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James and the giant vocabulary

Posted by on August 21, 2005

After years of avoiding him, I’m finally taking James Joyce for a spin. I made the decision once I’d exhausted all my Trollope. After he limped off the floor, I was looking around for a partner and there was James, as usual, sitting shyly against the wall on an uncomfortable folding shelf, watching me eagerly. I sighed.

The thing is, nobody wants to dance with James. He’s a nice enough guy, with The Dubliners and so on to recommend him, but who wants to spend the evening staring at the enormous Finnegan’s Wake growing out of his face? Still, he keeps hanging around. For a while it seemed like we were going to be rid of him at last–all the professors who had befriended him are getting old, on their last legs–eventually there’ll be no one to speak up for him and then, surely, he’ll have to go. But then last semester Sean took pity on him, like an idiot, and once Sean is your friend you have both feet solidly planted in the door and you’re not going anywhere.

And there he was, watching me hopefully from the sidelines. He tried to make himself as appealingly thin as possible, narrowing into A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as if he’d always been that size. I looked around the room desperately. There was Pynchon, but after our last fling I could hardly go back to him without swallowing my pride and a heavy dose of conspiracy theories. Arthur Miller and Nabokov, two longtime companions, were busy smoking cigarettes on the patio. Of course there’s always the Grimm Brothers, but they’re so juvenile most of the time. Nope, I was stuck with James. So I nodded to him to come over and we started to boogey.

“Say, James,” I noted, “you’re not such a bad dancer.” Once we’d gotten past the initial nervous “moocow coming down the road” nonsense, James actually settled down into a respectable foxtrot. In fact, as the dance wore on, he became downright inspired. Before I knew it, we’d danced the better part of the afternoon and evening away.

I guess I haven’t been entirely fair to JJ all these years. In fact, if I can just get him to shut up about hellfire, this might be a love match after all.

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