The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses

The untold story about how Ulysses got published, as an in depth exploration of the legal trials and physical tribulations Joyce endured. Read in its entirety on a train ride to Seattle, it was allowed the prestigious honor of being allowed in my backpack with 2 other books after I skimmed it while packing and came across: “One of the ironies of Ulysses is that while it was banned to protect the delicate sensibilities of female readers, the book owes its existence to several women.. inspired by one woman, funded by another, serialized by two more and published by yet another.” Thus are Nora, Harriet Weaver, Margaret Anderson & Jane Heap, and Sylvia Beach outed as the heroines of the book. Nora is the woman who ran away from Ireland with Joyce about whom the book details the day of their first date, and is also the mother of his two children, one of whom is diagnosed with schizophrenia, the woman who never leaves him despite his obsession and single-mindedness about writing the book. Harriet Weaver sends him money to sustain (e.g. drink) himself while writing the book, giving him the equivalent of £1M in today’s money (as capital, that he could take a percentage of as annual return). Margaret Anderson & Jane Heap are the editors of The Little Review, a Greenwich Village magazine that serializes Ulysses as its being written, running into censorship flagged by the Comstock Act for indecent material being sent through the mail. Sylvia Beach, the American running a Parisian bookshop who takes a chance and publishes the entire work as a book.
The origins of The Little Review harken back to Dora Marsden’s feminist radical magazine, The Freewoman, founded to foment “a vast revolution in the entire field of human affairs, intellectual, sexual, domestic, economic, legal and political.” Opposing everything that threatened individual freedom: governments, churches, gender, class, race. Joyce as philosophical anarchist: skepticism of self-evident concepts that hold sway over people.

Anarchism emerged as a response to the rapid growth of the modern state… to the growth of one of the nineteenth century’s biggest ideas: the police…. By 1878 the British government had passed more than one hundred laws expanding police powers, and Britain set the example for police expansion all around the world. (p51)

Amazing sexism of Ezra Pound, telling his partner they should make an official announcement: “No woman shall be allowed to write for this magazine… I think active America is getting fed up on gynocracy and that it’s time for a male review…” Yet Pound had an essential role in acting as intermediary to get Joyce’s words out into the world.
The suppression of expression during WWI amped up under William Lamar (solicitor general of the Post Office), who wrote to a journalist, “I am after three things and only three things – pro germanism, pacifism, and high browism.”
Wrapped along with this, the woeful tale of Joyce’s eyes/eyesight deteriorating and taking medicines that sent him into hallucinatory states, the benefit to the book of having periods of no editing/writing where it was all internal reflection. The writing of scraps of paper, messages in a bottle, left around the apartment for better days. Ulysses as a never-revised book, since it was in a constant state of revision, being churned out sentence by sentence, painstakingly.