Today is Bloomsday where the more literary-minded drunks among us, gather to read passages from James Joyce’s most celebrated novel Ulysses and, well, drink.
The novel is set in one day–June 16, 1904–in the life of the protagonist, Leopold Bloom.
As our contribution to this day, we offer a brief except from Lower than Angels: A Memoir of War and Peace, written by the pseudonymous, W. W. Windstaff. He is writing about his time in Paris in the 20s.
Windstaff’s identity remains one of the great literary mysteries.
“No matter where the Americans came from, you could usually sell them a volume of Joyce. Most were not literary, but had heard it was a “dirty” book. You had to split with a reporter on the Herald who could do the James Joyce signature with a real feel, and even add a personal message. Of course Joyce, if you caught him before he got plastered on white wine, he’d be happy to sign one of the blue-covered books. He sang too, but I couldn’t make any money on that.”
The much-anticipated release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has millions of fans and literature lovers flocking to the theaters this weekend. While we sit back and revisit F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American tale of extravagance and disillusionment in the Roaring Twenties, we remember what W. W. Windstaff had to say about living among the Lost Generation in Paris and his impressions of Fitzgerald’s magnum opus:
“The way I see it, the American expatriates were kidding themselves. They thought they were hard nuts, realists. They were bloody romantics; we all know that crap about ‘the lost generation’ and Scott’s ‘all the sad young men.’ Few really knew life down in the dirt, a lousy job and a noisy family. That’s what’s wrong with Jay Gatsby. Scott never knew a real killer, a gang lord, a mean hard-nosed bootlegger, which Gatsby was supposed to be. A big-shot rackets man. If he were, he’d not have show Daisy silk shirts, he’d have pistol-whipped Tom, her husband, and ended up running New York City. Romantics don’t love Al Capones, nor do real Gatsbys yearn over a lost love. It’s still a fine book, but it’s the dream of a lace curtain Irish poor kid snob, writing about scoring with the quality.”
—W. W. Windstaff, Lower than Angels: A Memoir of War and Peace