Recently, I picked up, from a lovely used bookstore in London, Ontario, a large selection of Tom Stoppard plays, including one I have had my eye on for some time - Travesties
, as I understand it, is a sort of historical fiction drama arising from the fact that Tristan Tzara, Vladimir Lenin, and James Joyce were all living in Zurich during the first World War. Fascinating, right? I am forever a fan of the thought experiment. I could read with abandon, but I have decided that I can't read Travesties
without first giving Ulysses
, which I have had on my shelf for several years, an honest go.
Gods help me.
Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed boneless snail. She had loved his weak watery blood drained from her own. Was that then real? The only true thing in life? His mother's prostrate body the fiery Columbanus in holy zeal bestrode. She was no more: the trembling skeleton of a twig burnt in the fire, an odour of rosewood and wetted ashes. She had saved him from being trampled under foot and had gone, scarcely having been. a poor soul gone to heaven: and on a heath beneath winking stars a fox, red reek of rapine in his fur, with merciless bright eyes scraped in the earth, listened, scraped up the earth, listened, scraped and scraped. (Joyce, 26)