The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
I never thought I could announce that because of the Christmas rush… well the Beatnik has sold out of James Joyce’s Ulysses. A modernist vade mecum (stream-of-consciousness, experimental prose full of humour, riddle and pun), it was also a one day precursor of Fox Network’s TV hit of a few years back – 24, though I doubt agent Jack Bauer was modelled on Leopold Bloom (I don’t remember that Bauer spent so long on the bog): 16th June 1904 is Bloomsday.
265,000 words is the book’s length, 30,030 is its rich lexicon, so a new word is introduced one in under every nine. It has been estimated that the first edition contained 2,000 errors, and it has been observed that this number has been added to with each subsequent edition. There have been eighteen editions for sure, often offering variation every time a new impression was printed. A New York pirated edition was published in 1929, the Odyssey Press edition in 1932 (held by some to be the least contentious); because of censorship battles it was published in England first in 1936 by the Bodley Head, later revised in 1960. The Joyce Estate has been somewhat baffled and become protective, commercially dumbing down and approving a Wordsworth edition for £1.99 ahead of copyright D-Day in the United Kingdom. To help excite scholarly interest Joyce had laid his own booby traps, incorporating error by design, and any edition of Ulysses therefore resembles the human condition, that is a rich and layered corpus of mistake, a state of original sin; even Gabler’s ‘corrected edition’ of 1984 turned out to be a literary Tiger Woods, a saintly winner exposed with pants down, and, like Woods, it was roasted for its faulty fundamentals as well as its faulty footnotes (though to be fair Joyce’s own iron play from the rough wasn’t that good), and most publishers have reverted to its 1960 (or 1922) text. John Kidd’s scholarly revision is yet to charge in as a knight in shining armour; it has been stalled by the Joyce Estate’s current lack of interest in further foraging with the text.
Originally Ulysses (the Latinate name for Odysseus) was published in serial form by the American journal The Little Review from 1918, and by Sylvia Beach in Paris in 1922. After a year’s break, Joyce set to on Finnegans Wake (no rest for the wicked), a book that in many ways is an even tougher nut to crack, an interpretation of dream landscape to be read by diehards only. The Christmas rush was not yet a seismic tidal wave, so Finnegans Wake sits here still in stock awaiting its mince pie, horse chestnut stuffing and Christmas cheer next year.