Thursday, April 11, 2013

O Bloody Shite...Ireland Does It Again

Official Ireland's flailing attempts to honor its writers always tend to ring hollow or fall flat. The bust of Joyce on Stephen's Green is a remarkable likeness of Mahatma Gandhi; the lameness and tameness of the Joyce statue off O'Connell Street quickly caused Dubliners to dub it "The Prick With the Stick"; the nearby and silly Anna Livia Plurabelle fountain is likewise called "The Floozie in the Jacuzzi"; the James Joyce Center is a place in search of a purpose, a shell without a snail; Joyce's tower at Sandycove is Dublin's stubbiest tourist trap; the Irish Writers Museum is a great argument for the irrelevance of writers' museums generally (a writer's true and only museum is his work; if no one wishes to visit his books, he deserves the oblivion that has already come); and the less said about the rather creepy statue of Oscar Wilde lounging lizard-like on a boulder in Merrion Square, the better.

The latest of these lead balloons, trundled out today, is a ten-euro commemorative coin from the Central Bank of Ireland showing on its commemorating face a poor likeness of Joyce in coiny silver ("Not a bloody bit like the man...") with the upper third of his head inexplicably sawed off and replaced with the opening lines of the "Proteus" episode:

We need not mention the kitschy Celtic harp on the reverse (a standard symbol on Irish coinage which Joyce would've mocked mercilessly), because the face of the coin alone is an embarrassing and multiple failure. It was immediately noticed that the quotation floating from the opened skull of this unfortunate victim of neurosurgical malpractice (who looks more the prim Irish schoolmaster than the rowdy, randy, Rabelaisian writer) contains in its fourth line a 'that' that's not to be found in either of the standard editions of Joyce's text. "...Signatures of all things that I am here to read..." reads the sicly coin, while both the Random House and Gabler versions agree that that 'that' should not be there. Oops.

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