Posts Tagged ‘Dave Lull’

The man who was “the soul of the Czech nation”

Monday, December 1st, 2014

havel5In an era that is so cynical about its politicians and leaders, it’s nice to know that Václav Havel even existed (we’ve written about him here and here). So we can be grateful to a new biography by Michael Žantovsky, Havel’s former press secretary, advisor, and longtime friend, for reminding us in his new biography Havel: A Life. Publishers Weekly called it “a vivid and intimate biography of the playwright-turned-statesman who came to embody the soul of the Czech nation.” The review continues:

“Though Žantovský claims to have relied on his “dispassionate notes” and training as a clinical psychologist while writing, the unfettered access he enjoyed to Havel during his presidency’s most eventful years undoubtedly accounts for much of the book’s insight into his personality—equal parts self-doubt, stubbornness, and vision. After covering Havel’s riches-to-rags childhood (his family lost its wealth in the 1948 Communist takeover, when Havel was 12 years old) the book focuses on his achievements as a dissident, highlighting the qualities that made him the ideal person to peacefully negotiate an end to Communist rule during the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Žantovský evokes the heady excitement of Havel’s early days as Czechoslovakia’s first popularly elected president, assembling a government of fellow artists and philosophers and pursuing a “continent-wide” agenda to bring his country back into Western Europe. Žantovský lends a more impartial eye to Havel’s subsequent 10-year term as president of the newly formed Czech Republic, when he was no longer at Havel’s side, and to the travails of his last years. This moving, perceptive chronicle succeeds in showing the many dimensions of a towering 20th-century figure.

It also gets high marks in an article by Daniel Johnson in the current issue of Standpoint (hat tip to Dave Lull for this), who remembers the Velvet Revolution:

It happened because Havel understood that those who overthrow a system have a responsibility to prove that they are morally superior to those they have ousted. He was magnanimous in victory: “Those who have for many years engaged in a violent and bloody vengefulness against their opponents are now afraid of us. They should rest easy. We are not like them.”

For journalists who were there — watching and listening to the street theatre in Wenceslas Square, or taking notes at the press conferences held by the Civic Forum in an actual theatre, the Magic Lantern — the pathos of Havel’s performance was unforgettable. Nobody else — not even Alexander Dubček, who had seen the Prague Spring crushed by Russian tanks 20 years before, and who also stood on the balcony in the square — could have brought this drama to its climax. Havel was the Bohemian who personified la Bohème.

Revolutions are often betrayed and end in blood. Since 1989, we have seen the use and abuse of people power many times — most recently in the Arab Spring. Yet the Velvet Revolution remains as an unsurpassed model of peaceful change.

How did Havel do it? Tension had been rising since the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9. On November 17, 1989, the riot police crushed a demonstration in Prague and a student was (falsely) reported killed. Three days later, having set up the “Civic Forum”, Havel appeared before a sea of 150,000 people in Wenceslas Square. Once he had drawn a critical mass of people to the square, the old fear of the secret police vanished. The atmosphere was festive, never menacing, with speakers appealing to the crowds, who answered spontaneously but in unison. They dared to mock Miloš Jakeš, the general secretary of the Communist Party, who had hitherto been a much-feared bogeyman. “Miloš, it’s over,” they chanted.

And it was. Four days later, Jakeš and the rest of the party leadership fell on their swords and resigned. I recall the mood in Wenceslas Square when the news was announced. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” wrote Wordsworth, but the French Revolution was violent from the start. What happened in Prague in 1989 was nothing like Paris in 1789. The peaceful vigils in Wenceslas Square could not have been more different from the storming of the Bastille, let alone the Terror.

Read the whole thing here. And below, Wenceslas Square, just because I love it and miss it and want to go back. (Photo: Andreas Praefcke)



Nasty bookplates

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014


Halt! Mein Buch! (Stop! My Book!) How is that for a subtle bookplate warning to potential thieves, a.k.a. your friends? See 1895 bookplate above for an illustration of the hand of God reaching from a cloud to pluck the purloined book from your greedy arms. Bookplates were a tremendous innovation as private libraries developed. After all, in the olden days, people had to write unpleasant little poems warning people from stealing their books, and there is a limit to most people’s literary innovation. For instance, note the flyleaf threat at right-below, dated 1829, featured on a special collections blog from the library of my alma mater, the University of Michigan, here.  (We’ve also written about bookplates before, here and here and here and here and here and here.)

flyleaf_rhymes_005Some flyleaf poems threatened judgment day, but this book-lover thought it might be more effective to threaten punishment in this world. How’s this for a passive-aggressive warning to your “honest” friend?

Steal not this Book my honest friend,
for fear the gallows will be your end
Be very careful of this Book
and very often often in it look
for in it we may only find
food aplenty for the mind.

hitlerbookplateEven aside from literary quality, you can see why bookplates quickly evolved as an improvement to poetic creativity. It is easier to see than to imagine. For example, while the flyleaf poem merely threatened the gallows, the book owner whose undated bookplate is featured below thought you would need to have a visual reminder of your potential fate. However, the warning is oblique and mysterious: “Fert in omnia rutubam et tristitiam terribilis amor” or, in English, “In all things terrible love brings trouble and sadness.” A handy reminder for a book of love poems? Hardly the best consolation for the recently divorced … or the newly married, for that matter. Or is it the love of books that brings one to such a terrible end? Can you imagine the book owner gazing fondly at this image of a hanged man? What possesses people?

Or how about this Halloween special below, for the kiddies? Tuck them into bed with the book, see what happens when you tell them to go to sleep. Actually, artist Bernie Wrightson designed it for his graphic novel adaptation of Creepshow. As for Adolf Hitler‘s bookplate from the Library of Congress, it speaks for itself.

Read more here and here and here. (Be warned, however, not all the bookplates are nasty; most are rather lovely). And a hat tip to the ubiquitous Dave Lull, friend to bloggers everywhere, for the inspiration.






Books in Istanbul: “one of the essentials of the resistance”

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The Taksim Gezi Park public library … very public.

Protesting can be tough work.  It can be hard to catch a break.  The Hurriyet Daily News has announced a new plan to help everyone out:

One of the major acts of resistance for protesters occupying Taksim Gezi Park has been to pick up a good book and read it – preferably in front of a police officer. Now, thanks to an initiative launched by publishing houses to organize book distribution, they are assured to have lots of material in the coming days.

Sel Publishing House on June 4 called on other publishing houses to step up the organization of the book aid by creating a makeshift library in the park, asking all publishers to send books and support the movement with some good literature.

“Books are one of the essentials of the resistance,” the publishing house said. More than 15 publishing houses have responded to the call.

Hat tip to the inimitable Dave Lull for this news tidbit.

Tom Stoppard: “What Tolstoy is on about is that carnal love is not a good idea.”

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Do not, repeat, do not try this at home...

The incomparable patron saint of bloggers, Dave Lull, alerted me to a Guardian interview with one of Britain’s foremost playwrights, Tom Stoppard, who created the screenplay for the latest film version of Anna Karenina, which we wrote about yesterday.

I don’t think Tom Stoppard quite gets it.  “What Tolstoy is on about is that carnal love is not a good idea,” he says, although Tolstoy seemed to have a pretty good idea what it was about in Anna Karenina and War and Peace (before marrying the vivacious Natasha off to the rather inept Pierre, with whom she’s rather happy by the end).  Stoppard seems to miss the point that almost all societies except our own regarded unregulated passion as a kind of madness, and a destructive force in society.  After all, Anna’s young son is left motherless at the end of the novel, and a good many other lives are disfigured.  Tolstoy might have argued that there is no such thing as a personal life, and personal choice.  That’s why he has the Levin chapters.

There’s the additional problem that the Levin chapters of the novel contain many long discussions about local government, and estate management. “It’s as though,” Stoppard jokes, “Tolstoy took the big essay at the end of War and Peace and said to himself, ‘I’d better spread this through the whole story next time.'”

But Levin (modelled on Tolstoy himself) is important. The parallel, shy relationship between Levin and Kitty (superbly played by Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander) is used by Tolstoy to counterpoint Anna’s affair. “For a while,” Stoppard continues, “I thought we should ignore everything and just go hell for leather, and into, and through, and out of, this relentless love affair. I was going to make it like a very fast modern movie, which was all about being in lust.” In the end, he says, “wiser counsels prevailed, including my own”.

Apparently, the proscenium arch, stage device the film uses was not Stoppard’s idea at all, but rather director Joe Wright‘s, which comes rather as a relief.

“He called me up, and said, ‘Can I see you urgently?’ He came round with a big file and exhibited his idea – essentially that the Moscow and St Petersburg scenes should take place in a 19th-century theatre – on my kitchen table.”

Was this to do with budget problems? Stoppard shakes his head. “Joe needed a concept to get excited about doing the novel as a movie. I think he talked to Keira about it – Pride and Prejudice had worked out really well for them – and this was what he came up with.”

Once again the proscenium arch is hot news.  It sounds a lot like Ingmar Bergman‘s Magic Flute of 1975.  It was hot news way back then, too, and made for a charming production of Mozart.  Since we are speaking of happy marriages … Levin’s, anyway … I include a clip below of the sweet and magical reunion of Papageno and Papagena at the end of the opera. Hard to top that one for marital bliss.  Meanwhile … Jude Law. I’m now convinced he’d be a dynamite Alyosha (moving from Tolstoy to Dostoevsky). I don’t think his Karenin is “pinched and prim” at all (according to Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian review), given the total destruction of his life Karenin is facing – see what you think in the clip below, which includes a typically Tolstovian lecture on fidelity and love, although I don’t see why cattle have to be insulted.

More on social media, macaques, and early Roman social networks

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

I write from Crotons Cottage on Williams Hill, in a tiny burg called Wootton, near Woodstock, in Oxfordshire (there are at least four Woottons in Oxfordshire, I’m told).  It’s about ten minutes outside Oxford, where some interesting research on social networks is underway,  continuing our earlier thought about the 17th and 18th centuries, and extending beyond a single species and into the primates.

The researchers, led by Jerome Sallet of Oxford University, said the results of the new study bear some similarities to research by other groups working with humans, that related to the extent of social interactions. These studies include recent work that suggested a link between the volume of some regions of the brain and the number of online friends people have in such as Facebook.

The new study observed 23 macaques in a number of groups of different sizes. The monkeys were kept in their groups for an average of over a year, and a minimum of two months. One monkey was alone in its cage, but in all the other groups, which had from two to seven individuals, a heirarchy developed in which an individual’s rank depended on the monkey’s ability to form successful social interactions, such as friendships and partnerships.

The study used (MRI) to compare the brains of the monkeys, and the results showed that in the temporal areas of the brain associated with social interaction skills, around a five percent increase in the volume of gray matter was found for each additional group member.

So go ahead. Make your brain bigger.  Twitter away.

In the meantime, Dave Lull contributed to the discussion with a link that the internet-savvy approach to information began even earlier than the 17th century From The Dabbler:

The Acta Diurna were daily public notices, posted up in public locations around Rome. Lesson one – put your information where the audience is.

The content mixed dry official news such as the latest magistrates to have been elected with news of greater human interest, such as notable births, marriages and deaths or strange omens. Lesson two – spice up information with interesting human colour.  …

And it was just as inaccurate as it is today:

Whilst out of power, Cicero was moved to complain about the contents of the Acta Diurna for giving others a false impression of what he had been up to: “I receive letters from princes of foreign states thanking me for the part I have taken in making them kings, while I did not even know that there were such persons in the world”. Lesson four – if you want to influence what people think about you, don’t leave it to others to do all the communication.

Bear with me, dear readers, through this internet interval.  My access may be sporadic while I’m in the U.K.  Especially in Wootton.



What’s the worst great book you ever read?

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Stick to "The Dubliners"

A cadre of leading authors and critics are on a roll over at Slate, dissing the great classics.  It’s over here.

Disses are always fun to read, so here’s a potpourri:

Poet and Yale Review editor J.D. McClatchy says he would put himself first on the list, if he were rated at all, but then he characterizes Virginia Woolf as “noxious smoke and dusty mirrors.”

“Not far behind, and for completely different reasons, William Carlos Williams: So little depends on stuff lying around. The absolute worst, the gassiest, most morally and aesthetically bankrupt, the most earnestly and emptily studied and worshipped … that’s an easy one. Ezra Pound.”

James Joyce takes a drubbing more than once.

Author Lee Siegel confesses “I just can’t do Finnegans Wake”:

“As a graduate student in literature, I was surrounded by people who claimed not just to have read Finnegans Wake but to have understood it and I took another futile stab at it. I realize now that they were all frauds who later went to work in the subprime mortgage industry.” He concludes: The adult realization that whatever sublime beauties of language and idea are in Joyce’s novel, I have to let them go. Just as there are sublime places—Antarctica—that I will never visit. As I learned from Joyce’s Ulysses, the mystery of everyday life is fathomless enough. There is still a world in a grain of sand.”

"Lame" himself

Daniel Mendelsohn, frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, adds to the pile-on: “what spoils Ulysses for me, each time, is the oppressive allusiveness, the wearyingly overdetermined referentiality, the heavy constructedness of it all…it’s more like being on one of those Easter egg hunts you went on as a child—you constantly feel yourself being managed, being carefully steered in the direction of effortfully planted treats.”

J.D. Salinger?  Forget it.  Author Tom Perrotta recalls:

“On a recent episode of South Park, the kids got all excited about reading The Catcher in the Rye, the supposedly scandalous novel that’s been offending teachers and parents for generations. They were, of course, horribly disappointed: As Kyle says, it’s ‘just some whiny annoying teenager talking about how lame he is.'”

Not unsurprisingly, the most generous words come from Elif Batuman:

Generous spirit

Like many people, I enjoy learning which canonical books are unbeloved by which contemporary writers. However, I don’t think participants in such surveys ought to blame either themselves (“I’m so lazy/uneducated”) or the canonical books (“Ulysses is so overrated”). My view is that the right book has to reach you at the right time, and no person can be reached by every book. Literature is supposed to be beautiful and/or necessary—so if at a given time you don’t either enjoy or need a certain book, then you should read something else, and not feel guilty about it.

FYI on Elif:  Her The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, was plugged by Imitatio here. (hat tip, Dave Lull). Why the a surprise?  Imitatio is the organization founded to study the ideas of René Girard, and some consider her book to be a spoof of those same ideas, with an obsessed  and charismatic graduate student so unable to break the chain of mimetic desire that he finds peace and happiness only in a monastery.  My own opinion:  she has done a lot to revive an interest in his ideas for a new generation.  The site links to the glowing Guardian review that notes the hit memoir’s “detailed engagement with René Girard’s theory of the novel and mimetic desire.”

René told me he hadn’t read it, but when I explained the plot story about the graduate student, he chuckled sagely.

The “Great Minds Think Alike” Dept.:  Patrick Kurp over at Anecdotal Evidence has written about the same Slate piece today, with his own nominations for the overrated – it’s here.

Meanwhile, in the comments section at Slate, Terrence Wentworth offered this: “Cool idea, but reading author after author being bashed got depressing by the end. It was surprising how many respondents were willing to pass judgment on books they hadn’t finished. Saying “I couldn’t finish it” is not a very powerful argument for a book’s inferiority. And I thought being well read entailed knowledge of books one didn’t like or find agreeable. I think a call for praise of un-PC works would have been much more daring. But how many contemporary critics are even willing to look for beauty in, say, Ezra Pound?

I get a nice review, but Agustín Maes gets Paris

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Dave Lull sent me a link for another review of my book, from Gregory Wolfe‘s Image journal:  “This year is the centenary of the poet and Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz’s birth. As a writer he is universally celebrated, but his life and work exist on such an epic scale that many of us are intimidated by the idea of actually clambering up those heights. So the publication of An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czeslaw Milosz, edited by Cynthia L. Haven, is a welcome addition to the literature.”  The writer  concludes that although the book is not an introduction to the poet’s life and work, “it can be an excellent companion for the reader who decides to take the plunge and get to know a great man who lived through dark times and yet went on to become a witness to truth, goodness, and beauty.”

Covered with glory

Beneath the review I saw a familiar face:  San Francisco’s Agustín Maes was just named as one of two runners-up for the first-ever Paris Literary Prize, an international competition sponsored by legendary Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company in collaboration with the de Groot Foundation. Winner Rosa Rankin-Gee took the 10,000-euro prize, and Adam Biles was the fellow runner-up. Their work was chosen from over 430 novellas submitted from 34 countries.  The contest highlights the novella as a literary form and is open to writers who have not yet finished a book.  The winners were announced on 16 June during an award event held at the Société des Gens de Lettres in Paris – so Agustín got a trip to Paris.

Erica Wagner, jury chair and literary editor of The Times (London), wrote:

“Along with my fellow judges, I was dead certain that the author of one of the runners- up, Newborn—about a naïve teenage girl forced to deal with an unwanted pregnancy— must be by a young woman. I mean, obviously, right? Nope. Its author turned out to be Agustin Maes, an American man… The kind of imagination evidenced by a story such as his is a reminder of what a magic trick really fine writing can be. It is the writer’s job wholly to inhabit the characters he or she invents: a rare gift that few authors truly possess.”

Congratulations, Agustín!

Joseph Brodsky monument: It’s the thought that counts.

Friday, July 8th, 2011

There'll be bird poop on his face within a week.

I don’t care for the likeness, but I do rather like the chutzpah of the sculptor, Georgy Frangulyan.  His proposed statue of Joseph Brodsky lost a contest in the Nobel poet’s native St. Petersburg, and earlier was the subject of frenzied internet opposition.  So he up and decided to put the statue up on his own dime (or ruble) … in Moscow.

“It is my own personal monument,” said Frangulyan. “I didn’t have a choice, as there was a crisis and all those who had promised money withdrew.”

Late for the train, John?

Frangulyan wouldn’t say exactly how much it cost, but priced it at a few million dollars.  Since the sculptor is fronting the money for the project out of his own pocket, without anyone buying the statue, I don’t know how he would assess its value.  Materials?  I doubt he had that kind of money to invest.  Labor?  He puts a high price on himself.  Usually, the value of artwork is determined by someone making a bid.  But if these are the new rules, this post is worth $50K, and I expect you all to start chucking money at me.

As for the locale, Moscow worthies decided to put it across from the U.S. Embassy:  “We looked for a place for a long time,” said Alexander Kuzmin, Moscow chief architect, in 2007. “We looked to see where the relatives of the poet lived. Then we asked ourselves a question: What most of all links Brodsky and Moscow? And we understood – the American embassy, from there he left the U.S.S.R.”

The Russia Beyond the Headlines article, here (with a hat tip to Dave Lull) is a masterpiece for what is left unsaid. The article states that “Brodsky actually left for Vienna, initially…”  Well, no, the government had a policy of shipping its unwanted Jews to Israel.  Vienna was merely the stopover where he bailed, with Russian scholar and friend Carl Proffer, and headed for the U.S. instead.  The article notes that he never visited his parents again after his exile.  Well, no, he didn’t.  Even though he petitioned repeatedly, with increasing desperation, to get them a visa.  He even wrote about it, bitterly.

Nearby are sculpted silhouettes of twelve people in two groups, but Brodsky is obeying a shopworn convention of the otherworldly poet, staring into the sky, abstracted, not watching to see if he is stepping into pigeon crap.

According to the article:

Frangulyan said it shows how a poet is alone but with a circle of followers. “Some people go through life like a shadow and some become individuals,” he said.

Well, okay.  Whatever.  But the look on his face is, well, a little disdainful.  Like he’s looking down his honker at everyone.

David Sanders suggested that he was on the lookout for overhead pigeons.  The first well-targeted pigeon bombing should dispel that one.  It’s likely to land on his prominent nose.  He won’t see coming: his eyes are closed, if you look closely at the face.

I have another explanation:  He’s finally back in the new Russia – but he is stubbornly refusing to look at it.

For purposes of comparison, here’s a statue of John Betjemin in the square where I lived briefly some years ago.  He also, is looking up – but looks rather confused, and lost in the St. Pancras/Kings Cross Station, and maybe late for a train.

Postcript on 7/10:  David Sanders, in his emailed Poetry News in Review, had this more sagacious comment, which humbled me mid-snark: “Maybe it’s time for a renaissance in publicly memorializing poets and writers through the strategic placement of their likenesses, if only in hopes that it will prolong the life of their words, raise their public profiles (so to speak), and give them equally footing with our other heroes. For some of us, these men and women are our heroes.”

Orwell Watch #11: One man’s lonely war against cliché

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

“The internet is not destroying the language after all, then, but giving us new ways of shaming its most prominent practitioners into using it better. Let us set politicians a quiz. What are guarantees always made from? Cast iron. And with what are their bottoms made? Copper. And what are they not worth? The paper they are written on. (Or, alternatively, the paper that they are not written on.) For whom do politicians speak? The silent majority. Or hard-working families. Especially the ones who work hard and play by the rules.

Well, it turns out that the silent majority want to read and hear fresh, clear and original language. So go to and nominate your suggestions for inclusion. I’d say we should crowd-source this project, but I’ve put crowd-source and project on the Banned List.”

A man after my own heart (whoops! another one!)

These are the … dare I say it? … fighting words from John Rentoul of the Independent, and I’ve just discovered his cliché column.

The phrases that make him grind his teeth don’t necessarily make me grind mine – apparently, “any time soon” is the one kicked him over the edge – but he’s fingered “progressive” as an empty bit of self-congratulation, a charge that earned me some brickbats when I wrote about it here.  But how did he miss “heads up”?  Or “take responsibility for” when referring to those who will do nothing of the kind (I wrote about that one here)?

From the top 100  (check them out for yourself here:

1. Celebrating diversity.
2. Inclusive.
3. Black hole (in a financial context).
4. The elephant in the room.
5. Perfect storm.
6. IMO, IMHO, LOL, ROFL and so on. I mean, whose opinion is it going to be? Genuinely witty abbreviations, however, are permitted, for example, QTWTAIN, YYSSW, IICRS (Questions to Which the Answer is No; Yeah, Yeah, Sure, Sure, Whatever; Iraq Inquiry Coverage Rebuttal Service).  [Shall we add WTF? – Ed.]
7. Vibrant (when used to mean lots of non-English people).
8. It’s in his/her/their DNA.
9. Let’s be clear.
10. “The truth is…” before the peddling of an opinion.
11. Any journey not describing travel from A to B.
12. A no-brainer.
13. What’s not to like?
14. Max out (in relation to credit cards only).
15. Coffee, the waking up and smelling thereof.
16. Out of the box (especially thinking).
17. Radar, to be on someone’s, or to be under the.
18. “All the evidence tells us” to mean “I’ve read something about this somewhere that confirms my prejudices”.
19. Stakeholder.
20. Who knew?
21. “And yet, and yet …”
22. The suffix -gate added to any news theme supposedly embarrassing to a government.

I shudder to think how many of these I have used – and not in the distant past, but recently. Sometimes hourly.

Also banned this month:

“What a difference a day makes”, which was used on Newsnight to mean: “Yesterday we reported something and today the Government has done something about it.” It is a bit like “a week is a long time in politics”, which is as hard to eradicate as cockroaches.

Rentoul ends with George Orwell‘s six rules from “Politics and the English Language.”  Great comments section, too.  What’s not to like?

Postscript on 6/25: Some interesting feedback from Jeff Sypeck in the comments section:

I’d like to see pundits, commentators, etc., stop saying “You want fries with that?” when they talk about college kids majoring in unmarketable subjects. Not only is it unoriginal–Google News shows 27 news outlets using the phrase this month alone–but no one at a fast food joint has even asked a customer this question since the late 1980s! For 25 years, we’ve been ordering complete fast-food meals, with fries, by number. (I also question whatever truth supposedly underlies this cliche, because class distinctions generally mean that the recent college grad with an English or Sociology degree is more likely to be doing filing or photocopying in an office or perhaps working in retail. He’s not the most common sight in the fast-food biz.)

Go to the comments section for the rest of his remarks (about the use of “urban” to mean “black”) and also, Dave Lull directs you to the clichés of love.

The world celebrates Bloomsday

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Coming soon: Public domain for writings

Happy Bloomsday, the day set aside to celebrate the life of James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which take place on June 16, 1904, “a day which for some of us is far, far more important than Midsummer,” says author John Naughton.

Time magazine offers five ways to celebrate.  The easiest?  “Drink up!”  Complimentary drinks at the Ulysses’ pub in downtown New York, but for those of you who can’t make it, you can probably track down a Guinness at the local Safeway.

Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Times offers eight ways to celebrate – but here’s the funnest:  a rare recording of James Joyce reading from his own writing, pointed out by Boing Boing in 2009. The James Joyce Centre says that he was recorded reading from his work in 1924 and 1929 at the urging of Sylvia Beach, publisher of Ulysses.

Naughton notes, “When I first heard it I was astonished to find that he had a broad Irish-country accent. I had always imagined him speaking as a ‘Dub’ — i.e. with the accent of most of the street characters in Ulysses.”

There’s even a blog to commemorate the whole occasion:  Ulysses Meets Twitter 2011.

Still not enough?  Think of this:  James Joyce’s work begin migrating into public domain in January.  That’s enough to bring a smile to this lady’s face.

Meanwhile, a different kind of celebration below:

Postscript: Dave Lull pointed out a Wall Street Journal article recounting celebrations in Croatia, Australia, Shanghai, Norway and Argentina. (And Dublin, of course.) It’s here.