What say you, good masters, to a squab pigeon pasty, some collops of venison, a saddle of veal, widgeon with crisp hog’s bacon, a boar’s head with pistachios, a bason of jolly custard, a medlar tansy and a flagon of old Rhemish?
Pistachios! Cried the last speaker. That likes me well. Pistachios!
—James Joyce, Ulysses
If Joyce had been present, that flagon of old Rhemish would have to be cleared the minute it was drained. He’d always protest the presence of an empty bottle on the table. As Bertie Rodgers put it while he conducted radioed recollections of Joyce: “Well, an empty bottle can never go the rounds. And the round, the circle, the recurring and reassuring routine, was all-important to Joyce, whether in Trieste, or Zurich, or Paris.”
Nino Franck recalled that while James Joyce was working on Finnegan’s Wake, he took a break to take a taxi and take a walk (Finnegan’s Walk) in the Bois de Boulogne. Having spent all afternoon making jokes out of words, when he spoke to the chauffeur he called him “choufleur”—cauliflower—leaving the man both astonished and insulted. Joyce paid and went off laughing, telling Franck later, “You know, I looked in and really he had the head of a cauliflower.”
Ulysses was published in Paris in 1922—one of the great events of publishing history. Then again, I could simply say that James Joyce lay down where all the ladders start in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. And the he wrote Ulysses yes and each episode in a different style yes and yes, yes he did write more after that. When I read a book, I often feel impelled to eat what its characters are eating, and, not having tasted kidneys since landing in Bremen in 1959, and having read half of Ulysses before my homecoming of 1982.