What makes a city a great literary city? Having a tradition of famous authors? A culture of bookstores and cafes and publishing houses and universities? Inspiring great books? Host Jacke Wilson is joined by Mike Palindrome, President of the Literature Supporters Club, for a discussion of the cities where literature finds itself most at home – including their choices for the world’s ten greatest literary cities.
In the early 1900s, demand for moving pictures was fierce and cinemas were springing up all over the world. After visiting Trieste, the writer James Joyce was determined to bring a cinema to Ireland, so after receiving the backing of his Italianfriends, he set up the Cinematograph Volta on Mary Street. It opened its doors on 20 December 1909. The opening night featured an eclectic program, with the comedy Devilled Crab, the mystery Bewitched Castle, La Pourponièrre, The First Paris Orphanage, and The Tragedy of Beatrice Cency.
Imagine the world where Joyce spent the rest of his life in Dublin running a picture house! I’m sure he could have kept writing, at least to some extent, but I’m not sure we’d have ever gotten Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake.
In any case, he abandoned the project after seven months:
Joyce soon became disillusioned with the venture, as the cinema mainly showed films from Europe and Italy, which were largely shunned by Dubliners at the time. [Editor’s note: Maybe they should have tried showing the movies with female action stars that Radha Vatsal described.] After seven months, Joyce withdrew his involvement and the cinema was sold to the British Provincial Cinema Company. The cinema stayed open until 1919.
Here’s a beautiful tribute to the world of Joyce’s Volta and its successor, the Lyceum:
Vincent O’Neill hails from Sandycove, Dublin, where he grew up in the shadow of the tower made famous by the opening chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses. After a childhood spent tracing the steps of Joyce’s characters, Vincent developed a love for the theatre, eventually becoming the co-founder and artistic director of the Irish Classical Theatre Company in Buffalo, New York. He joins Jacke Wilson for a discussion of James Joyce and the theatre, including a staging of Joyce’s play Exiles, the magic of Joyce’s language, and the long journey to bring an adaptation of Finnegan’s Wake to the stage.
J.C. Hallman: Do creative writers have an obligation to act as critics, to offer up alternatives to traditional critical methodologies and assumptions?
Walter Kirn: Creative writers have no obligation do anything, including their own creative work. That’s what makes them “creative” in the first place, not merely productive. That being said, a novel or a short story is an implicit piece of criticism. It suggests that the job – some job; that of telling a story, say, or representing reality with language, or torturing reality with language – can be done better, or at least differently, than it has been done before.
Kirn’s right, of course – but at the same time, we all know how paralyzing this can be. There have been so many authors! Every story has been told! Everything’s been said! Blogging’s one thing, but who am I to presume that I can enter the world of writing a book that belongs on a bookshelf with all those authors I love and respect and admire?
Even the great Dr. Johnson suffered from a version of this internal narrative, giving up on writing poetry out of a belief that Alexander Pope had perfected the art, not to be surpassed.