October 29, 1922
I have picked on Ulysses because it brings to a head all the different questions that have been perplexing literary criticism for some time. There no answer possible in this case. It is simply the foulest book that has ever found its way into print. Yet it has received columns of attention from many of the leading journals, and its author has been proclaimed a slightly mad genius, but still a genius.
The writing is this book is simply bad as writing, and much of it is obscure through sheer disorder of the syntax. But - there is no foulness conceivable to the mind of madman or ape that has not been poured into its imbecile pages.
Yet some of our 'intellectuals', including one of our leading novelists, have been stating that its author comes within measurable distance of having written the best book in the world.
No word of thought conceivable in Dublin or the New York Bowery is omitted, and the foulest references to real persons in this country, attributing vile diseases to them, amongst other equally disgusting suggestions.
I have recited the case of this book because it is the extreme case of complete reduction of absurdity of what I have I called the "literary Bolshevism of the hour." It can do little harm, because the police are, on the whole, circumventing our pseudo-intellectuals.
But what concerns all of us, and most urgently demands consideration, is that our Metropolitan criticism should be treating works such as those by Mr. Joyce seriously as a work of genius at the very moment when journal after journal is helping depreciate the value of some of the noblest pages in our literature.
The battle that is being wages over the works of Tennyson, for instance, the assault that has been made on all the Victorian writers - and it is interesting to note that Bolshevik Russia has recently been declaring that Dickens is more dangerous than Denikin - are indications of the destructive spirit which may lead us on the road to barbarianism.