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It is important to bear in mind that there were no computers in the late 1950s, only primitive photocopying machines (not accessible to us), and very little at all to take the pain out of the collecting of the evidence. A retired schoolteacher from Faversham in Kent, Mr R. A. Auty, undertook the task of reading the entire works of James Joyce, except for Finnegans Wake. Like a medieval scribe he copied in his own handwriting many thousands of 6 × 4 inch slips on which he entered illustrative examples for any word or meaning that occurred in Joyce and was not already entered in the [Oxford English] Dictionary.
Robert Burchfield on compiling the Supplement to the OED, in ‘Linguistic Milestones’, part 1 of the T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, 1988, published in Unlocking the English Language (1989).
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I rather wish I had never read it. It gives me an inferiority complex. When I read a book like that and then come back to my own work, I feel like a eunuch who has taken a course in voice production and can pass himself off fairly well as a bass or a baritone, but if you listen closely you can hear the good old squeak just the same as ever.
From a letter by Orwell to Brenda Salkeld, 1933
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When I was writing Ulysses I tried to give the colour and tone of Dublin with my words; the drab, yet glistening atmosphere of Dublin, its hallucinatory vapours, its tattered confusion, the atmosphere of its bars, its social immobility — they could only be conveyed by the texture of my words. Thought and plot are not so important as some would make them out to be. The object of any work of art is the transference of emotion; talent is the gift of conveying that emotion.
From Conversations with James Joyce by Arthur Power
More at Sentence first.
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Over his untasteable apology for a cup of coffee, listening to this synopsis of things in general, Stephen stared at nothing in particular. He could hear, of course, all kinds of words changing colour like those crabs about Ringsend in the morning, burrowing quickly into all colours of different sorts of the same sand where they had a home somewhere beneath or seemed to.
James Joyce, Ulysses
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James Joyce’s theme in Ulysses was simple. He invoked the most elaborate means to present it. Like other great writers, he sensed that the methods available to him in previous literature were insufficient, and he determined to outreach them. The narrator figure who often in earlier novels chaperones the reader round the action disappears. In Ulysses his place is taken by a series of narrators, usually undependable, who emerge and disappear without being identified….
A whole galaxy of new devices and stances and verbal antics, extravagant, derisive, savage, rollicking, tender and lyrical, is held in Joyce’s ironic dominion. Behind all the manifold disguises can be felt the pervasive presence of an author who never in the book acknowledges his existence.
Richard Ellmann, from his preface to Ulysses (first Vintage Books edition, 1986, edited by Hans Walter Gabler)