Thursday, October 27, 2005

Off to Bella's Reef

Off to surf this wave tomorrow for ten days. ULYSSES stays home this time.

I believe I was the first one to surf this reef, certainly the first one to surf it this good (it’s pretty fickle). Following surfer custom, I have the right to name it. To do so, I have to pretty much say where it is, so I will say it’s on the northwest coast of Rote Island. And actually, the two friends who happened to be on my boat with me named the spot for my young daughter. Bella’s Reef, the beautiful wave.

For you non-surfers, this is what’s called a left-hander, as it breaks to the left as one faces the shore. On this wave the swell comes out of fairly deep water and throws its lip out far, creating the tube for the so-called tube ride. If you get inside a tube and ride it, it’s a pretty bitchin’ view.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The world's best beer snack

Little dried sardines fried with peanuts, with a dash of salt and hot little red peppers.

(These sardines don't taste like anchovies, which are yuck).

With a plate of these and a cold beer, reading ULYSSES becomes an outright pleasure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


At public places I'm often asked what I do in Bali.

This last time, I told a lifestyle surfer here on holiday, "I read ULYSSES."

He: "Pardon?"

Me: "That's I do in Bali, I read ULYSSES." I pull out the book from my bag and show him.

He (uncertain how to take me): "I've read THE DA VINCI CODE. Have you?"

Me: "Yeah."

He: "Which one do you like better?"

Me: I don't respond, for suddenly I find myself caught in one of the worst dilemmas of my lifetime.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Another ULYSSES reader

A Zoetrope colleague, Deb Turner, a South African living in upstate New York, has started reading ULYSSES and sends me this note:

I'm on page 11 (after four days of serious reading!) but actually I'm really enjoying it. I like hearing Stephen's voice.

Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coat-sleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown grave-clothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.

Now, so this is the dream and the reality of his conversation with his friend. I love how he leans against his frayed cuff and tells us first that he is being haunted by the dream of his mother. Then through the frayed cuff again he brings us back to his present conversation with his friend regarding the sea looking like a great sweet mother - and then he connects it to his consciousness with the sea looking like his mother's bile. To me this is perfection in writing. I simply and absolutely love it.

To me he connects with that deeper energy like poetry. It is hard and difficult writing but incredibly rewarding in my opinion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I'm real short-sighted.

Here I'm trying to get to the bottom of Dedalus's theory on Shakespeare.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Time Magazine's TOP 100 Novels

Notice who isn't on the list *

Here it is:
The Complete List
In Alphabetical Order

A - B
The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow

All the King's Men
Robert Penn Warren

American Pastoral
Philip Roth

An American Tragedy
Theodore Dreiser

Animal Farm
George Orwell

Appointment in Samarra
John O'Hara

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Judy Blume

The Assistant
Bernard Malamud

At Swim-Two-Birds
Flann O'Brien

Ian McEwan

Toni Morrison

The Berlin Stories
Christopher Isherwood

The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler

The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood

Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy

Brideshead Revisited
Evelyn Waugh

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Thornton Wilder

C - D
Call It Sleep
Henry Roth

Joseph Heller

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess

The Confessions of Nat Turner
William Styron

The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen

The Crying of Lot 49
Thomas Pynchon

A Dance to the Music of Time
Anthony Powell

The Day of the Locust
Nathanael West

Death Comes for the Archbishop
Willa Cather

A Death in the Family
James Agee

The Death of the Heart
Elizabeth Bowen

James Dickey

Dog Soldiers
Robert Stone

F - G
John Cheever

The French Lieutenant's Woman
John Fowles

The Golden Notebook
Doris Lessig

Go Tell it on the Mountain
James Baldwin

Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck

Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Handful of Dust
Evelyn Waugh

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers

The Heart of the Matter
Graham Greene

Saul Bellow

Marilynne Robinson

A House for Mr. Biswas
V.S. Naipaul

I, Claudius
Robert Graves

Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace

Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison

L - N
Light in August
William Faulkner

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

Vladimir Nabokov

Lord of the Flies
William Golding

The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkein

Henry Green

Lucky Jim
Kingsley Amis

The Man Who Loved Children
Christina Stead

Midnight's Children
Salman Rushdie

Martin Amis

The Moviegoer
Walker Percy

Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf

Naked Lunch
William Burroughs

Native Son
Richard Wright

William Gibson

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

George Orwell

O - R
On the Road
Jack Kerouac

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ken Kesey

The Painted Bird
Jerzy Kosinski

Pale Fire
Vladimir Nabokov

A Passage to India
E.M. Forster

Play It As It Lays
Joan Didion

Portnoy's Complaint
Philip Roth

A.S. Byatt

The Power and the Glory
Graham Greene

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Muriel Spark

Rabbit, Run
John Updike

E.L. Doctorow

The Recognitions
William Gaddis

Red Harvest
Dashiell Hammett

Revolutionary Road
Richard Yates

S - T
The Sheltering Sky
Paul Bowles

Kurt Vonnegut

Snow Crash
Neal Stephenson

The Sot-Weed Factor
John Barth

The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner

The Sportswriter
Richard Ford

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
John LeCarre

The Sun Also Rises
Ernest Hemingway

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston

Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf

Tropic of Cancer
Henry Miller

U - W
Philip K. Dick

Under the Net
Iris Murdoch

Under the Volcano
Malcolm Lowrey

Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

White Noise
Don DeLillo

White Teeth
Zadie Smith

Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys

* of course, TIME chose their list from 1923 on just so they wouldn't have to consider ULYSSES, which was published in 1922

Monday, October 17, 2005

Goshdarn it to heck!

In college I once spent Thanksgiving vacation with my friend on his grandpa's farm in Iowa. Me and my friend had both grown up as sons of missionaries in Indonesia, and the grandfather was a stalwart in the church.

Pops, my friend, and I were in the barn when Pops mishammered a nail, hitting his thumb. "Goddam it to hell," he shouted. Then he looked at us and revised himself. "Goshdarn it to heck!" he yelled.

Well, after finishing the section on Dedalus expounding on Shakespeare, that too is my sentiment. Both of them. Because I realize, that in fairness to Joyce and ULYSSES, I am going to have to re-read the whole thing --- ARGGGH GOSHDARN IT TO HECK -- just to make sure that I honestly, truly didn't get it, that I wasn't just lazing along on the surface words without trying to really understand what the heck's going on.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

If your last name was Joyce, would you name your kid "James"?

A writing colleague at Zoetrope , James Patrick Joyce, has these anecotes to share:

James: I’m reserve some computer time
Librarian: Your name?
James: James Joyce.
(Librarian pauses, looks askance, waits)
Librarian: Your library card?

James: I’d like to order The Seville Communion
Bookstore Clerk: Your name?
James: James Joyce
Clerk: (pauses) Okay. (little smile)
James: No, really.

Teacher: (doing roll-call for first class of the year) Michael Fursby, Bob Jaillard, James...
(Teacher looks up) James Joyce?
James: Here.
Teacher: James, did you know that there was a famous writer....

University Lit Student: (after mentioning her father did his thesis on James Joyce) Stephanie Wilson.
James: James Joyce.
Student: Sure. Got any I.D.?

Stranger at party: Someone told me your name is James Joyce.
James: Umm... yeah.
Stranger: (pulls tattered copy of Ullyses out of pocket) ‘Cause I’m a big fan of his.
James: Yeah, he’s popular.
Stranger: (pauses) Got any I.D.?

University Engineering Student: Dave.
James: James
Student: I’m horrible with names, so don’t take it personally if I forget.
James: Well, my full name is James Joyce, if that helps.
Student: (blank look)
James: You know, the famous writer?
Student: (blank look)
James: Portrait of the Artist? Dubliners? Ulysses-- topped many Best of the Century book lists?
Student: (blank look... shrugs)

(names have been changed to protect the irrelevant)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

RIP, Wayan Suwenda

An old surfer friend of mine who died too young. Nothing to do with ULYSSES. Some sadnesses are much bigger than that book.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Michael Ondaatje and ULYSSES

That's Michael Ondaatje, the Booker Prize winning white-haired eminence in the front row of the opening of the lit festival. I didn't get a chance to ask him if he's read ULYSSES.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival Bali 2005

I'm going to be busy with this festival, my first ever writers conference. I'll be posting accounts of it at my other blog, Novelist in Paradise.

I won't be reading ULYSSES for five or so days. Which means double my quota when I do, groan. I'm in the chapter where Stephen Dedalus waxes philosophical, theological, phenomenological, ontological and metaphysical about Shakespeare.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A ULYSSES reading club

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bali Bombing Deja Vu

I and my family live five miles from Kuta. On October 12, 2002, I was wakened from my sleep by the Kuta nightclub bomb that killed over 200 people. The enormous explosoin rattled my bedroom windows.

Last night, at 8:30, my nighttime reading was interrupted by a phone call. Three bombs had gone off in the Kuta area, two of them at a strip of beach lined with cafés, popular with families who take the kids to play in the sand and watch the sunset. We often go there for the delicious, fresh barbecued fish—even the chefs of five star hotels dine there.

The current toll this morning is 26 dead.

This time, I am not in shock. I am furious at those bastards who deliberately picked families to murder.

What can we do to stop terrorism, apart from not giving to the jerks?

America is never going to win the war on terrorism by combating it by force in Muslim lands, which only spreads the flames, a fact that doesn’t seem to be understood by the general American public. I wish this could penetrate certain dense skulls.

Westerners in general can’t do a whole lot. This particular brand of terrorism, fueled by a virulent misinterpretation of Islam, can really only be successfully combated by Muslims themselves.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


This was the bookstore in Singapore where I found a dollar copy of Ford Madox Ford's THE GOOD SOLDIER, which was written about the same time that Joyce wrote ULYSSES.

THE GOOD SOLDIER is number 30 on the Modern Library's 100 best novels of the century.

It took me a few days to read.

I can't say I'm really reading ULYSESS. I don't think one can. Read it, that is. One can study it line by line.