A start

Today I began my first retyping project at Getting Inside James Joyce’s Head (I am retyping Portrait Of The Artist As Young Man a page at a time every day).


I also started to write a book manuscript with the word count constraint of 216 words (whatever amount I retyped, I will type in my book immediately after my retype session). Today started with a sort personal gibberish journal entry, but I’m interested to see what this method will bring out in me.


It took me about twenty minutes or so to type out today’s Joyce passage. I began it with a thought that had been replaying in my brain. Joyce was fluent in several languages, having taught himself basic Norwegian in order to write Ibsen a fan letter. I’m fluent in English, Spanish, and some basic French. Last night while riding home on my bike the thought popped up in my brain to learn German. I include that thought in today’s session.

A few have asked me why I didn’t choose Ulysses, my favourite and most influential of Joyce’s works. The point of this project is to expose myself to a different way of thinking about writing and I’ve never read Portrait of The Artist. This gives me a cleansed palate, so to speak.

Look for a review of Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing on this space in the near future. I’m still parsing what it has been doing to my brain these days. It’s hard for me to even elucidate my analysis in a coherent manner. I can say that Goldsmith may have just exposed me to a positive detriment.

I know that makes no sense, but as I approach the young age of forty next month, I have no time for sense.


  1. “Copying is an ambiguous activity: it is very dumb and automatic work but on the other hand it demands enough concentration to think about what one is doing, what the material is about. In other words, it generates imagination and ideas and brings about another kind of knowledge than the purely historical, by, maybe, creating an understanding of different ways of thinking. Almost in passing – because it happens whole doing the job – copying communicates the stories behind the material by carefully looking at them, connecting them with images in our memory and found footage. In this way, the material transforms into joint knowledge and focuses attention on different notions, so closely related to artistic practice, such as authorship, ownership, originality, the aura of the art object, neutrality, hierarchy, appropriation, innovation and – not least – the processing and transference of information.” – Bik Van der Pol, Catching some air: Library drawings (Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2002) p.11

  2. This is a really interesting project and I will return regularly to find out how you are getting on with the retyping of Joyce. Perhaps through this, you will learn about how Joyce structured his work and how he let the narrative develop. My approach to writing is experimental and I approach it through my background in fine art and film. Could I ask, are you using the same font or is that irrelevant? Also, what do you plan to do with it afterwards?

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