Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Crying Joyce Game

Eleven pages down, 39 to go! I'm exhausted already. How do these writing people do it? I've decided that after I finish this dissertation, I'm never writing anything ever again. Except for fun, lackadaisical things like blogs and magazine columns if the magazine is paying me $400 to write the column. I read a column in what was probably the Boston Globe magazine this morning that was entitled "Etiquette." The woman answered two questions fairly simplistically and they probably paid her money to do so. I need to look into this.

So today I made a nasty little discovery. I have been trying to put together this super smart panel of Joyce scholars to act out my own fantasies and visions at a conference next June at Cornell University. Well, just one vision--a very high school speech-class vision. Remember? In which you were given a topic and 2.5 minutes to throw together a logical, three-point impromptu speech. Since I usually spent about that much time preparing for my non-impromptu speeches, I was very very good at this exercise, and consequently have a soft spot in my heart for off-the-cuff speaking.

I'm going to make the Joyce scholars do it. I'm going to give them excerpts from Ulysses and ten minutes to come up with a presentation for an audience of 60 or so other smart professor types. How on earth did I get four famous Joyce scholars to do this, you ask? I'm totally not sure. I think for one thing because all my recruiting was done via email so they have no idea how old I am or how unqualified to be ordering them around.

Anyway, back to my discovery. I was very determined to have a gender-balanced panel, two men + two women, despite the fact that Joyce scholarship is exceedingly male. All the women I asked were saying no however, screw them. I finally managed to get one woman to agree, along with three men, and I felt relieved that I had done my best and at least I had ONE GODDAMNED WOMAN on the panel. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to get a woman to agree to this (which is probably a worthy subject for a different posting of the type that my Republican friends weary of reading). In their defense, there aren't many female Joyce scholars. Maybe 30%.

The academic schedule was released today, with my panel posted as follows:

"Impromptu Joyce"
Sara Sullivan (moderator)
Sheldon Brivic
Richard Brown
Sean Latham
John Paul Riquelme

Oh no no no, I chided the conference organizers indulgently to myself, while beginning to draft a politely-worded email. You see, there are two Joyce scholars who have very similar names (isn't that funny? so ironic?)--Sheldon Brivic (a man) and Shelly Brivic (obviously female). I'd seen both their names many times in various Joyce-related contexts. And those silly conference people put up the wrong scholar! Shelly was going to be so put out when she saw that. I'd better let them know straightaway.

But yeah, you can see where this is going. Shelly's not a woman. In fact, there is no Shelly. My lone "woman" on the panel never existed at all, despite my fictive imaginings of her in a tweedy little outfit, endearingly lost in her reveries on the psycho-sexual implications of Stephen's ashplant in "Proteus." Or whatever. There is no Shelly. "Shelly"--as "she" signed all of "her" emails to me over the last month--is Sheldon Brivic's nickname. I would probably want to put Sheldon as far as possible behind me too, granted.

("A Sheldon can do your income taxes. If you need a root canal, Sheldon's your man. But humping and pumping are not Sheldon's strong suits. It's the name. Do it to me, Sheldon. You're an animal, Sheldon. Ride me, big Sheldon. It doesn't work.")

Sheldon Brivic is actually a big-time scholar who has written four books on Joyce, so I'm glad to get him on my panel--good times. And thank you sweet Jesus I realized my error before pressing "send" on that fateful email to the conference organizers--not good times. But, saying hello to Sheldon means saying goodbye to even a pathetic stab at gender balance on my panel, and this whole situation also means saying goodbye to any smidgen of smug, self-congratulatory, academically-satisfied type feelings I might have been harboring today. Most of all, it's hard to say goodbye to Shelly, and all the good times we had.

I've got to go now, as I need to madly scan through all my emails of the past month to make sure I made no reference whatsoever to Shelly's sex or any sisterly claims to female solidarity in any of our cyber-communications. I feel, nauseatingly, quite sure that I may have.


At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In their defense, there aren't many female Joyce scholars. Maybe 30%." Who are you Larry Summers? JQ

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent H meets S reference! i love it

At 2:50 PM, Blogger joyandpain said...

That is unbelievable. Nice try, I guess, is all one can say.

I, too, am very pleased to read a WHMS quote.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger charles.bukowski.costanza said...

forget sheldon and jj and this "conference" with all its shenanigans. you were going to be a gymnast.

a journalist.

right, that's what i said.

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I took Shelly Brivic for undergrad irish lit and did my senior thesis (on Pynchon) with him at Temple.

Mention Lacan. Above all else mention Lacan--and you'll get Brivic's vote!

He's quite approachable, and VERY willing to discuss ANYTHING Joyce. Enjoy the conference!

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and Dr. Brivic won't even remember if you referred to him as a woman in an email--he's exceedingly bright and exceedingly------scatter-brained. Most Joyceans are!


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