Sunday, 16 March 2008

Would James Joyce be on Facebook?

One of my harmless habits is taking a bit of management speak I hear in a meeting or at a seminar and slipping it into a poem – sometimes there is something about odd bits of language that can spark a new thought. (This kind of thing sits well with my sampling approach, too.)

Yesterday I saw a book whose title at least reverses that sampling process. Clay Shirky’s new book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ is a look at 'the power of organising without organisations' in the new networked age. It sounds interesting in itself, but I was more drawn by the way his title is just the latest echo of an avant-garde. Here Comes Everybody (henceforth HCE) is a phrase from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, a recurring phrase related to the hero of this most difficult book. I have a battered paperback of Anthony Burgess’s book on Joyce, also called HCE. It was published the year after I was born. I also have, somewhere, a tape of The Wake’s 2nd album, HCE, which came out in late 1985, around the time I was puzzling though Finnegan’s Wake as a student in Paris. (The book is an interesting ‘textural’ experience, page by page, but I’ll admit to not really thinking I’ve ‘read’ it. The Wake’s New Order homages have not aged well according to the things I found on You Tube.) There’s also a great website of ‘writers on writing’ called HCE. There are no doubt other echoes.

My point is? The avant-garde and the business section may be more connected than we think. And artists have been predicting the present for a long time.

No comments: