To me books are a source of enjoyment. If I want to work to understand something, there is always mathematics. While I read a great deal (I don't watch television) I don't read things that I feel I have to slog through. There are just too many enjoyable books out there. The difficult nature of much of James Joyce's writing has kept me away from his work. Nor did I know much about his life (biographies of writers tend to be obscure unless you know their work).
A while back someone posted a story involving a fantasy about an attractive woman High School english teacher. The class was covering Joyce (which seems unlikely in today's High Schools) and the boys delighted in teasing the teacher with Joyce quotes. There was a small Joycian rhyme about caning mentioned as an example (courtesy of amazon.com):
It can't be helped;
It must be done.
So down with your breeches
And out with your bum
from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Following this little rhyme in Joyce's book there is a rather obcessive section about a school caning that is about to take place:
The pandybat made a sound too but not like that. The fellows said it was made of whalebone and leather with lead inside: and he wondered what was the pain like. There were different kinds of sounds. A long thin cane would have a high whistling sound and he wondered what was that pain like. It made him shivery to think of it and cold -- and what Athy said too. But what was there to laugh at in it? It made him shivery: but that was because you always felt like a shiver when you let down your trousers. It was the same in the bath when you undressed yourself. He wondered who had to let them down, the master or the boy himself.
My reading of this is that what makes the narrator "shivery" is the idea of baring his bottom for the cane. In many M/F spanking fantasies we always know exactly whether the girl pulls down her panties or whether her disciplinarian does. This is mirrored here by the speculation about whether the boy bares his bottom in preparation for punishment or the master does it.
It might be possible to claim that I am reading my own obcessions into Joyces work, except for the following letter written by Joyce, found via the awesome power of Google ("James Joyce" cane):
To Nora, Dublin (?) December 1909
I would be delighted to feel my flesh tingling under your hand. Do you know what I mean, Nora dear? I wish you would smack me or flog me even. Not in play, dear, in earnest and on my naked flesh. I wish you were strong, strong, dear, and had a big full proud bosom and big fat thighs. I would love to be whipped by you, Nora love! I would love to have done something to displease you, something trivial even, perhaps one of my rather dirty habits that make you laugh: and then to hear you call me into your room and then to find you sitting in an armchair with your fat thighs far apart and your face deep red with anger and a cane in your hand. To see you point to what I had done and then with a movement of rage pull me towards you and throw me face downwards across your lap. Then to feel your hands tearing down my trousers and inside clothes and turning up my shirt, to be struggling in your strong arms and in your lap, to feel you bending down (like an angry nurse whipping a child's bottom) until your big full bubbies almost touched me and to feel you flog, flog, flog me viciously on my naked quivering flesh!!
The Nora to whom the letter is addressed is Nora Barnacle, who Joyce met on June 16, 1904. James Joyce, was born in 1882, so he was 27 when he wrote this paean to Nora and spanking, five years after they met.
Joyce wants his beloved Nora to give him a good hard bare bottom spanking. Not just an erotic play spanking, but a punishment spanking for his "dirty habits". He wants her to treat him like a naughty boy, bare his bottom and soundly cane him on his "naked quivering" buttocks. Sadly letters that Nora sent in reply have not survived. As far as I can tell it is unknown whether Nora ever agreed to act out any of Joyce's spanking fantasies (perhaps I should write a James and Nora story, since history does not provide one).
From Joyce's writing, I assume that spanking fantasies resonated powerfully for him. I wonder if in all of the PhD theses written on Joyce there is one on Joyce's erotic relationship to spanking.
I'm a sucker for romantic tales so I looked for more details on Joyce and Nora. I'm sure that Joyce was a difficult person to be involved with. He did not have any money until late in life so he and Nora were constantly struggling to get by. Even today I suspect that Joyce would not exactly be a best seller (University bookstores being the main outlet for his work). Joyce not only suffered from the English Vice (spanking), but also from the Irish Vice (drinking), which apparently contributed to problems with his eye sight (bad booze?) Despite Joyce's towering faults, I find it lovely that after five years Joyce's erotic fire is still hot for Nora.
After being together for twenty-eight, James Joyce and Nora married in 1931. Joyce died ten years later on January 13, 1941. Here are a few bits dug up by Google on Joyce and Nora:
In 1905, Joyce completed a collection of eight stories, entitled Dubliners, though it was not until 1913 that the volume was actually printed. During these frustrating and impoverished years, Joyce heavily relied upon the emotional support of Nora Barnacle, his unmarried Irish lover, as well as the financial support of his younger brother, Stanislaus Joyce. Both Nora and Stanislaus remained as protective, supporting figures for the duration of the writer's life. During the eight years between Dubliners' completion and publication, Joyce and Barnacle had two children, a son named Giorgio and a daughter named Lucia. />
Her [Nora's] practical, sometimes cynical response to Joyce.s work provided a needed complement to his own self-absorption. Joyce and Nora had a turbulent relationship; both were profoundly affected by the progressive insanity of their daughter.
Obviously I'm not an expert on Joyce, but I wonder if he had an influence on novelists like Henry Miller and the French novelists of the 1950s and 1960s like Romain Gary who wrote "The Life Before Us" (which I didn't like much, by the way).
Last updated: September, 2004