The first thing I see upon leaving my apartment building is this poster in the window of the Gutter Bookshop with the famous last eight words of James Joyce’s Ulysses – “and yes I said yes I will yes.”
And even though I don’t really understand so much of the book, I would like to believe that I do appreciate the ending, especially the final period that Joyce throws in – after a 4,391 word sentence! – just to show us that he is indeed the eternal boss of punctuation.
William James who is often considered to be the father of American psychology introduced the term “stream of consciousness” in 1890, but Joyce was the first author to use “stream of consciousness” as a way for his characters to share their thoughts in his “episodes” in Ulysses. The last soliloquy, and so the last eight words, belong to Molly Bloom as she is remembering the moment when she fell in love with her husband Leopold Bloom. James Joyce saw “yes” as a quintessentially female word and I agree.
And I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out that by ending his 700 page book with the word “yes”, James Joyce meant it to be uplifting, perhaps even suggesting to us all to say “yes” more often – to accept, to embrace, to encounter more. In Dublin, it’s very easy to say “yes” to so many things. I’ve said “yes” to taking ballet lessons from Arianna, a beautiful Italian woman who has classes on Saturday mornings in a small studio in a dingy building on Curve Street. They say that learning to dance is the perfect exercise because it maximizes cognitive function and muscle memory through practice. I think they’re right – it was so difficult to keep up with the steps, but also so much fun. From the moment I put on the ballet shoes and the skirt, I felt the memory and the excitement of my seven-year-old self heading off to ballet class.
I’ve also said “yes” to taking acting lessons at the Gaiety School of Acting that is just around the corner. (I’ll let you know if Juliette Binoche needs to be worried.) I love that Colin Farrell studied here. And if Colin Farrell just happened to spot me writing my blog in Grogan’s, and asked me over a ham and cheese toastie and a Guinness to be his ghost writer for the memoir he’s been meaning to write, I would have to say yes. In Dublin it’s also easy to say “yes” to just sitting in a pub and reading – in between drinking and chatting. In fact it’s rather ordinary to find a man with a book in one hand and a pint in the other. (In Stephen King’s new memoir On Writing, he says that all authors need to read as much as they write – he reads between eighty to ninety books a year.) This month our international book club is reading Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos, nominated by a brother and sister in our little group who are from Mexico City. Villalobos’ writing is so funny and accurate – “There were restaurants in the States where you paid for a drink and then served yourself as many times as you liked. It was unbelievable: you had eighty Coca-Colas for the price of one.” (Yes, it is true – it happens all the time.)
Dublin is alive with things to just say “yes” to – from seeing a show – Once is playing at the Olympia Theatre now and it is so good, especially the beautiful song, “Falling Slowly” – to taking a horse-drawn carriage ride – to whiskey tastings every Thursday evening in July at the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street. And because it’s summer it’s even easy to acquiesce to the infamous Irish weather. An old man sitting next to me in a pub volunteered the sage words, “It would be a perfect country if it had a roof.” But in the summer the rain and wind don’t seem to dominate as much as the sun does. Because Ireland is at such a high latitude – the same as Alaska – the sun stays awake until eleven and even after that it lingers pink on the horizon. And because Ireland is surrounded by a temperate sea, it never gets really cold even in the dead of winter and it very rarely snows. And whenever I think of snow in Ireland, I think of the last paragraph of “The Dead”, the last story in James Joyce’s Dubliners, which some consider to be the most beautiful prose written in the English language. And of course the last sentence, “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” A boyfriend, a long time ago, read this story to me while we were sitting by the Liffey eating strawberries and drinking champagne. I’ll have to try to say “yes” to that kind of thing more often.
Well, I wanted to write in stream of consciousness and end up completely off topic, but I find that I’ve ended the way I began. I guess I’m no James Joyce – I’m okay with that – he did have a lot of personal problems. I guess I’ll have to settle for “brook of consciousness”.