14 Big Facts About Dallas


When Dallas debuted in 1978, the world wasn’t quite ready for the nighttime soap opera. The first season consisted of a five-hour mini-series, and the second season expanded into 24 episodes; both seasons had low ratings. But during the final episode of season three, in March of 1980, something miraculous occurred: J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) got shot, and turned Dallas into a worldwide phenomenon.

From then on the ratings soared, with more than 100 million people around the globe tuning in to see what sort of antics the oil-rich Ewing family would get themselves into (or out of) next. When the show moved to Friday nights, Hagman saw it as a boon. “You’ve got to realize that there was kind of a recession going on during that period of time and people couldn’t afford to go out,” he told Larry King in 2000. “They couldn’t go out to movies and get a babysitter and stuff like that. They had to stay in and watch something. So we were on.”

Dallas was a precursor to other popular 1980s night soaps, such as Knots Landing (a Dallas spinoff, also created by David Jacobs), Dynasty, and Falcon Crest, all of which went off air by the early 1990s. After 357 episodes and 14 seasons, Dallas signed off on May 3, 1991, but lived on in three TV movies. Then, in 2012, TNT rebooted Dallas for three seasons, with Hagman, Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), and Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) reprising their roles. In honor of the series finale's 25th anniversary, here are 14 big-in-Texas facts about J.R. and his conflicted family members.


How Dallas came to be set in the city was by chance: Creator David Jacobs had a development deal with Lorimar Television and wrote a story about Ewing Oil in 1977. Lorimar executive Michael Filerman read the story and said, “‘Yeah, it was fine. But I changed the name,’” Jacobs told the Texas Observer. “And I said, ‘Well, what did you call it?’ He said, ‘Dallas! It sounded better than Houston.’” At the time, Dallas was known more for its bankers; Houston was known for oil.


Dallas was fairly modestly mounted: Southfork was big but no mansion, and now and then the characters wore jeans to breakfast,” Jacobs wrote in The New York Times. “Dynasty was perhaps the most extravagantly produced series in the history of episodic television: the sets were more opulent, the wardrobe more expensive, the lifestyles more ostentatious—the characters dressed for breakfast and wore jewelry with lingerie. During almost any other period, Dynasty would have been regarded as more vulgar than Dallas. In the mid-80s, however, Dynasty was widely viewed as the classier of the two shows. As it happened, both Dallas and Dynasty faded as the Reagan Presidency faded. Indeed, Dynasty could not survive the changing of the guard. It was gone by the end of George Bush's first hundred days.” Now let’s imagine Joan Collins in a ten-gallon hat.


In 1995, Larry Hagman—who died of cancer in 2012—had a liver transplant due to alcoholism. Patrick Duffy, who played J.R.’s younger brother Bobby, reminisced to Ultimate Dallas about their drinking days. “I would have a glass [of champagne] with him, but then he would continue for the rest of the day with many more bottles,” Duffy said. “At lunch, we would go off and find a restaurant, have a couple of drinks with our meal. Late afternoon before we wrapped, it was time for a little toddy. Then, after we wrapped, we would sit in the dressing room and have another little drink before we went home to have drinks before dinner and a bottle of wine with dinner and a little after-dinner drink before going to bed.” Duffy said it was fun “but I couldn’t keep up. I never thought, ‘Whoops! I'm developing a drinking problem.’ I just took my foot off the accelerator.”

“I was drinking five bottles of champagne a day [during the filming of the original series], but I was never drunk,” Hagman once said. “I just took little slugs throughout the day. Nine o'clock in the morning to nine o'clock at night is 12 long hours. You can ingest a lot of alcohol in that time, but it was never too much.”


In the pilot, Linda Gray—who played J.R.’s wife Sue Ellen for several seasons—isn’t even given a name in her limited screen time. Casting wanted Newhart actress Mary Frann for the role, but Gray impressed the network enough to change her character into a main cast member.

“I remember in the first episode sitting on the couch and the camera went around and shot close-ups of everybody just to get reaction shots, but I was the only one without any dialogue,” Gray told Ultimate Dallas. “Larry was talking all the time, and Patrick was saying a few things, Jock was talking, Miss Ellie, and Pamela—everybody had something to say but me. As J.R. was going on and on, I stared at him and all this stuff started going on behind my eyes. It was like, ‘Who are you and why are you carrying on like this? You are the most idiotic pain in the ass kind of man on the planet. Why would I be married to you?’ So when it came to my close-up, I just projected that. Then CBS saw the chemistry between Larry and I and said, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here? Let’s investigate.’”

The writers turned Sue Ellen into an alcoholic, which Gray eventually grew tired of; she left the show in 1989. “In the end it was, you know, come on. This woman has been drunk for eight years! It was enough,” she told The Telegraph. “I didn't storm off in my high heels or anything, but it was enough.”


Yes, J.R. was always scheming and making enemies—he did get shot twice—but Hagman told Ultimate Dallas that he felt the character was misunderstood. “J.R wasn’t that bad. He was a businessman, which is bad enough right away. But I don’t know. He took care of his family. I wouldn't call him bad; he was just an oil man.”

“Dramatically he was neither hero nor villain but a combination, the villain-as-protagonist,” David Jacobs wrote in The New York Times about J.R. “He wasn’t created that way. In the first draft of the pilot script, J.R. was a more conventional bad guy. It was the hero, Bobby, whom I thought was more freshly conceived: player and playboy, the apple of his father’s eye, likable but immature.” But CBS wanted Bobby to be more “conventionally heroic.”

“I had one thing I always had to be and that was I had to be good,” Duffy told Ultimate Dallas. He also said Pam “was a basic sub-heading of ‘Bobbys good.’”


Hagman grew up in Texas and said he used to dig ditches and build swimming pools for an oil man with four sons in Weatherford, Texas. He told Ultimate Dallas “it was soul destroying” work and “I figured that life was not for me so I became an actor … I learned not so much about the oil business but about oil families, and when [the oil man] died, there was kind of a war to see who would take over the business and one of the sons won, and I modeled my character after that son.”


With such a huge global audience, the show reached as far east as Russia and Romania, where it was forbidden until Romanian president Nicolae Ceaușescu finally allowed the show to air. Ceaușescu was tricked into believing it was anti-capitalist, therefore safe to show Romanians, but the show didn’t have a peaceful outcome. “I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [Soviet] empire,” Hagman once told the Associated Press. “They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, ‘Hey, we don’t have all this stuff.’ I think it was good old-fashioned greed that got them to question their authority.”

In 1989, Ceaușescu and his wife were assassinated, and Romanians began to experience more freedom without a tyrannical rule. According to The Washington Post, after the dictator’s exit, the show’s previously censored scenes were edited back in and aired.

Hagman had a friendly relationship with communist Bucharest; in exchange for them using his image in ads for Russian oil firm Lukoil, Hagman accepted quite a bit of cash. Hagman didn’t want anybody to know about his compensation until his death, which is when the news finally leaked.


Romania loved Dallas so much that a tycoon named Ilie Alexandru built a hotel complex called Parcul Vacante Hermes, or “Southforkscu,” in Slobozia, Romania. The Texas Observer reported that Alexandru wanted to be like J.R. Ewing so he built a hotel and called it “Dallas.” He also erected horse stables, polo fields, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. None of that stuff exists today, and Alexandru went to prison for financial crimes. At least the American Southfork still thrives. Southfork, where the Ewings lived on the show and where the show's exteriors were filmed, is located in Parker, Texas. In 1985 the ranch-mansion finally opened to the public and is now a conference and event center (yes, you can get married at Southfork). You can also take tours of the mansion and grounds, and see the gun that shot J.R.


Cliffhangers were becoming a thing on TV, and Dallas wanted to capitalize on that. The miniseries season ended with Sue Ellen getting into a car crash while pregnant, so the producers wanted to continue the tradition with “Who Shot J.R.?” “We just thought that since the show was really starting to climb and doing much better in the ratings we’d give the audience something to think about over the summer, and hopefully they’d be interested enough to really tune in in numbers for the first show next year. That’s what happened,” Dallas producer Leonard Katzman told Texas Monthly.

Whether or not Hagman returned following the shooting, though, had to do with him wanting to be paid more money, which is why he went along with the “Who Shot J.R?” premise. “The shooting of J.R. was a double-edged sword; it gave my producers and the CBS bosses a perfect way to get rid of me in case my demands got out of hand,” Hagman told TV Guide in 1980. “Meantime, the pressures began to build. Certain rumors were allowed to circulate, such as an insidious scheme, worthy of J.R. himself, to have the ambulance burn on the way to the hospital, necessitating plastic surgery on J.R., who would emerge from the operation looking just like another actor.” He had a feeling the producers wouldn’t let J.R. die and that they’d acquiesce to his monetary demands.

J.R. was shot in “A House Divided,” which aired in March of 1980, but fans would have to wait until November to find out who attempted to kill him. Those eight months caused such a frenzy that bookies took bets on who did the deed, and even Queen Elizabeth asked Hagman who shot him. “We were presented to the Queen Mother. And she says, ‘I don't suppose you could tell me who shot J.R?’ I said, ‘No ma'am, not even you.’” The show even filmed a gag reel of the cast and crew taking turns shooting Hagman, as a red herring.

When “Who Done It” aired as the fourth episode of the fourth season, on November 21, 1980, the world finally discovered that it was Sue Ellen’s sister, Kristin (Mary Crosby), who did the deed. Up to that point, Crosby was best known for being Bing Crosby’s daughter, but “Being the one who shot J.R. made me a trivia question, and I’m really big in really small countries,” Crosby told CBS. After all that, Hagman prevailed and got his raise (plus a stake in the series).


At the end of season eight, in 1985, Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany) tries to run over her half-sister, Pam, but instead hits and kills Bobby Ewing. Duffy’s seven-year contract had expired and he wanted out. “It was obviously an ensemble show and I thought if it was ever a time at the height of the popularity of that show, that I might be able to launch into something that was more of a single, starring venue, that that would be the time to do it,” Duffy told The Huffington Post. “I left the show and that did not happen—typical Patrick Duffy business decision fiasco. I went back on the show because they asked me to and I realized that was the best place to work and I was back with my best friend.” When Duffy appears in Pam’s shower at the end of the ninth season, in 1986, it shocked and alienated viewers, and the entire year became known as “The Dream Season.”

Apparently it was Duffy’s wife who came up with the shower idea. “When I said to her, ‘I think they’re going to ask me to come back on the show,’ her first response was, ‘You can only do that if the whole last season was a dream.’ Then when I talked to Leonard [Katzman, Dallas showrunner], that was indeed what he wanted to do and so we went ahead and did it.”


Victoria Principal played Pamela Ewing, who supposedly died in a car crash in 1987 as a means for the actress to exit the show, but returned the following season after having gone under the knife, and was then played by Margaret Michaels. Unlike her onscreen hubby, Principal declined to ever return to the show.

In talking with, Principal said Bobby and Pam were the “Romeo and Juliet of Dallas,” a tragic love story of Shakespearean proportions, and she had to respect that. “I cannot be held responsible for any choices made by producers, once I left Dallas, but I do take responsibility for my decision, not to risk tarnishing Bobby and Pam’s love story, with a desperate reappearance,” she said. “I made this decision a long time ago with a loving and respectful heart for Dallas, Bobby and Pam, and all faithful fans.”

In order to keep Principal from leaving the show, producers offered a lot of money to stay. “It would have made me the highest paid actress on television had I accepted the offer,” she told Ultimate Dallas. “It was time to go and I found out a lot about myself. I can’t be bought.”


In 1985, Dallas inspired the country singer to write about what a fantasy Dallas was. “This ain’t Dallas and this ain’t Dynasty / This is a real-life two-job working family / And I ain’t J.R., you ain’t Sue Ellen,” go the lyrics. Williams also sings how he doesn’t have a Mercedes and “we’re just man and woman holding this thing together.”


In 1984, Datasoft invented a game called The Dallas Quest for the Commodore 64 computer. The premise of the game is that Sue Ellen summons the player to Southfork and tells them she wants them to find a map of an oil field and return it to her. If the player is able to thwart J.R. and return the map, they’ll receive $2 million. The game didn’t have all that much to do with Dallas; you spent most of the game fighting off angry cattle, monkeys, and of course, the Ewings.


Cynthia Cidre was asked to executive produce the 2012 Dallas reboot and approached it in a way that respected the original material. “This is not Dynasty,” Cidre told Ultimate Dallas. “No slur on Dynasty, but this is not a show where people pull each other’s hair out, falling in fountains. This is a show with real emotion and real passion about the land and about love. I’m just taking it seriously. However, the caveat on that is that this is Dallas and we want to have fun. We want to love to hate the bad guys, have some flair. The situations are slightly pumped up as it’s melodrama and it’s a soap, but we’re grounding it in real human behavior. You’re gonna have fun, double crossing and scheming. We’ll have that, but it’s not in any way camp.”

Images: iStock
25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites
Images: iStock
Images: iStock

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
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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!'"


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.’”


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).


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?”


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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