Scrawlings of The Artist as a Young Drunk

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James Joyce, in a moment of clarity takes stock of his work.

“You know what Thomas Aquinas says: The three things requisite for beauty are, integrity, a wholeness, symmetry, and radiance. Oh, and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.”

~ James Joyce

Scrawlings of the Artist as a Young Drunk is a semi-legible heap of nonsense written by James Joyce under the influence of radiation exposure. Regarded as Joyce's most influential piece of literature, it has been read by thousands worldwide, and appreciated by approximately zero, mainly because of its composition - which is entirely of inconsequential, senseless gibberish.

Plot Summary

Scrawlings focuses on a character named Stephen Deadbeatus, an Irish youth with a penchant for being drunk and disorderly. Although this by itself does little to distinguish Stephen from his countrymen, he is shown throughout the novel to have a taste for ugly prostitutes, whom he "makes sexy time on" several times a chapter. The book is known as a "Roman building", or a book where a character gradually grows into his true self as the work progresses. It thus chronicles Stephen from his early days of pre-pubescent struggles with his sex drive and alcoholism to his early twenties, at which point he has reached the height of his shemale-shagging proficiency and decides to move to Paris to pursue hairier prostitutes.

Literary Stylings

Much of the novel is written as a fourth-person narrative with minimal dialogue, though sections lurch between third-person limited omniscient and an undefined stream of consciousness methodology. The book's concluding section--presented as a diary entry written by Deadbeatus--is actually an exact transcript of the menu that laid on the table next to Joyce as he scribbled the first draft of the novel onto a napkin. Scrawlings is regularly cited as a premier example of how to effectively use long, incomprehensible words entirely out of context; in several instances, Joyce actually spelled words wrong in order to deliberately frustrate the reader, and an improper use of punctuation. Leads to difficulty in reading.

Critical Acclaim

Samuel Beckett called Scrawlings the "most painful twentyseven minutes of my entire life". And he wrote Waiting For Godot, so he should know.

Scrawlings was published on a whim (and an intense cocaine high) by a private publisher in Dublin whose name has been lost to history. It's initial reception was, unsurprisingly, one of revulsion. It was reported to be a favorite read of such notable historical figures as Stalin, Hitler and Gandhi; according to all known fact, when Gandhi's students learned of the sort of sleaze their mentor called "great literature", they murdered him.

The novel was mistakenly ranked at #3 on The Modern Library's list of the Top 100 Greatest English Novels, but the organization printed a retraction shortly thereafter, noting: "No human being in their right mind would ever believe that such a worthless, illegible mess of human indignity could ever reach such a high position on this list," and apologized for any undue discomfort caused by the error.

Related Trivia

  • Pearl Jam hit song "Yellow Ledbetter", considered to have some of the most incomprehensible lyrics ever written, is reported to be a melodic reading of the first chapter of Scrawlings.
  • Slobodan Milosevic cited Scrawlings as a principal influence in his decision to commit crimes of genocide.
  • When read in cadence with Pink Floyd's album "Dark Side of the Moon", Scrawlings still makes absolutely no sense.
  • Reading Scrawlings has been found to cause cancer and congenital birth defects in residents of the state of California.
  • J R R Tolkien translated much of Scrawlings into Sindarin which he used in Elven songs throughout the Silmarillion.
  • Unbeknownst to most, Captain Ahab, after reading Scrawlings, decided instead to hunt James Joyce, graciously settling with Moby Dick for a mere $200 dollars and airfare to Ireland.

See Also

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