Fathers and daughters – and sons

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(Milo O’Shea as Leopold Bloom via http://ulyssesetc.blogspot.com/ )

Yesterday, of course, was Bloomsday when, in dozens of countries around the world, people celebrate the anniversary of the events of James Joyce’s great novel, published in Paris in 1922 but set in Dublin (16 June 1904).

‘Kidneys were in his mind as he moved about the kitchen softly, righting her breakfast things on the humpy tray. Gelid light and air were in the kitchen but out of doors gentle summer morning everywhere. Made him feel a bit peckish.’

Today is Father’s Day, at least here and in the United States, the date varying wildly in other countries, often occurring in March and April as well as June: my reference book says simply, ‘USA: Father’s Day (first celebrated 1910; not proclaimed by President until 1966).’

The author of Ulysses ended his previous novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, thus: ‘Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.’ The book had begun with Stephen’s own father telling him a story; by the end, that ‘old father’ is Daedalus, labyrinth-maker. This, critics point out, casts Stephen as Icarus, who had a famously nasty encounter with the heat of the sun, not waxing but waning – and worse. W. H. Auden begins his poem ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’, ‘About suffering they were never wrong, / The Old Masters’, that is, they understood that, however appalling the event or spectacle or outrage, everything else goes on regardless. He ends the poem by evoking a famous painting:

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(Brueghel, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus)

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

The poem is dated December 1938.

At the very beginning of Charles Olson’s first published book, Call Me Ishmael, there are these striking lines as epigraph:

O fahter, fahter
gone among

O eeys that loke

Loke, fahter:
your sone!

The editors’ note reveals that Frances Bolderoff wrote to Olson in May 1949 to say, ‘I love very deeply—the lines at the opening of Call Me Ishmael. Are they early Swedish?’ Olson wrote back by return: ‘They are early Olson.’

Dombey-and-Son

My own father is long gone, alas. Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev wrote; Father and Son, wrote Edmund Gosse’s. Kathleen Tillotson, writing about Dickens’ 1848 novel Dombey and Son, pointed out that the title was ‘deliberately misleading—serving to keep the secret of Paul’s early death, and to point the irony of the book’s true subject—which is, of course, Dombey and Daughter.’ And yes, around here—as used to be the case in the office—it’s certainly fathers and daughters. The Librarian now on the phone to hers; a text just flown in from my younger daughter; and the creases on the new shirt reluctantly vanishing (‘You’d better run the iron over that. It looks as if you’ve just taken it out of the wrapper’ – ‘I have just taken it out of the wrapper’), as I get ready to meet my elder daughter. Lunch!

—Have you a cheese sandwich?
—Yes, sir.
Like a few olives too if they had them. Italian I prefer. Good glass of burgundy take away that. Lubricate. A nice salad, cool as a cucumber, Tom Kernan can dress. Puts gusto into it. Pure olive oil. Milly served me that cutlet with a sprig of parsley. Take one Spanish onion. God made food, the devil the cooks. Devilled crab.