(Be warned, these videos are Not Safe for Work. And unless you can deal with strong language, you should skip watching these clips.)
Last year we featured James Joyce’s “dirty letters” to his wife, originally written in 1909 but not discovered in all their cerebrally erotic glory until this century. For Valentine’s Day, the sketch comedy video site Funny or Die capitalized on the availability of these highly detailed, fantasy-saturated Joycean mash notes by having them read dramatically. For this task the producers rounded up five well-known actors, such as Martin Starr from such comedically respected television shows as Freaks and Geeks and Party Down. You can watch his reading above. “I would like you to wear drawers with three or four frills, one over the other at the knees and up the thighs, and great crimson bows in them, so that when I bend down over you to open them and” — but you don’t just want to read it. You want to hear such a masterpiece performed.
Off raising the children in Trieste, Joyce’s wife Nora wrote replies of a presumably similar ardor-saturated nature. Alas, these remain undiscovered, but that unfortunate fact doesn’t stop actresses as well as actors from providing oral renditions of their own. Just above, we have Paget Brewster from Friends and Criminal Minds reading aloud another of Joyce’s love letters, one which moves with surprising swiftness from evoking “the spirit of eternal beauty” to evoking “a hog riding a sow.” This series of readings also includes contributions from The Middleman‘s Natalie Morales, The Kids in the Hall‘s Dave Foley, and Saturday Night Live‘s Michaela Watkins. They all reveal that, with his textual creativity as well as his close acquaintance with those places where the romantic meets the repulsive, James Joyce would have made quite a sexter today. You can have that idea for free, literate sketch comedy video producers of the internet.
PS Apologies for the lengthy ads that precede the videos. They come from Funny or Die and we have no control over them.
James Joyce’s “Dirty Letters” to His Wife (1909)
James Joyce Plays the Guitar, 1915
On Bloomsday, Hear James Joyce Read From his Epic Ulysses, 1924
James Joyce, With His Eyesight Failing, Draws a Sketch of Leopold Bloom (1926)
James Joyce’s Ulysses: Download the Free Audio Book
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
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