“Pure drivel. I’ve written Post-It Notes that had more literary value than this.”
~ Herbert Marcuse on My Last Name is a Woman’s First Name
My Last Name is a Woman's First Name is an unfinished novel by James Joyce. It is easily the most readable of Joyce's works and perhaps his most autobiographical. Most students enjoy reading it because they do not suffer the huge migraines which inevitably accompany a reading of Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake. It is precisely for this reason that the critics hate it, because it has a distinct storyline and has comprehendible characters that do not take on a huge, metaphysical significance. Joyce admitted in his diaries around this period that "I have become a rather pretentious prat". It is unusual for its very small main body (like Joyce himself), and its copious footnotes, though some, like Vladimir Nabokov have suggested that the story is readable without the footnotes (in the same way that intercourse is possible, though a little arid, without foreplay) though there have been many fights in Literature departments the world over about this.
The footnotes are Joyce’s own. It is argued that Joyce's book started a dubious trend where postmodernist professors would dazzle their dilletant followers with a dizzying number of footnotes in their dense texts, usually to distract the reader from the fact that the main text is actually a load of nonsense. But as we see with Joyce, the main body contains a story of beguiling complexity and tantalizing plotlines.
editPart One – The Artist Encounters a Great Problem of Immense Visual Difficulty And Then Follows It Up With A Deep Reflection Upon Personal Identity
glasses’, I stated. ‘Where are your goddamnglasses?’ she retorted ‘Where are my goddamn green glasses?’ I repeated ‘There’s your green glasses!’ she bleated. Then, she pointed to a table with a lampshade.
‘I might change my name to Joyce Joyce. Damn, that was my mother’s name. I wonder if Freudwould have anything to say about that!’
↑Where? Wear? Whereupon? Word Up, or Down? Why always Up? Perhaps I am a pessimist, for I prefer Word Down. Is the glass half-full or empty? Is there a glass at all? Must ask Beckett about that one.
(INSERT RANDOM CHANT IN THIS BIT
IT WILL SEND THE CRITICS INTO A FIT).
Anyway, about this footnote. It’s the first one. There’s nothing like your first time is there? I remember mine was behind some derelict building in Dublin. The girl was nervous too, spouting all kinds of nonsense. That’s where I got my stream of consciousness idea from. It was cold and my balls were curiously damp. There was another boy-girl couple near by ready to do it too. Anyway, I’ll continue the story of my first match of mixed doubles tennis later on.
First things are important though – I don’t even reckon I’ll better ‘A Portrait Of the Artist…’ – my first mature work, and its not even a portrait either, hahaha! I never could paint. Neither could Picasso, but don’t tell him I told you that! Fbzr bs uvf cnvagvatf ner nf pbzcerurafvoyr nf EBG13. My poor daughter says shes got voices in her head. Are they telling her to say that I wonder? Perhaps its just a double-bluff. I would not read too much into the fact that the end of Finnegan’s Wake finishes with a man having sex with his daughter. I mean, I don’t know any dead guys called Finnegan. It all comes from my imagination. Not that I imagined having sex with my daughter…errr, someone told me they did. I think its time to end this footnote.</span>
↑Ah yes, another opportunity to tell you about myself! But before that, have you noticed something different about this book? Well, I’ve decided to jettison that stream-of-conscious rubbish and write proper English. I might deviate at points, for prizes shall surely be won, and I would be jally glod to haze a prive. Anyway, the wife was complaining y’see: She said she didn’t understand my books. I don’t understand them either, but I thought that if my books were a bit incomprehensible then they will have more of a mystique about them and that will at least keep people interested for another couple of years. I recall the words of my old Irish teacher: ‘Tis better to write a piece that is abstruse and difficult to understand than to write something that is clear, structured, explainable, readable, legible, etc.’ Wise words those, indeed, wise words. It’s got me out of many a scrape, especially when I am asked to declare my political allegiances. I'm not waffling am I? Only problem is, I write such abstract literature now that I don't even use pen or paper...What am I talking about anyway? I live in the Republic of Ireland. Well I did anyway. I’m in Paris at the minute – only problem is you can’t get any of that genuine Irish ale, and I’m NOT talking about that Guinness rubbish which all the young lads drink. And lasses too, though it makes them far easier to pull then. It makes me laugh watching those fancy barmen try to find the right way to pour the perfect pint. One of them was stood on one leg and balancing the glass at a 70 degree angle whilst reciting some Parnell quotes. But as luck would have it, the customer refused the pint of Guinness. The barman was perturbed, saying that he’d performed the ritual perfectly. Then customer revealed that he was an ex-pat Brit who hated Parnell, but he enjoyed the barman’s act so much that he paid him another potato to do it again. This gave the barman so much confidence he developed it into a stage-act. I cannot remember his name now. I think he met a horrible end in Africa though because when he took his world tour there, some of the natives stoned him to death because they though he was doing a feeble impersonation of their God. They have a God for everything over there.
↑In this sentence, I'm obviously referring to my speccy-tacles, but the glasses could also be interpreted as empty glasses in a pub. We're back to that half-full or half-empty thing again. Still no word from Beckett about that. I was due to meet him at a bar in Paris but I was barred from it. I started reading extracts from Finnegan's Wake, which I thought would go down well, but I ended up boring all the customers to death and they left. So the bartender threw me out, citing me as an impediment to trade. I went and did my business round the back of the pub, in retaliation.
↑I was speaking to a person in an off-licence last night about god and blasphemy. She said she was meretricious. I wondered why should put herself down so harshly. I later discovered that she had meant to say she was from the Mauritius. She then told me to move on because she had customers to serve. I never seemed to get anywhere chatting up women at off-licences.
↑Anywho, I’ve not talked about meself much have I? Well, in all honesty I do not like to. I did that before, and I don’t think ‘Portrait of the Artist as an Old, Blind, Past-It, Drunk, Man’ would go down too well would it now?
↑Not so keen on this guy. Dunno why I've given him the sexualcultural satisfaction of putting him in my book anyway. I suppose he's a big name, and it might help it sell. Not that I've ever given a moment's notice to commercial value when I've written my books before. What is it that Thomas Aquinas says: 'Sell not ye books for profit, else God will drown ye in Guinness'. Hmmm, my mind's a bit rusty with quotations, but I shudder at the syphilitic thought that severs the soul of a sinner. Revile!
↑No freud I wont freud I'm not getting on that lovely couch of yours so you can analyse me no I've not got any problems Oooo who's that young girl in your office? No Oh, it's Anna is it? Yes I like your grandfather clock but I'm not so keen on the pendulum so can I leave now don't block my exit I hate psychoanalysis Im not a psycho Im an analyst yes there is a difference no I wont do it even if you paid me you coke-fiend it wouldn't make a difference if you shaved your beard no no I wont do it I wont lie on the couch don't draw closer to me. Oooo I'm feeling rather faint