Saturday, November 28, 2020

Rare Recording of James Joyce Society Meeting in NYC featuring Joseph Campbell, Padraic Colum

This recorded meeting of the James Joyce Society of NY took place on Oct 23, 1951 at Gotham Book Mart in Manhattan. This a must-listen for Wakeans. Joseph Campbell provides a good introduction to newcomers and then reads select passages from the book, really capturing the lilt of the language beautifully. Padraic Colum shares personal memories of his old friend James Joyce. There is a Dr. Schwartz on the recording as well, and I thought it might be Delmore Schwartz (who was captured in a photograph with a group at Gotham Book Mart in 1948) but this Dr. Schwartz seems to have met Joyce personally which Delmore never did. Lately I've developed a great interest in Delmore Schwartz, reading his biography, his journals, and his letters, with no mention of this historic occasion anywhere so it must be a different Schwartz. 

The gathering sounds sort of like a Finnegans Wake reading group. Listening to it I could feel myself there in that tiny Manhattan bookshop in 1951, enthralled listening to Campbell explore the text he loved so much, and seeing James Joyce come to life in the reflections shared by those who had known him personally. This was only ten years after Joyce's death.

"It was cultivated with a meticulosity bordering on the insane" - one of the members describing Joyce's approach to writing Finnegans Wake.

The recording is on YouTube thanks to the account "repetition compulsion" who has also posted the Anthony Burgess FW video and has also shared a video of Jean Erdman (Joseph Campbell's wife) performing her musical play "The Coach with the Six Insides."