18.5.10

Joe Biden: James Joyce fan

US Vice President a fan of modernist literature?
James Joyce

In a recent article on UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's fondness for Samuel Beckett, Michael Tomasky made the following sweeping generalization in The Guardian:
You British folks understand, don't you, that if an American presidential candidate said his hero was Samuel Beckett, he'd be finished. I mean totally finished. He couldn't even get away with an American equivalent. It'd be one thing for a US pol to say Mark Twain. That's about the only serious writer in history a pol could name and survive. [Read the article]

Interesting to note, then, that the American government's very own 'Deputy', Vice President Joe Biden, has been revealed as a fan of James Joyce. A news story just published by the Associated Press reveals that last year Biden received a signed copy of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, purchased as a gift by auction:
Vice President Joe Biden didn't accept many gifts last year, but one involved highbrow literature.

Biden received a first-edition copy of "Anna Livia Plurabelle" signed by the author, James Joyce, and valued at $3,500. The story is a chapter from the Irish writer's famously complex novel, Finnegan's Wake [sic].

The giver was Margaret Spanel of Hightstown, N.J., a donor to Democratic candidates. The information was included in Biden's annual financial disclosure report, released Monday.

Spanel, 97, sent the book to Biden after hearing him say Joyce was his favorite poet, the vice president's office said. [Read the article]

Whether Biden is now 'finished' for his interest in Joyce's work, or whether the news undermines Tomasky's culturally-biased assumptions, remains to be seen.

Also at A Piece of Monologue: