By some twisted irony the release of the second installment, or rather, just the first book over again of the Grey debauchery, nearly coincided with the annual Bloomsday celebration. Rarely have two disparate books passed each other in the same period of time.
Almost especially they share another attribute, and that is the nearly febrile anticipation over their release. In 1922, Ulysses gripped the elite of English letters in the same way that the contemporary media has published each awkward and semi-literate chapter by the other James, poring over its syntax, delighted and appalled in unequal measure.
Although it’s somehow hard to see Amis or Rushdie sharing notes on the Grey II text in the same manner as Eliot and Woolf did with Ulysses, though Woolf was disgusted by Bloom’s ablutions; her reaction to Ana’s gormless bated exclamations would have elicited patrician contempt.
The curiosity in this odd coincidence is that something so condemned and flawed, in every dimension of novel writing, no matter, the Grey machine still garners attention. It’s not all praise, true; it’s barely disguised as a sneer at the writer and scoff at the public that read it, but such a volume of commentary and consideration is not given to unskilled painters, or playwrights or filmmakers: where the work is dross, it is ignored.
Grey’s visas for public attention are prurience and financial success, oh, and some woolly psychological analysis about its significance. Oddly and unevenly that element in Grey connects with the Molly Bloom monologue, which psychologically, Joyce’s wife Nora, refuted as authentic to women, but in spite of that incomplete, or inadequate quality, nonetheless as a text it is well written, it can be re-read.
In all likelihood the hype will dissipate and in a ten years Grey, and all its shoddy syntax, will be forgotten, pulped into an embarrassed collective memory. Meanwhile, those of us will, to use Robert Fripp’s phrase, attack culture once again.
©Copyright Guy Cranswick 2015. All Rights Reserved.