In case you are new to this blog, I will say that I've been deprived of such literary excellence because I spent my formative years (plus a few decades) as an Evangelical, let me say a Dualistic Evangelical, who believed that if something wasn't written by a Christian, then is not worth reading . . . and possibly damaging. So, now I'm trying to make up for lost time.
My purpose for reading these two books is that I wanted to dive deeper into the hearts of the true word-smiths, the artists of syntax. These artists hold their palettes with a rainbow of words smeared out before them. They create this fantastic literary visions . . . their own interpretations of reality.
I recently had been introduced (via my children) to Cohen the singer and lyricist. I sensed a deeper meaning in his lines than one could gather at first glance and it enticed me to his novel.
I came across Joyce by somewhat of an accident. I started out (one year ago) to read the top 100 English novels, and his Ulysses was ranked number one. I struggled through Ulysses and made it 75% the way through until an untimely Northwest rainstorm rendered my three-inch thick paperback as unreadable. I may return to it. I think I struggled for several reasons. For one, I can only read in snippets . . . usually for 15 minutes at a time at the coffee shop on the way to work. The other reason is that I suffer from dyslexia which requires me to read sentences over, at least twice, before the jumbled words make any sense to me. Lastly was the excuse that I don't have good bookmarks. I use the wimpy papers that come around straws at Starbucks. Each time I would loose my place (when my book mark would blow away) I would waste days trying to find out where I was.
It is interesting to read these two books side by side. They, in many ways, are very similar. Both are poorly disguised autobiographies. Both deal with an issue that is dear to me, and that is the process of falling away from God (or at least religion in this case). I think that there are parallels that we can make regarding the 80% of youth who leave the American church . . . eventually.
The difference between the two men, Joyce and Cohen, may have to do with the respective times they appeared on history's stage and geographical location.
James wrote his Artist in 1914-15. This was when the west was just leaving Christianity. He also wrote (and the book took place) in Ireland . . . and inside a very Catholic fortress.
Cohen wrote from Greece in 1964, but his experiences, which borne the book, were formed within the crucible of Judaism in Montreal, and clearly in the post-modern philosophical age.
The similarities (besides their skills in the written word) seem to end after they were enticed away from their perspective religious upbringings via their sexual drives. The difference was that Joyce's character was first led astray by a prostitute but then put up a formidable fight . . . before giving in to the draw of creativity (pursuing art instead of the monastery). Cohen, on the other hand, never seemed to take religious belief seriously, although he would flirt with Christian, Jewish and Buddhistic symbols throughout his career. But his real, favorite game, appears (I've not finished the book yet) to be the very superficial sexual seduction of beautiful young women (but the avoidance of real communication at all cost).
I will be back to discuss more of what I've read and try to relate it to the situation within Evangelicalism . . . and the disenchantment that is so commonly encountered.
I will also be back to proof-read and correct my dyslexic wanderings.