There was a brief period at the beginning of the 20th century that has lived on, constantly finding its way into our hearts, through the works a few genius (if, perhaps, morally questionable) men: the Paris of the 1920s. Some of the greatest minds came together and created, leaving behind a legacy that has tantalized our imaginations ever since. Perhaps the two most famous were Ernest Hemingway, who immortalized the experience of an American in Paris in his book A Movable Feast, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote one of the most loved novels of all time, The Great Gatsby.
Yet one man is often side-lined by such accessible names. That man is James Joyce. All of us have heard of this unapologetic eccentric, yes of course, but rarely does he receive the amount of attention his two compatriots inspire. He was not an American but a born and raised Dubliner who spent most of his time in Italy, not Paris; he loved his wife very much and she him.
But Joyce, for all his strangeness, had just as much cause for our attention as anyone else. Here are some fun facts for all you literary lovers out there:
1. Joyce, for all the trouble he most certainly stirred up, preferred to hide behind the stronger Hemingway as this video shows.
2. Ulysses all took place on day, June 16. This day was chosen in part because of the various historical events important to Ireland that happened, but also because it was the first day James Joyce ever took his wife Nora for an outing.
3. Joyce had a horrifying fear of dogs (cynophobia) as a result of a dog attack he underwent at the age of five and a fear of thunder and lighting (keraunophobia), the result of his grandmother telling him thunder was the wrath of an angry God.
4. Finnegan’s Wake, perhaps one of the most unreadable novels of all time, sounds fantastic when Joyce is the one reading. Listen here.
5. The word “quark” comes from Finnegan’s Wake. Scientist Murray Gell-Mann considered naming it “kwork”, but upon discovery of the already invented word, he knew he had to use it instead.
Of course, there needs no further reasons to love this wonderful writer, but there can never be too much love for the rowdy intellectuals of that time and place.