Auld Lang Syne, November 30, 2013

The Town Hall

New York, NY


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Auld Lang Syne

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GK: It's Thanksgiving weekend and I hope yours was good, with lovely smells and familiar faces, or familiar smells and lovely faces. But we are creatures of complaint and New Yorkers know that ---- it's in complaint we find common ground. There is a famous story about James Joyce in Paris in 1922 where he accepted an invitation to see the Ballet Russe with Nijinsky dance a Stravinsky ballet and to attend a party afterward, whose hosts the Schiffs, Sydney and Violet Schiff had also invited Marcel Proust. And word got around that Joyce and Proust, the two giants of modern fiction, would meet face to face. Stravinsky was there, Ford Madox Ford was there, a big crowd was gathered in the grand salon where two chairs had been placed facing each other, and in walked James Joyce (FOOTSTEPS), thin, hair slicked back, thick glasses, rumpled clothes, and sat down, and then Marcel Proust (FOOTSTEPS), short, big moustache, tousled hair, rumpled clothes, and sat down, and everyone in the room held their breath.

TR (IRISH): So ---- you are the celebrated Marcel Proust --- I have heard a great deal about you.

TR: (FRENCH, incl "JAMES JOYCE")

TR (IRISH): So ---- I imagine you have read my great work, Ulysses.

TR: (FRENCH MUTTERING) Non, monsieur. Pardon. Non.

TR (IRISH): Quite all right. Quite all right. I've never read anything of yours either.

TR (LONG FRENCH DIALOGUE UNDER.....) And Proust explained that he was too busy writing his own masterpiece À la recherche du temps perdu, which he needed to finish because he felt he was dying. And he told Joyce all about his liver ailments. And Joyce brightened up----

TR (IRISH): Nausea, yes, I have that too. Terrible. And a pain in the belly ---- right around there.

TR (EXCITED FRENCH OF AGREEMENT)

TR (IRISH): And I must say you would appear to be jaundiced, as well.

TR (FRENCH QUESTION)

TR (IRISH): Jaundice, my boy.

TR (FRENCH): Aha. Oui, oui. Jaundice.

TR (IRISH): And fatigue. Terrible terrible fatigue.

TR (EXCITED FRENCH....."FATIGUE")

TR (IRISH): I've lost ten pounds since July.

TR (FRENCH EXPLANATION)

TR (IRISH): I'm sorry, I don't understand French very well.

TR (FRENCH): Pardon me but I am not so good to understand the English. But I wish you good health, monsieur.

TR (IRISH): Good health ---- ha. I've been in poor health since I was but a lad in Dublin.

TR (FRENCH): And I as well. An invalid. All my life.

GK: Their disciples and acolytes stood around them, disappointed that these two giants of literature had not had a great meeting of the minds and illuminated their individual genius and said memorable things that everyone could write down and put in their memoir. But it was in complaining about poor health that James and Marcel's minds came together.  They had written masterworks that enlighten and astonish us yet today, but it was their mortality that bound them together, not their art. And so here we are, in 2013, all present with our ailments, disabilities, syndromes,  all of us mortal, tell me about yours, I'll tell you mine, and meanwhile...

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