Where to Start With James Joyce

“But with this month marking the centenary of Ulysses and 140 years since Joyce’s birth, perhaps now really is the time to familiarise or re-familiarise yourself with the influential modernist writer.”

-Justin Jordan, “Where to start with: James Joyce.” theguardian.com. February 18, 2022.

The only Joyce I have read was Ulysses in tandem with Stuart Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses. The second is designed so that you could read a chapter to either explain what you are about to read or what you just read, and it will give you a much greater appreciation of why Ulysses is a great book. Without the explanation, many people might find Ulysses unreadable. It also helps to be familiar with the transcribed text of Homer – almost went with the original text there but it seemed wrong to say it that way. Anyway, worth a try. I decided to read the book based on the Joyce entry in Clifton Fadiman’s The New Lifetime Reading Plan, which I also recommend.

Books in 2022, Plan vs. Reality

The Plan

Last year, I made a list of books for every week of the year. I hardly read anything from the list. I read things like N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy, revisited some of the books of Iain M. Banks Culture series (currently reading Against a Dark Background), and basically, just read whatever I felt like and only looked at the list a few times. I did manage to read the first entry, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel M. Ingram, which I found worthwhile.

This year I’m going to try just one book a month.

  1. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Robert Calasso
  2. Chicago by Brian Doyle
  3. Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit
  4. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
  5. Against Method by Paul Karl Feyerabend
  6. Building Stories by Chris Ware
  7. The Chandelier by Clarice Lispector
  8. The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
  9. Circe by Madeline Miller
  10. The Odyssey by Emily Wilson
  11. Ulysses by James Joyce (in conjunction with Stuart’s companion volume)
  12. Paradise Lost by John Milton

Beyond the list, I’ll make room for anything like the Murderbot series by Martha Wells, Ann Leckie, and any of the other usual suspects. Memory’s Legion, the final book in the Expanse series is coming out in March, isn’t it? Knowing me, I’ll want to reread the whole series again next year. Maybe as a fun corrective, I’ll keep a list of books actually read below.

The Reality

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  2. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  3. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
  4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, 3/6
  5. Holes by Louis Sachar, 3/11
  6. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, 3/17
  7. Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey

Love as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

“Critically examining these blind spots, I conclude that many of us are motivated to move against domination solely when we feel our self-interest directly threatened. Often, then, the 1onging is not for a collective transformation of society, an end to politics of dominations, but rather simply for an end to what we feel is hurting us. This is why we desperately need an ethic of love to intervene in our self-centered longing for change. Fundamentally, if we are only committed to an improvement in that politic of domination that we feel leads directly to our individual exploitation or oppression, we not only remain attached to the status quo but act in complicity with it, nurturing and maintaining those very systems of domination. Until we are all able to accept the interlocking,interdependent nature of systems of domination and recognize specific ways each system is maintained, we will continue to act in ways that undermine our individual quest for freedom and collective liberation struggle.”

-bell hooks, “Love as the practice of freedom.” Outlaw Culture. New York: Routledge, 2006. pg. 244.

R.I.P. bell hooks. bell hooks was an important thinker in my life. When I was at university, I took a philosophy of feminism class. In retrospect, there was weird dynamics, where as being one of the few males in the class I was called upon to give a male perspective. The professor had a domineering style of evaluating papers, requiring five paragraph essays on the content with a specific form. Some of this may be an adaptation to students arguing they were given lower grades because the teacher did not like their perspective, but it had the unfortunate effect of negative influencing how I viewed feminism. But, bell hooks spoke in ways few other feminists did, and she showed me, through her writing, the bigger picture of domination, alienation, and so forth. Feminism is part of a larger prescription necessary to help heal the world.

The Age of Freedom, RethinkX

“During the 2020s, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. The knock-on effects for society will be as profound as the extraordinary possibilities that emerge.

In information, energy, food, transportation, and materials, costs will fall by 10x or more, while production processes an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient will use 90% fewer natural resources with 10x-100x less waste. The prevailing production system will shift away from a model of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks – a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock, and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient. This new creation-based production system, which will be built on technologies we are already using today, will be far more equitable, robust, and resilient than any we have ever seen. We have the opportunity to move from a world of extraction to one of creation, a world of scarcity to one of plenitude, a world of inequity and predatory competition to one of shared prosperity and collaboration.

This is not, then, another Industrial Revolution, but a far more fundamental shift. This is the beginning of the third age of humankind – the Age of Freedom.

James Arbib & Tony Seba, “Rethinking Humanity.” RethinkX. June 2020.

In the cryptocurrency space, the adjective, “hopium” would be used. While a post-scarcity world run by teams of super-intelligence A.I.s, like the one depicted in Iain M. Banks’ The Culture series would be a welcome development, if history is any guide, human beings tend to like inequity and predatory competition.

Mitrokhin Archive

“The “Mitrokhin Archive” is a collection of handwritten notes which were secretly made by the KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin during the thirty years in which he served as a KGB archivist in the foreign intelligence service and the First Chief Directorate. When he defected to the United Kingdom in 1992, he brought the archive with him, in six full trunks. His defection was not officially announced until 1999.[1]

The official historian of MI5, Christopher Andrew,[2] wrote two books, The Sword and the Shield (1999) and The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (2005), based on material in the archives. The books purport to provide details about many of the Soviet Union‘s clandestine intelligence operations around the world.

-Wikipedia contributors, “Mitrokhin Archive,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mitrokhin_Archive&oldid=1046370123 (accessed October 22, 2021).

Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict

“Written even before the advent of America’s war in Vietnam, Dune captures a world in which war is inherently asymmetric, where head-on, conventional military conflict has largely been replaced with all the subtler ways that humans seek to dominate one another: insurgency and counterinsurgency, sabotage and assassination, diplomacy, espionage and treachery, proxy wars and resource control. For the military officers and intelligence analysts who still read and reread Dune today, it presents an uncanny reflection of the state of geopolitical competition in 2021—from the pitfalls of regime change to the terra incognita of cyberwar.

-Andy Greenberg, “Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict.” Wired. September 28 ,2021

Obligatory. See also: The Secret History of Dune.

Amazon’s Censorship of Devil Daddy

“Censorship is alive and well over at Amazon Kindle. Last time it was our scholarly edition of the rare 1881 Victorian gay text Sins of the Cities of the Plain, which they banned for several years. Now they’ve banned the ebook of John Blackburn’s 1972 horror novel Devil Daddy, while refusing to explain why. At Amazon, any book can be blocked from sale at some random employee’s whim, with no right of appeal. Please remember that you have a choice of where to shop, and all our ebooks are available on our site, as well as Nook, Kobo and iTunes.

If you can’t zoom in on the screenshot below, here is the email from Amazon:

“As stated in our content guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what content we consider to be appropriate. This content includes both the cover art image and the content within the book. We’re unable to elaborate further on specific details regarding our content guidelines…”

-Valancourt Books, “September 2021 Update, part 2“.

I should have known. But, this is the first time I’ve heard of Amazon censoring books. When the largest retailer of book refuses to carry particular titles, especially ones that are controversial in some way, it cheapens the public discourse. Devil Daddy may not be to the taste of the average American, but the average American’s taste and community standards is a horrible basis for content guidelines.