30 April 2008

William Carlos Williams

[from The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams, 1948]

And so for the event of the evening, supper with James and Nora Joyce, at the only place at which Joyce would eat, the Trianon.

Joyce was not a tall man. He had a small, compressed head, straight nose and no lips, and spoke with a distinct, if internationalized, Irish accent. He would take no hard liquor, only white wine, a mild white wine, because of his eyes. He was almost blind from glaucoma. It was a wonderful evening, Nora, a sturdy one, hardly said a word.

Joyce, who was working at that time on the early Dublin parts of Finnegans Wake, was particularly anxious to talk with Floss, because she was Norse-speaking on her mother's side and the Norsemen had played a great part in Irish history.

We were all drinking white wine out of courtesy to Joyce, who, as he talked, went to fill Flossie's glass; but his aim was poor, the wine going beyond onto the table until she moved her glass into a position to catch it and so saved the day.

As we started to drink another round, Bob McAlmon, who may have been a little tight, proposed, "Here's to sin!"

Joyce looked up suddenly. "I won't drink to that," he said.

So Bob took it back with a laugh and we all sipped our wine again silently.


Bob [McAlmon] told me of an incident which happened during a train ride he had had with Hem[ingway] on his way back from Spain a year before. They had stopped and the passengers had alighted for a breath of fresh air. Beside the track was a dead dog, his belly swollen, the skin of it iridescent with decay. Bob had wanted to get away from the stink as fast as he could, but Hem would not. On the contrary, he got out his notebook and began, to Bob's disgust, to take minute notes describing the carcass in all its beauth.

"I thoroughly approve," I said.

Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (A New Directions Paperbook)

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