James Joyce James Joyce: The Complete Recordings

[Sub Rosa; 2003]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: documentary, speech recording
Others: Random House’s Voice of the Poet series

It isn't very often that Tiny Mix Tapes reviews writers' recordings, but it isn't very often that the world is gifted with an author like James Joyce. James Joyce: The Complete Recordings is a collection of Joyce's readings from two of his most famous works: Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.  The first track is a reading from chapter seven of Ulysses, a chapter also referred to as the "Eolian Episode." The second track, which takes up the bulk of the recording, is "Anna Livia Plurabelle" from Finnegans Wake.

While listenable, Joyce's lucid Irish lilt in the "Eolian Episode" recording is fuzzed over by crackles and a pervasive sound of blowing wind. This reading was recorded in Paris in 1924, so the crackling sound is understandable. That doesn't make it any less disappointing for Joyce fans who read clues into texts from things as subtle as Joyce's pronunciations and phrasing, though. We're talking about people who travel all the way to Dublin, Ireland for a glass of burgundy and a gorgonzola cheese sandwich in Davy Byrnes' pub!

Joyce's reading of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" is much clearer and easier to understand, a benefit to "Wakeians" for the same reasons mentioned above. As difficult as Ulysses is, scholars concur that Finnegans Wake is an entirely different species. Any little bit of clarity provided is beneficial and much appreciated; even if it's only eight minutes and 33 seconds worth of clarity.

Accompanying the recordings is a small, 113-page booklet with a mini-biography of Joyce's life written by his friend Eugene Jolas and edited by Marc Dachy. Jolas and his wife Maria are known for showing Joyce kindness and support during his 17 year production of Finnegans Wake, and Maria Jolas aided Joyce scholar Richard Ellman in his work on Joyce.

These recordings, while not complete or easy to understand, are essential for James Joyce completists who are either serious fans of his work or scholars /graduate students trying to dig up more information on two of Joyce's most influential novels.

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