Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Prose With (Literal) Firepower

The enemy will turn tail and run when this ship approaches. Screaming in fear, they shall flee before the mighty battleship, the very name of this new vessel striking deadly terror in the hearts of literate sailors everywhere.

Avast there, matey. It's your Modern Literature nightmare come back to sink you.

What sounds more threatening, more deadly, indeed, more fierce, than a naval vessel named after James Joyce?
James Joyce as a child, demonstrating a love of the sea
The Irish navy has christened its newest patrol boat and has chosen the famous scribbler whose name can still send chills down a scholar's spine.And what might they paint on the bow to appear even more menacing? A text to wrap around the hull, stem to stern and back again? How about this bit of prose to show the Irish Navy means business?

"I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Would you stand and deliver on that sort of command yes I will. Yes.

The LE James Joyce is a sister ship to the LE Samuel Beckett, which was put into service quite recently, and by all accounts has terrified those who still don't understand what "Waiting For Godot" was all about and seeing it again brought back terrible memories of sitting exams. Smugglers trying to bring in illegal ciggies have most likely turned around and gone back to Russia with their contraband, the very thought of encountering Samuel Beckett being enough to protect the Irish coast from foreign danger.

We can only guess that the old way of naming ships after women of Irish myth was not lending the right amount of testosterone-fueled threat to Ireland's reputation at sea. Who can say with pride that he serves on the LE Niamh? "I'm on the Eithne," some sailor might say, and what's the reply except "Is that the singer Enya you're riding? Isn't she a bit old for you, son?"

So there's the navy, trying to butch up the place, and along comes filmmaker Neil Jordan to express his outrage that Irish literary lights are being associated with war and violence. He plans to organize a protest of fellow writers and playwrights who will state quite clearly that they don't want their names on weapons of war. Or on weapons designed to protect their homeland, for that matter, because you wouldn't exactly consider the Irish naval fleet an attack-ready battle group.

Never will the LE Neil Jordan patrol Irish coastal waters. Whether or not Colm Toibin or Roddy Doyle would object remains to be seen. Although Erin Hart has written a couple of books with nautical-sounding titles...but then again, she's a girl and it's the men getting the naval glory.

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