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12 Wonderful Facts About Some Kind of Wonderful

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Some Kind of Wonderful, which re-teamed Pretty in Pink director Howard Deutch with John Hughes, wasn’t a hit at the box office (it grossed just over $18.5 million), and it’s often described as a gender reversal of Pretty in Pink. But non-Brat Packers Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Lea Thompson told a convincing story about a high school misfit named Keith Nelson (Stoltz) who manages to snag a date with Amanda Jones (Thompson), the most popular girl in school. Later on, he realizes he’s actually in love with Watts (Masterson), his tomboy percussionist best friend.

After writing and producing Some Kind of Wonderful, Hughes left the teen world behind and moved on to more adult fare with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and She’s Having a Baby. But Some Kind of Wonderful remains a touchstone in Hughes’ oeuvre and in the pantheon of adored teen movies. Here are 12 wonderful facts about the 1987 movie.

1. THE SCRIPT WAS ORIGINALLY CONCEIVED AS A SEX COMEDY.

“There was the first draft that was sort of like a broader sex comedy,” Mary Stuart Masterson told Entertainment Weekly, explaining that “my character was named Keith and she wanted to be male.” In Susannah Gora’s book, You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, Jon Cryer—who auditioned for the movie—remembered a subversive scene where Keith’s (then named Garth) watch gets stuck in his gym shorts in front of Amanda. “And he’s scratching his crotch. And the girl walks by. He tries to pull his hand out of his shorts, but his digital watch gets stuck on the inside seam of his shorts. So he’s struggling with it, which, of course, looks even worse.”

2. HUGHES WROTE FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF WHEN HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE REWRITING SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL.

Deutch and Hughes would work on the Some Kind of Wonderful script late at night, and Deutch would fall asleep on the couch in their office while Hughes typed up rewrites of the script. “He would stay up all night, music blasting, and at like 5:30 or 6 a.m., he’d hand me what was supposed to be a rewrite on Some Kind of Wonderful,” Deutch told Vulture. “We needed five pages, and it was 50 pages. I said, ‘What did you do?! What is this?’ and he said, ‘Oh, I didn’t do that. I did something else. Tell me what you think?’ And it was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He wrote the first half of the movie in, like, eight hours, and then finished it a couple days later.”

3. MOLLY RINGWALD AND ANDREW MCCARTHY TURNED DOWN ROLES.

Hughes offered his frequent collaborator Molly Ringwald a role in Some Kind of Wonderful, but she rejected it. “I declined because I felt like the script wasn’t strong enough and was too derivative of the other films I’d already made with John,” Ringwald told The Atlantic. “He wanted me to play the role of a character called Watts, which went to Mary Stuart Masterson, but I was ready to graduate from high school.”

McCarthy felt the same way. “Hughes asked me to do it. I had just made, like, three of those movies in a row,” he said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “It seemed like we just kept making the same movie.” Deutch also offered a role to Michael J. Fox, who obviously passed.

4. LEA THOMPSON SAID “YES” TO THE MOVIE BECAUSE HOWARD THE DUCK BOMBED.

Lea Thompson was offered the part of Amanda Jones but turned it down because “I didn’t want to play second banana, and the Mary Stuart Masterson part was better. I was very jealous,” she said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried. When Howard the Duck came out in 1986 and tanked at the box office, Thompson felt she needed to do damage control on her career. Deutch asked Stoltz if he knew Thompson, which he did (they’d worked on Back to the Future together before Stoltz got fired). Stoltz agreed to deliver the script to her house and she finally agreed to do it.

“I was so freaked out because Howard the Duck was such a brutal bloodbath,” said Thompson. “I was so afraid to even look the crew in the eyes. I cried the first day [of shooting]. I was like, I don’t know how to act. I just felt so vulnerable and beaten. In a way, it was like getting on a bicycle after you fall down.”

5. THOMPSON DIDN’T WANT AMANDA TO BE JUST ANOTHER “PRETTY GIRL.”

At first Amanda seems like her sole purpose is to break Keith’s heart, but Thompson pushed for Amanda to be more than that. “Her life is not perfect and actually you realize everybody has problems,” she told Brightest Young Things. “I was a really strong feminist as a young person and I always tried to break down the barriers of the female stereotypes in interesting ways, and I’ve always been really conscious of that even when I was creating Lorraine McFly in Back to the Future. I was really trying to find a deeper human underneath what could have just been one color.”

“I felt too many things were dependent on her physical beauty and I didn’t feel I was beautiful enough to carry that off,” Thompson stated in the film’s production notes. “Thus, I felt my character should have more inner beauty.” Deutch and Hughes listened to her and made Amanda “far more sympathetic.”

6. MARTHA COOLIDGE ENVISIONED A DARKER VERSION OF HIGH SCHOOL.

The film’s pre-production was fraught with drama, especially when Deutch left the project because of stress over not being able to find the right actor to play Keith. Valley Girl director Martha Coolidge stepped in and hired Eric Stoltz as Keith, Kim Delaney as Amanda, and Kyle MacLachlan as Hardy Jenns. (Masterson had already been hired.) “It was almost a silent film, because Martha had this interesting idea of trying to make it as much of a non-verbal, non-jokey teen film as possible,” Stoltz told Moviehole. “Clearly, the powers that be didn’t go for that.”

Hughes didn’t like the route Coolidge was taking the story in and asked Deutch to come back, which resulted in Coolidge’s removal from the project. Hughes transformed the film into a lighthearted comedy, without the darkness. This caused hostility between Deutch and Stoltz, especially because Stoltz liked Coolidge’s vision better. “That’s why I wanted to get involved, because the idea of making a darker version of Pretty in Pink that didn’t have the Duckies in it, was intriguing—sort of like making a darker version of a kid’s fairy tale,” Stoltz said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried.

7. HUGHES SCREWED COOLIDGE OVER WHEN BROUGHT DEUTCH BACK.

When Hughes managed to talk Deutch into rejoining the movie, Coolidge was blindsided by her firing. Executive producer Michael Chinich had her come to his office to tell her the unfortunate news. “Michael was in tears when I got there and talked about his crushing disappointment in the film and his company,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “He directed me to sit and told me what a great job I was doing. I thought maybe Eric had died and the movie was off. Then he said that they would be making the film but not with me. He said that I was fired, with no reason, and I had to leave the lot right away. I was in shock.”

Kim Delaney and Kyle MacLachlan were also fired immediately, but the studio wanted Stoltz to stay. “The experience was awful, a real artistic coitus-interruptus,” said Coolidge. “I hired a publicist to help me through the ‘Artistic Differences’ public story that the company and my agents had agreed upon.” Years later she ran into Hughes in an airport and he acted like “nothing had ever happened and he had never caused me such pain.”

8. THE MAIN CHARACTERS' NAMES CONTAIN REFERENCES TO THE ROLLING STONES AND THE WHO.

Watts was originally named “Drummer Girl” and didn’t have a formal name, but her nickname was “Keith,” named after The Who drummer Keith Moon. Masterson thought it was weird that her character had a man’s name, so she talked to Hughes and Deutch about changing it. “I gave all these notes, like, this character is written as a tomboy but I don’t think a tomboy is necessarily a woman that wants to be a man,” she said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. “It’s somebody who’s just not willing to be a slave to the feminine manipulative paradigm … Why does she want a guy’s name?” So they changed her name to Watts, as in The Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts. Eric Stoltz became Keith, and Amanda was named Amanda Jones, after the Stones song “Miss Amanda Jones.”

9. KEITH HAD LONGER HAIR BUT THE STUDIO MADE HIM CUT IT.

With Coolidge at the helm, they filmed a few weeks with Keith having hair below his shoulders. “I was very greasy and odd looking. Because the guy was someone who wasn’t able to fit in, we thought that was a great way to go,” Stoltz told Moviehole. When Coolidge was fired, they shut down production. “Someone at Paramount came down and said, ‘We’re going to cut your hair, and clean up your act.’ I said, ‘But the role is a rebel who doesn’t fit in.’ They said, ‘You’re going to cut your hair, and we’ll clean you up.’ I said, ‘Oh, so this is how the world works.’” Stoltz also had to wear eyeliner and blush.

10. DEUTCH HAD SUCH A CRUSH ON THOMPSON THAT HE KEPT HAVING HER PICTURE PAINTED.

The director and actress met on the set, fell in love, and got married (they’re still happily married today), thought they didn’t start dating until after filming wrapped. In a pivotal scene during Keith and Amanda’s date, Keith takes her to a museum and reveals a painting he did of her. The truth is, the director was so smitten with Thompson that he commissioned about 10 paintings. “There were all these paintings and they were all lined up on the soundstage, and Howie kept saying, ‘No, it’s not good enough!’ They must’ve spent $40,000 on those paintings,” Thompson said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. Thompson kept two of the paintings. “I should have kept the other ones because people will tell me they’re touring the prop house at Paramount and they’re like, ‘I saw nine paintings of you at the prop house.’ I should have kept them all,” she told Brightest Young Things.

11. THE MOVIE'S ENDING IS MUCH DIFFERENT FROM THE SCRIPT'S ENDING.

In the final draft of the script, dated a month before filming began, Keith calls “Drummer Girl” by her real name, Susan, and tells her he loves her. In the movie we don’t find out her real name and the “I love you” part doesn’t occur. Both in the movie and the script, he gives her a pair of diamond earrings and says, “You look good wearing my future.” In the film, the credits start to roll, but in the script she says, “These babies go back in the morning. You’re going to art school.” He replies with, “We’ll keep one and make it a ring,” insinuating they should get married. Sensing his uncertainty, Drummer Girl says, “You don’t want to think about that one, do you?” They continue to banter for about a page more, about how that moment was her first kiss, and then Keith jokes she did it wrong.

12. THOMPSON THINKS AMANDA WOULD’VE BECOME A CEO.

When asked what she thinks Amanda would be doing today in an interview with Brightest Young Things, Thompson replied, “I think she would have been really successful. I think she would be an executive in the fashion industry. She had really cool clothes and hair. I think maybe she would have been some kind of boss, like in marketing or fashion, absolutely, definitely a CEO.”

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25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites
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Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, "Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression," or does it mean, "Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default"? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of contronyms—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean "give official permission or approval for (an action)" or conversely, "impose a penalty on."

2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” Oversee, from Old English ofersēon ("look at from above") means "supervise" (medieval Latin for the same thing: super-, "over" plus videre, "to see.") Overlook usually means the opposite: "to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore."

3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)

4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.

5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them.

6. Stone is another verb to use with caution. You can stone some peaches, but please don’t stone your neighbor (even if he says he likes to get stoned).

7. Trim as a verb predates the noun, but it can also mean either adding or taking away. Arising from an Old English word meaning "to make firm or strong; to settle, arrange," trim came to mean "to prepare, make ready." Depending on who or what was being readied, it could mean either of two contradictory things: "to decorate something with ribbons, laces, or the like to give it a finished appearance" or "to cut off the outgrowths or irregularities of." And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree are you using tinsel or a chain saw?

8. Cleave can be cleaved into two homographs, words with different origins that end up spelled the same. Cleave, meaning "to cling to or adhere," comes from an Old English word that took the forms cleofian, clifian, or clīfan. Cleave, with the contrary meaning "to split or sever (something)"—as you might do with a cleaver—comes from a different Old English word, clēofan. The past participle has taken various forms: cloven, which survives in the phrase “cloven hoof,” “cleft,” as in a “cleft palate” or “cleaved.”

9. Resign works as a contronym in writing. This time we have homographs, but not homophones. Resign, meaning "to quit," is spelled the same as resign, meaning "to sign up again," but it’s pronounced differently.

10. Fast can mean "moving rapidly," as in running fast, or "fixed, unmoving," as in holding fast. If colors are fast they will not run. The meaning "firm, steadfast" came first; the adverb took on the sense "strongly, vigorously," which evolved into "quickly," a meaning that spread to the adjective.

11. Off means "deactivated," as in to turn off, but also "activated," as in the alarm went off.

12. Weather can mean "to withstand or come safely through" (as in the company weathered the recession) or it can mean "to be worn away" (the rock was weathered).

13. Screen can mean to show (a movie) or to hide (an unsightly view).

14. Help means "assist," unless you can’t help doing something, when it means "prevent."

15. Clip can mean "to bind together" or "to separate." You clip sheets of paper to together or separate part of a page by clipping something out. Clip is a pair of homographs, words with different origins spelled the same. Old English clyppan, which means "to clasp with the arms, embrace, hug," led to our current meaning, "to hold together with a clasp." The other clip, "to cut or snip (a part) away," is from Old Norse klippa, which may come from the sound of a shears.

16. Continue usually means to persist in doing something, but as a legal term it means stop a proceeding temporarily.

17. Fight with can be interpreted three ways. “He fought with his mother-in-law” could mean "They argued," "They served together in the war," or "He used the old battle-ax as a weapon." (Thanks to linguistics professor Robert Hertz for this idea.)

18. Flog, meaning "to punish by caning or whipping," shows up in school slang of the 17th century, but now it can have the contrary meaning, "to promote persistently," as in “flogging a new book.” Perhaps that meaning arose from the sense "to urge (a horse, etc.) forward by whipping," which grew out of the earliest meaning.

19. Go means "to proceed," but also "give out or fail," i.e., “This car could really go until it started to go.”

20. Hold up can mean "to support" or "to hinder": “What a friend! When I’m struggling to get on my feet, he’s always there to hold me up.”

21. Out can mean "visible" or "invisible." For example, “It’s a good thing the full moon was out when the lights went out.”

22. Out of means "outside" or "inside": “I hardly get out of the house because I work out of my home.”

23. B**ch can derisively refer to a woman who is considered overly aggressive or domineering, or it can refer to someone passive or submissive.

24. Peer is a person of equal status (as in a jury of one’s peers), but some peers are more equal than others, like the members of the peerage, the British or Irish nobility.

25. Toss out could be either "to suggest" or "to discard": “I decided to toss out the idea.”

The contronym (also spelled “contranym”) goes by many names, including auto-antonym, antagonym, enantiodrome, self-antonym, antilogy and Janus word (from the Roman god of beginnings and endings, often depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions). Can’t get enough of them? The folks at Daily Writing Tips have rounded up even more.

This piece originally ran in 2015.

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12 Facts About James Joyce
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June 16, 1904 is the day that James Joyce, the Irish author of Modernist masterpieces like Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and who was described as “a curious mixture of sinister genius and uncertain talent,” set his seminal work, Ulysses. It also thought to be the day that he had his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle.

He was as mythical as the myths he used as the foundations for his own work. So in honor of that June day in 1904—known to fans worldwide as “Bloomsday,” after one of the book’s protagonists, Leopold Bloom—here are 12 facts about James Joyce.

1. HE WAS ONLY 9 WHEN HIS FIRST PIECE OF WRITING WAS PUBLISHED.

In 1891, shortly after he had to leave Clongowes Wood College when his father lost his job, 9-year-old Joyce wrote a poem called “Et Tu Healy?” It was published by his father John and distributed to friends; the elder Joyce thought so highly of it, he allegedly sent copies to the Pope.

No known complete copies of the poem exist, but the precocious student’s verse allegedly denounced a politician named Tim Healy for abandoning 19th century Irish nationalist politician Charles Stewart Parnell after a sex scandal. Fragments of the ending of the poem, later remembered by James’s brother Stanislaus, showed Parnell looking down on Irish politicians:

His quaint-perched aerie on the crags of Time
Where the rude din of this century
Can trouble him no more

While the poem was seemingly quaint, young Joyce equating Healy as Brutus and Parnell as Caesar marked the first time he’d use old archetypes in a modern context, much in the same way Ulysses is a unique retelling of The Odyssey.

As an adult, Joyce would publish his first book, a collection of poems called Chamber Music, in 1907. It was followed by Dubliners, a collection of short stories, in 1914, and the semi-autobiographical A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (in which Clongowes Wood College is prominently featured) in 1916.

2. HE CAUSED A CONTROVERSY AT HIS COLLEGE’S PAPER.

While attending University College Dublin, Joyce attempted to publish a negative review—titled “The Day of the Rabblement”—of a new local playhouse called the Irish Literary Theatre in the school’s paper, St. Stephen’s. Joyce’s condemnation of the theater’s “parochialism” was allegedly so scathing that the paper’s editors, after seeking consultation from one of the school’s priests, refused to print it.

Incensed about possible censorship, Joyce appealed to the school’s president, who sided with the editors—which prompted Joyce to put up his own money to publish 85 copies to be distributed across campus.

The pamphlet, published alongside a friend’s essay to beef up the page-count, came with the preface: “These two essays were commissioned by the editor of St. Stephen’s for that paper, but were subsequently refused insertion by the censor.” It wouldn’t be the last time Joyce would fight censorship.

3. NORA BARNACLE GHOSTED HIM FOR THEIR PLANNED FIRST DATE.

By the time Nora Barnacle and Joyce finally married in 1931, they had lived together for 27 years, traveled the continent and had two children. The couple first met in Dublin in 1904 when Joyce struck up a conversation with her near the hotel where Nora worked as a chambermaid. She initially mistook him for a Swedish sailor because of his blue eyes and the yachting cap he wore that day, and he charmed her so much that they set a date for June 14—but she didn’t show.

He then wrote her a letter, saying, “I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me—if you have not forgotten me!” This led to their first date, which supposedly took place on June 16, 1904.

She would continue to be his muse throughout their life together in both his published work (the character Molly Bloom in Ulysses is based on her) and their fruitful personal correspondence. Their notably dirty love letters to each other—featuring him saying their love-making reminded him of “a hog riding a sow” and signing off one by saying “Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty littlef**kbird!"—have highlighted the NSFW nature of their relationship. In fact, one of Joyce’s signed erotic letters to Nora fetched a record £240,800 ($446,422) at a London auction in 2004.

4. HE HAD REALLY BAD EYES.

While Joyce’s persistent money problems caused him to lead a life of what could be categorized as creative discomfort, he had to deal with a near lifetime of medical discomfort as well. Joyce suffered from anterior uveitis, which led to a series of around 12 eye surgeries over his lifetime. (Due to the relatively unsophisticated state of ophthalmology at the time, and his decision not to listen to contemporary medical advice, scholars speculate that his iritis, glaucoma, and cataracts could have been caused by sarcoidosis, syphilis, tuberculosis, or any number of congenital problems.) His vision issues caused Joyce to wear an eye patch for years and forced him to do his writing on large white sheets of paper using only red crayon. The persistent eye struggles even inspired him to name his daughter Lucia, after St. Lucia, patron saint of the blind.

5. HE TAUGHT ENGLISH AT A BERLITZ LANGUAGE SCHOOL.

In 1904, Joyce—eager to get out of Ireland—responded to an ad for a teaching position in Europe. Evelyn Gilford, a job agent based in the British town of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, notified Joyce that a job was reserved for him and, for two guineas, he would be told exactly where the position was. Joyce sent the money, and by the end of 1904, he and his future wife, Nora, had left Dublin for the job at a Berlitz language school in Zurich, Switzerland—but when they got there, the pair learned there was no open position. But they did hear a position was open at a Berlitz school in Trieste, Italy. The pair packed up and moved on to Italy only to find out they’d been swindled again.

Joyce eventually found a Berlitz teaching job in Pola in Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia). English was one of 17 languages Joyce could speak; others included Arabic, Sanskrit, Greek, and Italian (which eventually became his preferred language, and one that he exclusively spoke at home with his family). He also loved playwright Henrik Ibsen so much that he learned Norwegian so that he could read Ibsen's works in their original form—and send the writer a fan letter in his native tongue.

6. HE INVESTED IN A MOVIE THEATER.

There are about 400 movie theaters in Ireland today, but they trace their history back to 1909, when Joyce helped open the Volta Cinematograph, which is considered “the first full-time, continuous, dedicated cinema” in Ireland.

More a money-making scheme than a product of a love of cinema, Joyce first got the idea when he was having trouble getting Dubliners published and noticed the abundance of cinemas while living in Trieste. When his sister, Eva, told him Ireland didn’t have any movie theaters, Joyce joined up with four Italian investors (he’d get 10 percent of the profits) to open up the Volta on Dublin’s Mary Street.

The venture fizzled as quickly as Joyce’s involvement. After not attracting audiences due to mostly showing only Italian and European movies unpopular with everyday Dubliners, Joyce cut his losses and pulled out of the venture after only seven months.

The cinema itself didn’t close until 1919, during the time Joyce was hard at work on Ulysses. (It reopened with a different name in 1921 and didn’t fully close until 1948.)

7. HE TURNED TO A COMPLETELY INEXPERIENCED PUBLISHER TO RELEASE HIS MOST WELL-KNOWN BOOK.

The publishing history of Ulysses is itself its own odyssey. Joyce began writing the work in 1914, and by 1918 he had begun serializing the novel in the American magazine Little Review with the help of poet Ezra Pound.

But by 1921, Little Review was in financial trouble. The published version of Episode 13 of Ulysses, “Nausicaa,” resulted in a costly obscenity lawsuit against its publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, and the book was banned in the United States. Joyce appealed to different publishers for help—including Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press—but none agreed to take on a project with such legal implications (and in Virginia Woolf’s case, length), no matter how supposedly groundbreaking it was.

Joyce, then based in Paris, made friends with Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a gathering hub for the post-war expatriate creative community. In her autobiography, Beach wrote:

All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.

It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”

He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. ... Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses.

Beach planned a first edition of 1000 copies (with 100 signed by the author), while the book would continue to be banned in a number of countries throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Eventually it was allowed to be published in the United States in 1933 after the case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses deemed the book not obscene and allowed it in the United States.

8. ERNEST HEMINGWAY WAS HIS DRINKING BUDDY—AND SOMETIMES HIS BODYGUARD.

Ernest Hemingway—who was major champion of Ulysses—met Joyce at Shakespeare and Company, and was later a frequent companion among the bars of Paris with writers like Wyndham Lewis and Valery Larbaud.

Hemingway recalled the Irish writer would start to get into drunken fights and leave Hemingway to deal with the consequences. "Once, in one of those casual conversations you have when you're drinking," Hemingway said, "Joyce said to me he was afraid his writing was too suburban and that maybe he should get around a bit and see the world. He was afraid of some things, lightning and things, but a wonderful man. He was under great discipline—his wife, his work and his bad eyes. His wife was there and she said, yes, his work was too suburban--'Jim could do with a spot of that lion hunting.' We would go out to drink and Joyce would fall into a fight. He couldn't even see the man so he'd say, 'Deal with him, Hemingway! Deal with him!'"

9. HE MET ANOTHER MODERNIST TITAN—AND HAD A TERRIBLE TIME.

Marcel Proust’s gargantuan, seven-volume masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu, is perhaps the other most important Modernist work of the early 20th century besides Ulysses. In May 1922, the authors met at a party for composer Igor Stravinsky and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev in Paris. The Dubliners author arrived late, was drunk, and wasn’t wearing formal clothes because he was too poor to afford them. Proust arrived even later than Joyce, and though there are varying accounts of what was actually said between the two, every known version points to a very anticlimactic meeting of the minds.

According to author William Carlos Williams, Joyce said, “I’ve headaches every day. My eyes are terrible,” to which the ailing Proust replied, “My poor stomach. What am I going to do? It’s killing me. In fact, I must leave at once.”

Publisher Margaret Anderson claimed that Proust admitted, “I regret that I don’t know Mr. Joyce’s work,” while Joyce replied, “I have never read Mr. Proust.”

Art reviewer Arthur Power said both writers simply talked about liking truffles. Joyce later told painter Frank Budgen, “Our talk consisted solely of the word ‘No.’”

10. HE CREATED A 100-LETTER WORD TO DESCRIBE HIS FEAR OF THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.

Joyce had a childhood fear of thunder and lightning, which sprang from his Catholic governess’s pious warnings that such meteorological occurrences were actually God manifesting his anger at him. The fear haunted the writer all his life, though Joyce recognized the beginnings of his phobia. When asked by a friend why he was so afraid of rough weather, Joyce responded, “You were not brought up in Catholic Ireland.”

The fear also manifested itself in Joyce’s writing. In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the autobiographical protagonist Stephen Dedalus says he fears “dogs, horses, firearms, the sea, thunderstorms, [and] machinery.”

But the most fascinating manifestation of his astraphobia is in his stream of consciousness swan song, Finnegans Wake, where he created the 100-letter word Bababadalgharaghtaka-mminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk to represent a symbolic biblical thunderclap. The mouthful is actually made up of different words for “thunder” in French (tonnerre), Italian (tuono), Greek (bronte), and Japanese (kaminari).

11. HE’S THOUGHT OF AS A LITERARY GENIUS, BUT NOT EVERYONE WAS A FAN.

Fellow Modernist Virginia Woolf didn't much care for Joyce or his work. She compared his writing to "a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples," and said that "one hopes he’ll grow out of it; but as Joyce is 40 this scarcely seems likely."

She wasn't the only one. In a letter, D.H. Lawrence—who wrote such classics as Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Loversaid of Joyce: “My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”

“Do I get much pleasure from this work? No," author H.G. Wells wrote in his review of Finnegans Wake. “ ... Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousand I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?”

Even his partner Nora had a difficult time with his work, saying after the publication of Ulysses, “Why don’t you write sensible books that people can understand?”

12. HIS SUPPOSED FINAL WORDS WERE AS ABSTRACT AS HIS WRITING.

Joyce was admitted to a Zurich hospital in January 1941 for a perforated duodenal ulcer, but slipped into a coma after surgery and died on January 13. His last words were befitting his notoriously difficult works—they're said to have been, "Does nobody understand?"

Additional Source: James Joyce

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