a continuous narrative. From as early as a few months after publication it was admitted by Joyce that they did not work out as planned. Every subsequent edition has varied the size and darkness of the type but, in my view, each attempt failed to eliminate the chief problem: the inserts as printed appear as titles of distinct vignettes of text. For the Reader’s Edition we decided on bold small caps centered vertically as well as horizontally. “Aeolus” can now be read as originally written, as continuous narrative, and the headlines as what they are: interruptions, background noise, the thumping, thump of the printing presses.

In the case of spellings (apart from those instances as in “Oxen” where archaism is deliberate and required) the Reader’s Edition is explicitly a modernized edition. Kidd makes much of a Miltonic allusion that he perceives in “woful” as spoken by Buck Mulligan. Even if an allusion is intended (which I doubt) it is not lost in the emendation to “woeful” as most readers will know Lycidas from a modern edition (such as the Oxford Anthology) where the word is spelled “woeful.”

While recommending the correction of “Arbraccan” to “Ardbraccan,” Kidd balks at tampering with “the Sundam trench of the Pacific.” In this passage in “Ithaca,” Bloom, musing on the qualities of water, conjures up an image of the deepest deep of the oceans. Fleshing out Bloom’s thought, Joyce consulted notes copied from a reference book. He evidently made a mistake in copying, confusing two entries, because (a) the Sunda Trench is in the Indian Ocean, and (b) the Marianne Trench, the deepest known, is in the Pacific. An editor interested in getting placenames right has two choices: emend “Sundam” to “Sunda” and “Pacific” to “Indian Ocean”; or, more in keeping with the spirit of the passage, follow the Reader’s Edition and emend “Sundam” to “Marianne.”

Choices must invariably be made in any serious edition. But there is a strong element of intolerance in the Joyce world. Any intimation that the master may have been less than perfect, may not have been fully in control of his texts, may not have been a very good book designer, or that some of the typographical effects in the first edition have become dated and need revision is instantly repudiated. Even when Joyce’s fallibility is acknowledged, that very fallibility is itself immediately declared to be an essential ingredient in the work. This makes editing Joyce especially hazardous.

Before I began work I spoke to a great many people about Ulysses. Almost without exception they had given up reading the book after a few episodes. This is the unpalatable truth at the heart of Joyce studies. The greatest novel of the twentieth century has become a textbook to be imposed upon unwilling students and/or a pretext for their teachers to wax lyrical on psychology, sociology, gender studies—on anything at all.

It seemed to me that a major difficulty in the sustained reading of Ulysses lay in the gradual accumulation of irritations: simple errors, eccentric and wrong spellings, flawed punctuation, excessive use of compounds (as in “wellknown,” “illusing,” “softlyfeatured”), mistakes that might or might not have significance, absurd potential symbolisms (such as Kidd’s conflation of Captain Buller with Byron), the consequent necessity of footnotes, all embodied in an outdated typographical layout. In the postcopyright era, there is surely room for an edition that remakes Ulysses as of our own time, reinvigorates and lightens it and eliminates as far as possible obstacles to the free flow of the text. One cannot recreate the past. One can however try to recreate the excitement, the unprecedentedness, and the modernity of the first publication. That is what I have sought to achieve in the Reader’s Edition. Many readers have confirmed that they can now read the book with greater ease and enhanced enjoyment. Ultimately, for Ulysses, that is what really matters.

Danis Rose
Dublin, Ireland

John Kidd replies:

My “astonishing ignorance of Ulysses,” as Danis Rose calls it, is less astounding if one considers how elusive are the “facts” of Ulysses. Leopold Bloom’s budget for June 16, 1904, has tied Joyce’s readers and editors in knots for decades. In 1984, Hugh Kenner’s glowing TLS review of Hans Walter Gabler’s now-tarnished edition set off an exchange over the price of “1 Cake Fry’s plain chocolate.” Gabler had “corrected” the purchase from one pence to a shilling. Octogenarian chocolate lovers protested that the correction was incorrect—one pence was the Edwardian price of Fry’s confection. Danis Rose and I agree on the penny chocolate, but little else, it seems. As for allegedly writing “the budget is part of Bloom’s account to Molly of his day’s wanderings,” my only defense is that I wrote no such thing. Molly is not mentioned in my account of the budget and enters the review only later when I object to Mr. Rose strewing a thousand apostrophes, hyphens, capitals, and italics throughout her bedroom monologue.

My phrase “Bloom hops a train during his Nighttown rescue of young, drunken Stephen” earns the retort that “the train ride occurs in the space between ‘Oxen’ and ‘Circe.”’ Precisely. In order to rescue Stephen, Bloom sets off from the Holles Street maternity hospital on a train to Nighttown. For a man obsessed with attacking “academics” and residents of the “ivory tower,” Mr. Rose applies an overly literal, if not pedantic, reading to such words as “Nighttown rescue.”

With similar literalism, Mr. Rose objects to the statement that Bloom pays “Ten shillings for Stephen’s entertainment.” I was simply repeating the common view. Mark Osteen’s The Economy of Ulysses argues: “Since Bloom was in Nighttown only to watch over him, Bloom really owes nothing. Moreover, Stephen was about to be fleeced by the shrewd Bella. In spirit, then, Bloom’s half sovereign [a ten shilling coin] is a gift” (1995, p. 342).

The most damning charge, that I am unaware that Bloom’s budget contains “no less than five items from ‘Circe,”’ is puzzling. The sentence in dispute does not refer to “Circe” the chapter, but Circe the Homeric sorceress—here the whoremistress Bella. After his train ride, Bloom is seen stuffing his pockets with the budget’s bread, chocolate, a pig’s foot, and a sheep’s trotter. Only thirty pages after pocketing the crubeen and trotter does he arrive at the brothel of Mrs. Cohen, the Circe stand-in. Circe and “Circe” are not identical.

In Book 23, Homer’s Ulysses skims over his sexually charged encounter with Circe: so does Bloom in his “Ithaca” budget. Most Joyceans accept the literary logic. Mr. Rose alone insists that “there is no plausible explanation for the omission” of the brothel expenses. There is a plausible explanation, and like much of Ulysses, the budget will, no matter how we edit it, ring untrue to some reader somewhere. For example, Mark Osteen has argued for a separate budget line for “interest” on the money Bloom held for Stephen. Why do we have Mr. Rose’s coy “Mrs. Cohen” entry when “sexual services” and “broken lamp” would be even more “factual”?

Claiming that traditional “Greg-Bowers editing” precludes input from “advisers, copyreaders, designers, printers, and so on,” Mr. Rose has confused welcome from unwelcome input. The point of W.W. Greg’s essay “A Rationale of Copy-Text” and Fredson Bowers’s lifelong practice was that successive transcriptions of an author’s work often corrupt it with unwelcome alterations of spelling and punctuation, even as the author is revising the wording from one edition to the next. (Mr. Rose is the rare editor who provides fresh wording and budget lines beyond the author’s own.) For perspective on the flexibility of “copy-text” theory, I recommend G. Thomas Tanselle’s Textual Criticism since Greg (1987) and A Rationale of Textual Criticism (1989).

Modernizing Joyce’s spelling and punctuation is neither apt nor original. Most cheap editions of another Dublin masterwork, Gulliver’s Travels, modernize Swift as faithlessly as Mr. Rose did Joyce. Ulysses: A Reader’s Edition is a throwback to the bad old days before Greg, Bowers, and Tanselle. As for “social-contract editing,” which aims to recapture the original collaboration of many persons in making a book, its proponents must be appalled, since Joyce contracted with Sylvia Beach and company, not Danis Rose.

Ten times a page Mr. Rose inflicts on Joyce a homogenization that mocks the intelligence of the common reader. He revises the wording, too. Joyce writes of people aimlessly “lobbing about” in Chapters Five and Eight, thus Mr. Rose’s “lolling about” (pp. 69, 144). Most readers of Ulysses resort to a dictionary, but none expect a translation within the book itself. (Mr. Rose’s meddling with Joyce’s use of the Miltonic “woful” has reverberated all the way to Beijing where translator Sylvan Nathans noticed I had called Stephen Dedalus the “woful lunatic.” The “lunatic” is properly the Englishman Haines: Stephen is shortly said to suffer “g.p.i.” or “general paralysis of the insane.”)

Mr. Rose is adamant about his “Marianne Trench,” to which he assigns a depth “exceeding 6000 fathoms.” Having lived two years on Guam in the Marianas I was struck by the antique spelling. So alien is the “-nne” spelling today that the stupefyingly erudite Eric Korn mistook it for French (TLS, September 5, 1997). Joyce himself wrote only of a “Sundam Trench” at Java and an “unplumbed profundity… exceeding 8000 fathoms.” Joyce intended something “unplumbed,” as was much of the undulating Sunda (no “m”) in 1904, during which Ulysses takes place, two years before soundings by the German vessel Planet. At the dawn of oceanography a layman’s guess of 8,000 fathoms was not entirely farfetched. If Mr. Rose wants to give his trench the 1904 name of Marianne, he must reduce its depth even further: in 1899 the USS Nero measured this deepest deep at 5,629 fathoms. Since a depth “exceeding 6000 fathoms” was recorded too late for Bloom to know Mr. Rose’s figure, Mr. Rose has created an anachronism seen in no other edition. And how did the Indian Ocean’s Sunda Trench end up in Bloom’s Pacific? By Joycean tectonics: the island of Java marks the border of the Indian Ocean with the China Sea, itself the westernmost basin of the Pacific.

Elsewhere a stickler for accuracy, Mr. Rose neglects the unhistorical names detailed in my review. He mentions Ardbraccan (unhistorically “Arbraccan” in the Reader’s Edition) without conceding the oversight. What of John Joyce’s friend Weatherup misnamed Wetherup, or Charles W. Poole as “Pooles,” or the Zingari cricket club as “zingaro“? What of his tampering with the stage name Martin Harvey and the attested if rare Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn?

Here’s a new name: Mr. Rose changes Mastiansky to Masliansky, the latter a true Jewish name, the former a typo Joyce unwittingly lifted from Thom’s Directory. For ethnic consistency, should not the jumbled “Ostrolopsky” in Bloom’s genealogy become the distinctly Jewish Ostropolsky? Did Mr. Rose independently check “every” name as he told Lingua Franca in a taped interview (October 1997)? Tellingly, the errors, oversights, and overzealous emendations of The Reader’s Edition match name-for-name the spellings in Professor Don Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated. Where Gifford slips, so does Rose.

Deriding the Ph.D.s he relies on for research, Mr. Rose proposes that his post-Joyce revisions will wrest Ulysses from the teachers polluting students with “psychology, sociology, gender studies.” He seems eager to alienate anyone professionally engaged with James Joyce. If common sense prevails, Ulysses will survive his distorting attentions.

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