Stumbled into the John Ritblat Gallery at the British Library today. Utterly free, utterly stunning. You can get to London? You like books, you say? Do yourself a favour.
I'd been in before and ogled at Shakespeare's signature - at least they say it is, and who are we to disagree - this time I had a hankering for anything Joycean, as he is my current squeeze.
And there he was. Behind a case, an open notebook in his spidery hand, a beautifully ga-ga confection of scratchings and musings and wordplay, all at odd angles, overlapping each other. The card tells you they're notes for Finnegans Wake. Again, we'll have to take that on trust.
But more, more. There's a selection of recordings from the National Sound Archive, so you put the headphones on, and press the wee button, and Jim reads to you from Ulysses. How brilliant is that?
He rolls his "r"s, was my first thought. Joyce might have had fun with that observation.
The sound he makes is overall melodious, mocking, tender and rumbunctious. He sounds like he's enjoying himself. He's self-conscious (a rare thing in 1924 to be asked to recite into a recorder) and at the same time self-possessed.
He reads from the Aeolus chapter (don't ask me what number it is). There's a lot about empire and culture and Mosaic law. But it's funny. It's the way he tells 'em.
Also by the way, in the Library foyer, there's an exhibition of letters, books, playbills etc all to do with that other Irish reprobate, Oscar Wilde. I especially liked the little notes Wilde wrote from home on headed notepaper, and the copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray inscribed to his wife.