Birthday changes and beyond

 Happy Cinqo De Mayo, mis amigos!All of us here on ULYSSES “SEEN” are pretty sensitive to important calendar dates. Maybe it comes from keeping pace with Bloomsday (just 42days away!) and the yearly reminder it carries that this is an important novel to read (and read again). Maybe we feel this way because Joyce himself was such a stickler for the importance of dates and rather famously had the first copy of the novel delivered to him on his birthday. Stories like that are laced throughout the man’s life and in his works and serve, to me at least, as a good example of how chance and the universe often conspire to tell us things. Omens and portents and the like are something we’ve been inclined to take pretty seriously with this project.

 May 1st is a kind of birthday for us on ULYSSES “SEEN”. While Josh and Mike and I were playing around with using digital comics to adapt Joyce’s novel in 2007, it’s in May of 2009 that our company, Throwaway Horse launched the website your using now. Well in advance of the iPad’s release we were looking forward to a way to get a community of the novel’s fans into a forum that makes sense for first time readers and help generate the kind of interaction that I need as an artist for drawing the adaptation. I think we’ve built a strong learning tool here with just these two chapters and look very forward to seeing how we can bring new and more experienced fans into the deeper mysteries of the novel.The launch of our iPad app in 2010 brought renewed attention to old battles for artistic freedom that Joyce’s novel waged in the past and still, 90 years later, seem go on today. Quite a lot of new readers found their way into the novel in these past two years of the iPad app and we’re certainly proud of that.

Quite a few of you subscribers to the site also supported us in a successful kickstarter fundraising drive at the end of 2010. This allowed us to keep the lights burning in the studio throughout last year and complete second chapter for release on both the web and iPad. As a small start-up company working on a very, very big project I can’t express to you enough how important that support was at a crucial time last year.

Now, with another BloomsDay fast approaching, its time to start planning for the future material and income needed to keep us going. While our first two chapters will remain open here on the website the ULYSSES “SEEN”iPad app will no longer be free. Beginning next week will be charging $7.99 for the app. We think that’s a pretty reasonable price for 123 pages of comics, as many pages of notes and the interactive discussion forums people have on their iPads through our app. As the first direct revenue stream we’ve set up for ULYSSES “SEEN” this income will go a long way towards funding the next 16 chapters as well as new interactive features we’ve got planned along the way.

 To any of you who have already downloaded the app this change in price won’t have any effect on the content or updates you’ll be receiving. For those of you haven’t downloaded it yet, or have friends who’ve not, we’d like to encourage you to get the app this week while it’s still free. Maybe not the strongest business strategy on our end, but we’d like to give our supporters, subscribers and friends here on the website the chance to stay ahead of the crowd.
 Right now,  just 42 days from BloomsDay, we’ve got a lot more news and lot more fresh pages of the comic ready to come your way. But for today, Cinqo De Mayo, we suggest you trade in your pint of Guinness for a couple of Coronas and kickback in the sunshine while downloading the free ULYSSES “SEEN” app. There’s a lot more still to come…


We’re making April less cruel

We hope that as fans of Ulysses “Seen”, and presumably Ulysses, you share our love of modernist literature at large. We also hope you share our sense of humor, our desire to hack through the thornier patches of this stuff, and our wish that more people read it so that we could talk more about it and demonstrate how bloody clever we are.

Soooo, if you haven’t heard, we launched a Throwaway Horse take on T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, called Martin Rowson’s The Waste Land Seen. We took acclaimed political cartoonist Martin Rowson’s take on The Waste Land, added our Reader’s Guide to it, and launched it as another iPad app. A set of five sample pages can be found here.  We’ve been selling the app for $9.99, but for the month of April only we are reducing the price to $7.99. Please consider purchasing this app and recommending to your friends. It would make our April slightly less cruel.


To read sample pages:

To download the app:

New Joyce-related comic, Joyce and a Little “Sirens” MS, Joyce and the Turntables

Just some odds and ends from the James Joyce world this week:

The occasion of Joyce’s 130th birthday this past Thursday meant that there was a lot of Joyce-related news:

First, Mary and Bryan Talbot’s collaboration — The Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes — was published this week by Dark Horse Comics.  The comic tells the parallel stories of the relationships of Lucia and James Joyce and that of Mary Talbot and her father, James Atherton.  Atherton was a prominent Joyce scholar – his Books at the Wake is still a standard reference to Finnegans Wake.  Here’s a story from Sex, Drugs & Comic Books about the book launch in London.

Sarah Funke Butler from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller wrote an interesting piece for The Paris Review for Joyce’s birthday.  I don’t agree with all of her analysis of copyright law, necessarily, but there’s a great image of a manuscript note from “Sirens,” with an interesting discussion of Joyce’s writing process & the circumstances around the creation of Ulysses.

Old friend Damien Keane writes about Joyce and the resurgence of vinyl here.

Happy Birthday Old Artificer!

Today, February 2, 2012, is the 130th anniversary of Joyce’s birth, and the 90th anniversary of the publication of *Ulysses.*  Steve King’s account of the holy day in Joyce’s life gets the point across: it was very important that the book be delivered to him on this day, and his friends made sure that it was.  While Joyce suffered at the hands of those who were afraid to publish his work, he also benefited greatly from the generosity of his friends — Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier – the couple who published it; Harriet Shaw Weaver, who supported him financially and emotionally; Valery Larbaud, who was one of the books first and best critics… not to mention Frank Budgen, or Joyce’s brother Stanislaus, or his Aunt Josephine.  It’s a good day to give thanks for all the people around Joyce who made his creation of the book possible – and in that list we would have to give his wife Nora the highest place.

We have great things in store for you in this coming year — the great year of the public domain.  Currently we’re working on the “floor plans” of “Nestor” and “Lotus Eaters” – two episodes that take place at the same time on June 16, 1904, so we’re having fun creating them at the same time as well.  Many great coincidences and opportunities for interweaving of details.  In the final months of writing *Ulysses* – the summer and fall of 1921, Joyce would work on several chapters at the same time — editing page proofs for early chapters as he was still drafting the final ones.  (Add to the list of those who suffered that we might read the name of the printer, Maurice Darantiere, who set and reset and reset again the pages of the novel [in letterpress, no less] as Joyce made his thousands of changes to the text).
Stay tuned, friends, and take a short dip into the book today. As with any great work, a lot of people made it happen, not all of whom are found on the cover!
Photo: Courtesy of Wim and Chrissie van Mierlo

More Public Domain News – What’s This About Letters?

Mark O’Connell has a very interesting piece in the New Yorker’s “The Book Bench” about the new public domain status of much of James Joyce’s work. A lot of people have been waiting many years for this day, but the piece makes the important point that the Joyce Estate is not out of the picture entirely. The most widely used edition of Ulysses (up until now, anyway), the Gabler Edition, is still protected by copyright. Finnegans Wake is still protected in the United States. And then there are the works like Stephen Hero that were published after his death, and then there are the letters, published and unpublished. Sean Latham, the editor of the James Joyce Quarterly, has some tantalizing things to say about editions of heretofore-unpublished letters that are in the works! We will stay tuned.

If you want an exhaustive, if somewhat headache-inducing, guide to Joyce works and copyright, check out this FAQ from the International James Joyce Foundation. Short Version: There is no short version. But if you read the section on unpublished works, you can see where there’s a surprising bit of daylight that may explain why there are editions of unpublished letters in the works.

“First-time” Stories, 2011

First time is always hard. Always. Whenever Joyce fans meet they invariably get around to discussing how they made it through the book that first time. We try to get a few of these stories in every Bloomsday, I’m sorry to get this one out to you so late on a very busy June 16th, but Bloomsday has become a very worldwide event this year and, even here in Philadelphia, we’re running on Dublin time. This is from Rob Maher, a new friend to ULYSSES “SEEN”, and can be found in full on his blog “The Eponymist”.


Ulysses Prime
Like most things in life, I came to ‘Ulysses’ late. I was twenty five, in the second year of an astrophysics degree (I’d also come to university late), but having serious doubts about what I was doing. Astronomy was something I’d had a passion for since I was young. I’d spectacularly failed to apply myself at school, but having done a foundation year in physics and maths at night school, working my backside off in the process, I talked my way onto my preferred course at Cardiff University. Once I got there, I didn’t really a have a clue about what to do next.
So, after an indifferent first semester, in which I just scraped through exams, I did even less work during the second and flunked almost every subject. Taking re-sits over the summer, I did a single night’s revision for most subjects, managing to pass everything but the Theoretical Physics module and had to wait a year before I could sit the exam for a third time. I shouldn’t have gone back, but once I did, you’d have thought I’d have learned my lesson and applied myself. But no. I was spectacularly failing all over again. And these were the conditions under which I first read ‘Ulysses’.
It took three weeks that first time. I should have been studying Schrodinger’s wave equations and logic circuits, but instead I was playing ‘Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time’ on the N64 and reading ‘Ulysses’. My reward for finishing a dungeon on Zelda was that I got to read a chapter of ‘Ulysses’. An odd way ‘round to do things, I know. I probably didn’t understand one fifth of what I was reading (I missed the Blazes Boylan subplot entirely), but I knew that what I was reading was a revelation. Countless times people had told me that such-and-such a novel or play was a masterpiece and I had read them and always felt let down. It wasn’t that they weren’t great works, but appreciation is a matter of expectation and if you expect genius and find merely brilliance, there’s an sense of underwhelming disappointment. ‘Ulysses’ was the first book I read that exceeded those expectations.
In many ways, it is an experience from which I have yet to truly recover. I dropped out of university soon after. Astronomy may have been my first love, but another obsession had been creeping up on me those last few years. What I really wanted was to be a writer. It was something for which I seemed to have a talent. I think I thought it would make a good career. I’d had no artistic pretentions, the life of a hack would suit me just fine.
Reading ‘Ulysses’, all I could think was, “You mean you’re allowed to do this? Why did no one tell me?” My literary third eye had, to paraphrase Bill Hicks, been squeegeed clean. A whole new world had opened as to what literature could achieve. You weren’t limited to telling a story at the surface level, the syntax and associations of the words you chose to employ could tell another story entirely.
I worked for a year, then went backpacking around Europe (another late first), taking ‘Ulysses’ with me and reading it again. I read Joyce’s other masterpieces. When Jim Norton’s unabridged reading of ‘Ulysses’ was released, I listened to that and got a handle on the few chapters that were still troubling me. And all the time I was teaching myself the skills that I thought would make me a better writer. I knew that I would never be as good as Joyce, but that was fine. Joyce was (and is) my high water mark. Joyce is an unscalable peak, always ahead of me, reminding me to never stop climbing.
It is therefore no coincidence that in making one of my first attempts to write a short story, I turned to both Joyce and Greek legend for inspiration. In ‘Eden Stir Her Laceless Veil’, I borrowed Joyce’s switching between the passive and active voice in ‘Eveline’ (from ‘Dubliners’) and appropriated the myths relating to Jason and Medea, performing the same Viconian transformation that Joyce had made on the legend of Odysseus when writing ‘Ulysses’.
Giambattista Vico was a 17th/18th century Italian political philosopher who theorised that all of human history moves through three cycles, The Age of Gods, The Age of Heroes and The Age of Man, before the Ricorso, the time of chaos before everything resets itself and begins the whole cycle again. In ‘Ulysses’, Joyce transforms Odysseus into Leopold Bloom. Whereas Homer’s hero is a brutal hothead, Joyce’s ‘Poldy’ is a thoughtful pacifist. God’s and nymphs are replaced by the ordinary men and women of Dublin and great signifiers of power and virility become objects of the commonplace.
In writing ‘Eden Stir Her Laceless Veil’, I studied the legends connected to Jason and Medea in great detail and sought mundane modern equivalents to their key events. Ultimately, I don’t want to write like Joyce. As brilliant as he is, his later works are so opaque and obscure that they put most people off. Few people read the classics as it is and I’d rather find a happy medium between art and popularism. I want to be read. That said, I wanted to write a short piece where virtually every word had meaning: where, like Joyce, no other word would do than the one I had chosen. For a first effort, it’s not bad, although I’ve written better since (you can read it here: along with some companion pieces).
‘Ulysses’ remains not only my favourite novel, but my favourite work of art, period. With each successive reading, I discover subplots that I hadn’t noticed before and new nuances to the text. It is the book that just keeps on giving. ‘Ulysses’ had a profound effect upon me on that first reading and I am still reeling from the effects over a decade later. I may spend the rest of my life as an enthusiastic amateur, eeking out a living from writing reports, but it’s a life affirming path with some breathtaking views. And there’s always the next reading of ‘Ulysses’ to look forward to. I envy anyone reading Joyce for the first time.
-Rob Maher
Thanks, Rob! He also has some very nice things to say about the comic. I’m too shy to record them here, but too flattered (and wise enough in self-promotion) not to send you again to the link.

Bloomsday Watch; New York

What are you doing in New York City on a fine June day? What are you doing right now? Well, why not put on your best frock or bowler and wander over to Bryant Park for the Irish Arts Center’s Bloomsday Breakfast?

“The festivities begin at 8 am with complementary Irish breakfast hors d’oeuvres, served in honor of the iconic opening scene of the novel. Entertainment includes musical performances by special guests Songs of Joyce and a selection of readings from Ulysses by Terry George, director and Academy Award nominated writer of Hotel RwandaJames Newman, “Tony” from the recent MTV series SkinsFionnula Flanagan, whose many movie credits include the 1967 film UlyssesAedin Moloney, founder and artistic director of New York based Fallen Angel Theatre Company;Isaiah Sheffer, founding artistic director of Symphony Space; andCharlotte Moore, artistic director at Irish Repertory Theatre. A donation of 100 copies of the novel will be given to New York Public Library, Queens Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Bryant Park Reading Room.”

And, of course, after breakfast, continue celebrating at the 30th Annual Bloomsday on Broadway, Symphony Space’s day-long homage to Ulysses, with a live radio broadcast all day on and after 8 p.m. on 93.9 FM WNYC. More details