This time last year—St. Patrick's Day weekend–I visited the James Joyce Center in Dublin; thinking it poetic at the time, I purchased paperback copies of Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as my only Irish souvenirs. While I thoroughly enjoyed the former collection of short sketches—their individual lengths deeming them slightly more approachable in my mind—I'm afraid that the latter volume sat unattended on my bookshelf, gathering dust, until I picked it up last week. The coming-of-age story of Stephen Dedalus is not a new one, but Joyce's interpretation of Modernist realism is refreshing in its selective and intermittent lucidity. Charmingly frank and naive, at times, and deeply philosophical at others, Dedalus' voice (thought to represent Joyce's own) is complex and unique. While I do admit that some of the book's meaning escapes me, I cannot claim, as did Vladimir Nabokov, that my foray into Joyce has taught me "nothing." Thus far, the challenge is proving justified by the reward, but I'm not sure I'm equipped for Ulysses anytime soon...
After stumbling across the book trailer for Carol Bensimon’s new road novel, Todos nós adorávamos caubóis, I became captivated by the Youtube channel of Brazilian publisher, Companhia das Letras. Populated by trailers of all kinds—from Fernanda Torres reading aloud on the beaches of Rio, to Rita Lee animatedly chatting with the illustrator of Storynhas, to the dialogue free, scenery driven depiction of Bensimon’s book—the channel is a showcase for the publisher’s conceptual openness and regard for high production value. Whether you’re a native carioca or stare blankly when somebody asks Como vai? it’s worth a look.
The South African all-male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo (which you might recognize from Paul Simon’s Graceland) has recently released a powerful new album called “Always With Us.”, which honors the bandleader’s late wife, Nellie Shabalala.