Cover of Life magazine Feb. 2, 1922. This is also the date of the publication of Joyce's Ulysses.
November 27, 2013


Constellation of Genius
The year 1922 saw the publication of Ulysses on James Joyce's 40th birthday, February 2, 1922, the same day that saw the issue of Life featuring the gorgeous creature shown above. Nine months later, November, saw the publication of The Wasteland. In between these events we have Mussolini's March on Rome, the death of Marcel Proust, and other events, including lots of whining by Virginia Woolf.

There's an excellent review of the book in the Wall Street Journal of a week or two back. I don't see much to dissent from in the reviewer's judgement. There is no connective thread, just a series of day by day events, some of which are mentioned, and then never referred to again. Still it is an amusing book, and offers some insights and tidbits tha tyou might not be familiar with.

Here's an interesting quote from February 21:

Everything among us is drowned in a filthy swamp of bureaucratic ‘administrations’. Great authority and strength will be needed to overcome them. Administrative offices – madness! Decrees – lunacy! Search for the right men, ensure that the work is properly carried out – that’s all that’s necessary!”*

*Jackson, Kevin (2013-09-17). Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One (Kindle Locations 953-955). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

The author of that quote, Vladimir Lenin, would soon be dead. Some people, such as George Bernard Shaw, saw the head of the Cheka, Felix Dzershinsky, as being a good man doing a bad but necessary job. Mr. Jenkins is a bit more clear-headed:

the Cheka was dealing with discontent by applying the standard Bolshevist panacea: shoot everyone in sight.”*

*Jackson, (Kindle Locations 961-962).

There was a time, under François Mitterand, when the French minister of culture, Jack Lang, if I recall correctly, threw a kitty fit, or perhaps un petite chat fit over the merging of what we now call Franglais. He wasn't the first though. Under May 21 we find this entry:
French prime minister Raymond Poincaré came across a magazine article denouncing the widespread use of English words by French sports journalists: or ‘Franglais’. Deeply impressed by this attack on enemies of pure French, Poincaré banned the use of all recent English import -words in official documents. Oddly, the author of the article was not of French birth, but a recent immigrant from South East Asia. At the time he was mainly known by his pen name, Nguyen Ai Quoc – ‘Nguyen the Patriot’. He later became much better known as Ho Chi Minh.”*

*Jackson, (Kindle Locations 2321-2325). While the book fails to be a connected, flowing whole, it does have some interesting tidbits, and some good insights. As history it's not in the same league as Herodotus, Thucydides, or Gibbon, but it's light, and enjoyable, and covers a period that was an intensely interesting and artistically fruitful period.