Thursday, 25 December 2014

Miss Hooligan's Christmas Cake

Here's a late 19th century broadside, printed in Dundee, from the National Library of Scotland's collection, published on their wonderful Word on the Street website.

The song, like 'Finnegan's Wake', is one of the great Irish-themed comic ballads. According to an article by Stanley Ransom in Voices, it was originally called 'Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake', and was written in 1883 by an American, Charles Frank Horn.

It was a song that Joyce knew from childhood. In June 1888, aged almost six and a half, he sang it at a fundraising concert for the Bray Boat Club at Breslin's Hotel on Bray Esplanade.

As a Christmas treat, have a listen to it sung by The Irish Rovers or by Mick Bolger (a regular contributer to the online Wake group) of Colcannon.

It was also recorded, as 'Mrs Hooligan's Christmas Cake', in 1958 by Dominic Behan, on a Wake themed EP. On the liner notes (below), he  wrote 'This must have been one of the first songs I ever heard my mother sing. So far as I know, no-one else in Dublin sings it, though I have it on the authority of 'Finnegans Wake' that it was written by somebody.'

The song tells the story of a monstrous and indigestible Christmas cake:

There was plums and prunes and cherries,
And citron and raisins and cinnamon too,
There was nutmeg, cloves, and berries,
And the crust it was nailed on with glue.
There was carraway seeds in abundance,    

Sure 'twould build up a fine stomachache,
'Twould kill a man twice after 'ating a slice
Of Miss Hooligan's Christmas cake,

Joyce loved this song, and he plays with its lyrics three times in the Wake:

'Sobs they sighdid at Fillagain’s chrissormiss wake, all the hoolivans of the nation, prostrated in their consternation and their duodisimally profusive plethora of ululation. There was plumbs and grumes and cheriffs and citherers and raiders and cinemen too. And the all gianed in with the shoutmost shoviality.' 6.12-18

'O! Have a ring and sing wohl! Chin, chin! Chin, chin! And of course all chimed din width the eatmost boviality. Swiping rums and beaunes and sherries and ciders and negus and citronnades too.' 58.13

'They were plumped and plumed and jerried and citizens and racers, and cinnamonhued.' 388.F5

There's also an echo here of another Irish song, Percy Frenchs 'Phil the Fluter's Ball', which has the line 'Then all joined in wid the greatest joviality'.

This cake so stuffed with multiple ingredients that it defeats any attempt to digest it sounds like Finnegans Wake. The guests trying various tools to break into it remind me of Wake readers:

Miss Mulligan wanted to taste it,

But really there wasn't no use,
They worked at it over an hour,
And they couldn't get none' of it loose.
Till Hooligan went for the hatchet,
And Killy came in with a saw,
That cake was enough, by the powers,
To paralyze any man's jaw. 

Mrs Hooligan, proud as a peacock,
Kept smiling and blinking away,
Till she fell over Flanigan's brogans,
And spilled a whole brewing of tay.
" Oh, Gilhooly," she cried, " you're not 'ating,
Try a little bit more for my sake,"
" No, Mrs Hooligan," sez I,
" But I'd like the resate of that cake."

Maloney was took with the colic,
M'Nulty complained of his head,
M'Fadden lay down on the sofa,
And swore that he wished he was dead.
Miss Dally fell down in hysterics,
And there she did wriggle and shake,
While every man swore he was poisoned,
Through 'ating Miss Hooligan's cake.


Merry Christmas everybody, and steer clear of Miss Hooligan's or Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake!

'And to rise in the world, he carried a hod'. 'Finnegans Wake'

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Remembering Elaine Mingus

'The best way to approach Finnegans Wake is in a group. It has to be stalked like a wild animal, and you need a hunting party.'  Robert Anton Wilson

I found a Wake hunting party over a decade ago. It's called FWREAD, and it takes the form of a page-a-week email discussion. Over the years, many members of the hunting party have joined and others left. But one dedicated contributer throughout was Elaine Mingus, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who died in February. It was Elaine who often kept the group going - when people stopped posting, she would ask questions about the week's page to get the discussion restarted.

Elaine came across as someone with loads of energy and enthusiasm for Joyce. Apart from following two online Joyce groups, she founded and led four reading groups, two in Santa Fé, and two in Albuquerque. She attended Joycean conferences, and read papers at them, and she hosted her own annual Bloomsday celebration. Here's her description of it, from 2011

'We have a Bloomsday celebration here which used to be in Santa Fe. It is held right here at my house, a large property. We set up chairs in the back yard and have a podium and speaker and tent on the patio.
We are planning readings this year from Dubliners, Portrait, Ulysses and FW. We do something from Molly's monologue every year.  We always end around the piano and everyone sings Loves Old Sweet Song.
Hoppy hoppy Bloomsday to all!' 

In 2012, Elaine brought out her first book, a collection of her papers on Joyce called Toccatootletoo!. Its publication was marked with a lovely feature on her by Joline Gutierrez Krueger in the Albuquerque Journal. Reading this, I was astonished to learn that this dynamic woman was an 86 year-old great-grandmother, who had only started reading Joyce when she was in her sixties!

'There have been times, Elaine Mingus admits, when she wondered what in the world made her think she, then a woman well into her 60s, could write scholarly papers on esoteric author James Joyce when she had never so much as taken a college course on him – or any other author or subject.

And then she would reflect on the words of Joseph Campbell – Joycean scholar, renowned mythologist and one of Mingus’ other favorite authors – who famously described the way he had gleaned more from great works of literature, history and philosophy than could be derived under the constraints of doctorate studies: “All I did was underline sentences and take notes.”

That was heartening for a woman whose Depression-era family could not afford to send her to college and never would have anyway, because her father believed girls did not belong in higher education but in the marital home raising children.

But oh, how she loved to read. How she longed to be read, longed to extract meaning and feeling and awe from the words of those great authors before her.

Mingus, now 86, did marry. She raised five children, who in turn bestowed her with eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

And then she read.

And then she wrote.

This Sunday, her writings will be celebrated at a book signing for her first book, “Toccatootletoo! Papers on James Joyce,” a compilation of seven of her scholarly papers on the esteemed Irish author, some of which have been presented at academic conferences across the country.

Another Campbell quote comes to mind when I think about what Mingus has accomplished: “Follow your bliss.” For Mingus, her bliss has been Joyce.

“I have read so much that I easily get bored, but I find I am never bored reading Joyce,” said Mingus, a tiny, energetic woman who fancies floppy hats and colorful attire. “I always come back to him. He’s like a magnet.”

The article led to an interview by Gerry Fialka of Venice CA, who threw lots of off-the-wall questions at Elaine ('what was the motive of the cave artist?' 'Is perception reality?' 'Have you believed in any impossible things lately?'). While this is an unusual way to conduct an interview, you get a real sense of Elaine's personality from her answers. When Gerry asks her a political question, Elaine replies, 'I've retired from politics. I've retired from everything except Joyce!'

Adam Harvey on Elaine, on the back cover of Toccatootletoo!

Elaine followed up her book on Joyce with a collection of poems, Leally and Tululy: Free Verse, and a memoir, Klokking Twelve - two more titles from the Wake. In both, she looks back at her childhood in the Midwest during the depression, and pays tribute to her mother who gave her a life-long love of books. 

Young Elaine, from Klokking Twelve
Elaine's poem, 'Intangible Inheritance'

In her memoir, Elaine describes how, while being treated for cancer in 1995, she first began to read the Wake:

'I asked the family to bring me James Joyce's Finnegans Wake for something to take my mind off things. This 628 page book was propped up on my tray. All the time they were not attending to me or feeding me, I was reading it. It worked! Back home I kept on reading it. Once I had thought this book was 'unreadable.' Then I became enchanted with the gems, the poetic passages, the 'naughty bits' (between the lines). I joined a Finnegans Wake discussion group on the internet. This was only the beginning of my exploration of this book.'

What comes across strikingly from Elaine's story is the magnificent life-changing role that public libraries play. As she told Gerry Fialka, it was thanks to a local librarian that she discovered the internet groups:

'I was at the library and one of the librarians asked me if I knew about the internet discussion groups. I told her I didn't, and she told me the websites for two internet discussion groups, the Joyce group and the FWREAD group. I came right home and got on both of them....Then in 98, I heard from the internet group that they celebrated Bloomsday all over the world, and I thought, why don't we celebrate it here? So I started putting flyers out....

Elaine had started writing a fourth book when she became ill last December. In January, we received this message from her daughter, Jackie:

'I am sending this email on behalf of my Mother, Elaine Mingus. Around the 10th of December, we found out that at the age of 87, that she has advanced pancreatic cancer. She is now on morphine and a pain patch but she is deligently working on her 4th book!
After she self published her Joyce book (Toccatootletoo), she then self published a book of her poetry called Leally and Tululy and finally a book of memoirs called Klokking Twelve. On February 1, she will have a book signing at her residence for her book, Klokking Twelve. The family thinks that this book signing may not occur but it is giving her something to look forward to.
She wanted me to let the group know that she has really enjoyed corresponding with all of you.'

This was followed on 1 March by a second message from Jackie:

'I wanted everyone to know that Elaine Mingus passed away on February 12, 2014. Sadly, she missed her 88th birthday by exactly two weeks. Her friends and family will dearly miss her.

As her daughter, I know that she immensely enjoyed her experience with all of you. I read all of your original responses to the news of her illness and it really meant a lot to her. '

Dee Cohen, a friend of Elaine's has set up a tribute page, with photographs, including one of the house where she held all those Bloomsday celebrations. Here's Elaine's card.

Here's Elaine again, wearing another of her famous floppy hats.

Another friend, Jitman Basnet has made a video tribute to Elaine, which is on youtube.


When I joined FWREAD, the hunting party was already halfway through the book but, since Finnegans Wake is circular, you can jump in at any point. After we got to the end, in 2008, we started all over again. Right now, we're in the pub chapter, on p.334, about to start the story of 'How Buckley shot the Russian General'.

If you want to join in, you can subscribe to FWREAD by sending this message: subscribe fwread Your Name

to listproc@lists.Colorado.EDU 
To leave the group, send this message: unsubscribe fwread Your Name

to listproc@lists.Colorado.EDU 

One tip is to set up a new email address to susbcribe with, so your usual in-box isn't swamped with the Wake.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Pint in the James Joyce Pub, Istanbul

I've just got back from a ten day holiday in Istanbul, where I visited some amazing places, including Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Church of St Saviour in Chora, and the JAMES JOYCE IRISH PUB! 

It gets terrible reviews on trip adviser, but I think the only reason people go on trip adviser is to write bad reviews. Somebody even complained that the pub was 'dingy inside', as if that was a bad thing for a pub!

When we went, the service was friendly, the toilets were clean and the Guinness was delicious.  They've also thought about the Joyce theme, and there's a biography of the great man on the drinks menu and website. The bar staff have Joyce on their t-shirts.

My only criticism of the Guinness is the large size of the head, but it was a creamy pint, and better than many you get in Ireland or Britain, where Guinness is now served much colder than it should be.

It struck me that they could have included some Joycean quotations related to Turkey on the walls. For example, in 1937, following a Thanksgiving dinner in Paris, Joyce wrote a poem in which he imagined the Turkish turkey describing the feast (In fact, the turkey bird has nothing to do with Turkey - it's a misunderstanding). Here are two verses (quoted by Ellmann):

At last I reached the banquet hall – and what a sight to see!
I felt myself transported back among the Osmanli
I poured myself a bubbly flask and raised the golden horn
With three cheers for good old Turkey and the roost where I was born.

I shook claws with all the hammers and bowed to blonde and brune
The mistress made a signal and the mujik called the tune.
Madamina read a message from the Big Noise of her State   
After which we crowed in unison: That Turco's talking straight! 

'The Big Noise' was Roosevelt's thanksgiving message. 

I took to pub stage, where they have live music many evenings.

Although Joyce never went to Turkey, he came across Turks in Trieste, and according to Ellmann, he 'was curious about the eastern influence that showed in the Greek, Turkish and Albanian costumes in the streets'. 

In his books, Joyce often uses the Orient as a location for escapist fantasy. Dubliners has a story 'Araby', set against the 1894 bazaar held in Dublin:

'The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.'

Then there's the appalling Mrs Kearney, in 'A Mother', 'trying to console her romantic desires by eating a great deal of Turkish Delight in secret.'


Dublin's Gaiety Theatre pantomines, such as Sinbad the Sailor, The Forty Thieves, Aladdin and Turko the Terrible, often had an Oriental setting. Here's Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses thinking of his mother's favourite pantomime:

'She heard old Royce sing in the pantomime of Turko the Terrible and laughed with others when he sang:

I am the boy
That can enjoy

Turko the Terrible was a hugely popular pantomime, starring the great comic character actor, Edward William Royce.  Here he is (below) in another Orientalist Gaiety pantomime, The Forty Thieves, in a picture from the V&A. I found another picture of him here.

'It was at Christmas 1873 that the first pantomime was tried at the
E.W.Royce as Hassarac, with Kate Vaughan as Morgiana
Gaiety and the famous Turko the Terrible—a pantomime never excelled in Dublin—was the work selected. Mr. Edwin Hamilton was accountable for the words of the songs and the one sung by King Turko in the throne room while anticipating the delights to be derived from his magic rose, where he thinks, ‘Invisibility is just the thing for me,/I am the boy that can enjoy/Invisibility’ was the most successful in the whole book. Mr. E. W. Royce enacted the title role as only his lively self at that time could.'  The Irish Playgoer, 1899

Turko the Terrible is also in Finnegans Wake: 'a tarrable Turk' 520.02 'turgos the turrible' (205.29) and 'Thorker the Tourable' (132.18).



Both Bloom and Stephen have oriental fantasies. Here's Bloom, who has also seen Turko the Terrible, daydreaming as he sets out to buy his breakfast kidney:

'Somewhere in the east: early morning....Wander through awned streets. Turbaned faces going by. Dark caves of carpet shops, big man, Turko the terrible, seated crosslegged smoking a coiled pipe. Cries of sellers in the streets. Drink water scented with fennel, sherbet. Wander along all day. Might meet a robber or two. Well, meet him. Getting on to sundown. The shadows of the mosques along the pillars: priest with a scroll rolled up. A shiver of the trees, signal, the evening wind. I pass on. Fading gold sky. A mother watches from her doorway. She calls her children home in their dark language. High wall: beyond strings twanged. Night sky moon, violet, colour of Molly's new garters. Strings. Listen. A girl playing one of these instruments what do you call them: dulcimers. I pass.' 
The night before the book opens, Stephen has had a dream of a 'Street of Harlots. Remember. Haroun al Raschid...Red carpet spread'.   Bloom has also had an oriental dream, of Molly with 'red slippers on. Turkish. Wore the breeches.'

She appears in a Turkish costume in one of the hallucinations in 'Circe':

'Beside her mirage of datepalms a handsome woman in Turkish costume stands before him. Opulent curves fill out her scarlet trousers and jacket slashed with gold. A wide yellow cummerbund girdles her. A white yashmak, violet in the night, covers her face, leaving free only her large dark eyes and raven hair...A coin gleams on her forehead. On her feet are jewelled toerings. Her ankles are linked by a slender fetterchain....Beside her a camel, hooded with a turreting turban, waits. A silk ladder of innumerable rungs climbs to his bobbing howdah.' 

In her final monologue, Molly thinks of getting 'a nice pair of red slippers like those Turks with the fez used to sell.'

European Turkish women's dress from Auguste Racinet's Le Costume Historique, 1888


Finnegans Wake is packed with Turkish words and references, many of them documented by Kevin M. McCarthy in the James Joyce Quarterly Vol. 9, No. 2,, which you can read online if you register with JSTOR. You can also find the Turkish words listed in fweet.  I only have space to look at a couple of examples here - there are many more in McCarthy's article.

'He had fled again (open shun-shema!) this country of exile, sloughed off, sidleshomed via the subterranean shored with bedboards, stowed away and ankered in a dutch bottom tank, the Arsa, hod S.S. Finlandia, and was even now occupying, under an islamitic newhame in his seventh generation, a physical body Cornelius Magrath’s (badoldkarakter, commonorrong canbung) in Asia Major, where as Turk of the theater (first house all flatty: the king, eleven sharps) he had bepiastered the buikdanseuses from the opulence of his omnibox while as arab at the streetdoor he bepestered the bumbashaws for the alms of a para’s pence.'  98.4-14

These are some of the rumours surrounding the disappearance of HCE in Bk1 Chapter 4. He is said to have stowed away and escaped abroad to Asia Minor, where, as 'Turk of the theater' he threw coins (Turkish piastres) at the belly dancers (Dutch 'buikdanseuse') from the opulence of his box while, as a street Arab, he pestered 'bumbashaws' for alms. 'Turk of the theater' and 'open sun-shema!' ('Open Sesame', from Aladdin, mixed with Shaun and Shem) recalls the Gaiety pantomimes. 'Karakter' is Turkish for character and  'Para', in 'para's pence', is Turkish for money.



Here's Shaun describing the foul stench of his brother Shem the Penman:

'no-one, hound or scrublady, not even the Turk, ungreekable in pursuit of armenable, dared whiff the polecat at close range' 181.22-4

That combines Wilde's joke that 'Fox hunters are the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable', with the Turkish-Greek conflict and the Armenian atrocities - the Turkish massacre of Armenian Christians in the early 1900s. This is also referred to in 'Armenian Atrocity' (72.11) and 'tuckish armenities' (530.36)



'He walked cheerfully towards the mosque of the baths. Remind you of a mosque, redbaked bricks.'

In Ulysses, Bloom has a bath at the Turkish and Warm Baths, 11 Leinster Street. This was one of several Turkish baths in Dublin, including the Hammam in Sackville Street and the Lincoln Place Turkish Bath Company, whose building resembled the Royal Pavilion in my home town, Brighton. The phrase 'mosque of the baths' and later description of its 'oriental edifice' suggests that Joyce may have confused the Leinster Street baths with this one, which closed down in 1902.

Malcolm Shifrin, who's writing a book about Victorian Turkish baths, has a good piece on Bloom's bath on his website. Joyce talked about Bloom's bath with Frank Budgen, saying, 'Does your reader realize what a unique event this was in the Dublin I knew up to 1904.' (James Joyce and the Making of Ulysses xvii)

Lincoln Place Turkish Bath Company, Dublin
The first Dublin Turkish bathhouse was opened in the late 18th century by an extraordinary character called Dr Achmed Borumborad. His story is told by Jonah Barrington, in his entertaining memoir, Personal Sketches of His Own Times, 1827, which you can read online here. Here's how Barrington describes Borumborad:

'He spoke English very intelligibly;  his person was extremely remarkable; and the more so, as he was the first Turk who had ever walked the streets of Dublin in his native costume. He was in height considerably above six  feet, rather pompous in his gait, and apparently powerful; an immense black beard covering his chin and upper lip. There  was, at the same time, something cheerful and cordial in the  man's address; and, altogether, he cut a very imposing figure. Everybody liked Doctor Achmet Borumborad: his Turkish dress,  being extremely handsome without any approach to the tawdry,  and crowned with an immense turban, drew the eyes of every passer by ; and I must say that I have never myself seen a more  stately-looking Turk since that period.   The eccentricity of the Doctor's appearance was, indeed, as  will readily be imagined, the occasion of much idle observation  and conjecture. At first, whenever he went abroad, a crowd of people, chiefly boys, was sure to attend him — but at a respectful distance; and if he turned to look behind him, the gaping boobies  fled, as if they conceived even his looks to be mortal.'  

Borumborad persuaded the corporation to fund the building of his bathhouse. He then fell in love with a Miss Hartigan, the daughter of a surgeon.

'Miss H. liked the Doctor vastly! and  praised the Turks in general, both for their dashing spirit and  their beautiful whiskers. It was not, however, consistent either  with her own or her brother's Christianity, to submit to the Doctor's tremendous beard, or think of matrimony, till  he had shaved the chin at least, and got a parson to turn him into a Christian, or something of that kind.' 

He agreed to her terms, and appeared before her cleanshaven and in European dress.

'In walked a Christian gallant, in a suit of full-dress black, and a very tall fine-looking Christian he was. Miss H. was surprised;  she did not recognise her lover, particularly as she thought it impossible he could have been made a Christian before the ensuing Sunday. He immediately, however, fell on his knees, seized  and kissed her lily hand, and, on her beginning to expostulate,  cried out at once, — " Don't be angry, my dear creature. To tell  the honest truth, I am as good a Christian as the archbishop !  I'm your own countryman, sure enough — Mr. Patrick Joyce  from Kilkenny county. The devil a Turk any more than yourself, my sweet angel! "   
   The ladies were astonished; but astonishment did not prevent Miss Hartigan from keeping her word, and Mr. and Mrs. Joyce became a very loving and happy couple.  The doctor's great skill, however, was supposed to lie in his  beard and faith, consequently, on this denouement, the baths declined.'  

Isn't that a great story? I've told it here because Patrick Joyce/Dr Borumborad is in Finnegans Wake!

'our aural surgeon, Afamado Hairductor Achmed Borumborad, M.A.C.A, Sahib, of a 1001 Ombrilla Street, Syringa padham, Alleypulley' 492.22