Call this a coda or a very late placed intermission for the ‘Ulysses’ melee. I still haven’t finished it due to feeling that the last two chapters should be properly savoured and snatching odd paragraphs by omnibus isn’t the way to do it. But I have found time to revisit a much shorter work that Joyce wrote while finishing ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’.
If ‘Ulysses’ is a turbulent river in full flood, ‘Giacomo’ is a crystal clear mountain stream. Clear but not pure, the story is essentially a more refined version of Nausikaa. It was never published in Joyce’s lifetime possibly due to being too overtly autobiographical.
A description of his daughter proved tragically prophetic:A flower given to her by my daughter. Frail gift, frail giver, frail blue veined child.
Parts quite strongly evoke the later work. My favourite is in the first paragraph describing Giacomo’s meeting with the object of his infatuation:Yes:
a brief syllable. A brief laugh. A brief beat of the eyelids.
The story jump-cuts between the protagonist’s various thoughts and impressions of his inamorare over the course of their non-affair. He gives her a lesson on Shakespeare, has a chance street meeting with her father, spies on her from the Gods during a visit to the opera and is finally rejected.
In one stanza, briefly reminiscent of Sirens, he describes her in terms of sounds that she makes:High heels clack hollow on the resonant stone stairs
In another of nursery food: …smitten by the hot creamy light, grey wheyhued shadows under the jawbones,streaks of eggyolk yellow on the moistened brow…
She’s a bird:Great bows on her slim bronze shoes: spurs of a pampered fowl
And a foal following her mother:…Hillo! Ostler! Hilloho!
Always through one metaphor or another, by the end it feels as if you know her well but at one remove. This sense of distance pervades the whole piece, while Giacomo wryly looks on at his own ineffectualness and inevitable failure. And yet, as with ‘Ulysses’, the overall effect is of a clear eyed affection, a sometimes crotchety sympathy for both the characters.( …and now reminded of something completely different )