Lucia Joyce : to dance in the wake /

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Main Author: Shloss, Carol.
Format: Book
Published:New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
Edition:1st ed.
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Review by Choice Review

The story of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter, is a sad and mysterious one. From the scant evidence remaining of her life, we know that she trained as a dancer, bore resentment toward her famous father, and spent most of her existence in various institutions. Her malady (and its source) was never really understood, manifesting itself in tantrums, violence, and inappropriate sexual behavior. In this unnecessarily swollen biography, Shloss (Stanford Univ.) draws on what little information exists to concoct a hypothesis that her subject was not insane but rather an avatar of modernism. She claims that Lucia was the true child of Joyce's genius and uses readings of Finnegans Wake to attempt to prove the daughter's influence on the text, going so far as to call its composition a "collaboration." Although the father-daughter relationship is certainly important to Finnegans Wake, Shloss weakens her argument by making unsupported claims about Lucia's centrality to her father's work and the modernist project and by offering more sordid possibilities (e.g., abortion, incest). The reliance on unfounded, fanciful speculation makes this a problematic project indeed. ^BSumming Up: Not recommended for academic collections. J. M. Utell Widener University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The author of this groundbreaking new study of the life of Lucia Joyce (1907-1982), the daughter of James Joyce, shares an artistic sensibility with her subject that gives her a special insight for viewing Lucia's life. The origin of Lucia's mental breakdown, Shloss speculates, was her family's decision that she must give up her promising and fulfilling career in modern dance, an art form that Shloss explores with deep empathy. Lucia, she shows, was an artist, "who worked with a fervor and vision comparable to Joyce's own." Deprived of the creative expression that gave her life meaning, yanked from one country to another by her perpetually penurious father and buffeted by a series of emotional crises-her abandonment by several men she loved, including Samuel Beckett and Alexander Calder-Lucia's volatile and sometimes violent behavior resulted in her lifelong incarceration in mental institutions. Shloss further speculates that Joyce came to understand his role in his daughter's mental illness, and that he tried until his untimely death to reunite Lucia with her family-even though his wife, Nora, would not allow Lucia in her home and Giorgio, Lucia's untalented, parasitical brother, insisted that Lucia remain behind institutional bars. Shloss's assiduous research has turned up numerous facts about Lucia's medical and psychiatric history that contradict what other biographers have said; she takes issue with Richard Ellmann, Jane Lidderdale and Brenda Maddox for accepting versions of Lucia's life from unreliable sources. She criticizes Ellmann in particular for deviating from the historical method in his decision to trust the words of Maria Jolas, a family friend whose version of events was colored by her dislike of Lucia. Shloss's research reveals information about the various psychiatrists (including Jung) who used Lucia as human guinea pig to test psychological and physiological theories, all later disproved; it makes painful reading. Even more provocatively, Shloss states that Lucia was her father's muse, that she was aware of her role and that she was both proprietary of her place in her father's creativity and resentful that she was forced to abandon her own attempts at artistic expression. In Shloss's cogent analysis, the character of Anna Livia Plurabelle in Finnegans Wake reflected Joyce's steadfast love for and festering guilt about his daughter, who he truly believed was a genius in her own right. Deeply and intuitively familiar with Joyce's work, Shloss speculates that Finnegans Wake is "an elaborate coded mystery of an actual family." Since most of Lucia's letters have been destroyed, as Shloss acknowledges, she has been forced to imagine Lucia through the eyes of those who knew her and from her medical records. Because it is speculative in many areas where no direct material survives, this study will surely arouse debate, as Shloss admits. Because it is so astutely reasoned, however, it will surely stand as a vivid testament to Lucia's talents as a creative artist, as well as a corrective to the ways that the facts of her life have been hidden and distorted by earlier Joyce scholars. Agent, Tina Bennett, Janklow and Nesbit. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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