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With the permission of William Joyce                                                                         MONEY Money is the last ...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

At Nikos Kazinstakis' tomb in Crete

Some thoughts on Zorba The Greek and First Born of An Ass

Just Some thoughts after a holiday with Zorba The Greek........

I always loved Crete, it's a special place to go and luckily for me I have just had the good fortune to spend eleven days there.

I always keep specific books to read when I go, and this time, amongst others, I brought Nikos Kazantzakis' 'Zorba The Greek'. I had read other pieces by him but somehow I had managed to ignore his most famous work (I know, I know, 'Last Temptation' is pretty famous too) and I'm glad I did. The book was a joy to read. It was full of life and people that even today we don't like to acknowledge or think about. The cruelty and violence and ignorance which is a reality in any newspaper pervades our little societies and we still pretend we've moved on. Damaged and wounded by our inability to look our demons in the eye we need a 'Zorba' to show us a path. Life and action instead of thinking about living our lives 'Someday' . laughter and love and music and play as essential to being free, instead of a side order to a main plate of drudgery and pain. I can't recommend it enough.

Of course all these ideas are the meat and drink of the work of William Joyce. I was constantly reminded of his 'First Born of An Ass' as I read. Both books possess a love of life and a playful curiosity. They both have characters that create world's where they can exist as themselves because no one else is going to do it for them, and both display a constant inventiveness and lightness of touch that mirrors the very nature of our beings given even a glimpse of a chance. Remember the joy of seeing the smile of the first person you fell in love with and tell me that life doesn't value play. Kazantzakis and Joyce value play.

In my opinion it is William who has gone further. The character of 'Zorba' is a man in his sixties while 'Gorm' is still just a child. Joyce pushes the boundaries of his world in an attempt to flex its reality in the face of the utter madness of contemporary society. It is reality's mirror in a similar vain to Gogol's 'Dead Souls' and in many ways just as much a tightrope walk for the Author to complete. I read reviews of 'Zorba' and many of the poor ones spoke of the sexism and violence towards women in it as if the same instances were not prevalent today. Again it is this pretence at an abstract way of living instead of looking the forces of darkness in the eye and getting sweaty for the fight. William is a 'Golden Gloves' champion of this fight. He delivers body blow after body blow in his Poetry and Prose to assumptions that I had never questioned and he has never bowed to the new gods of modern survival.

Nikos Kazantzakis had his fight in his day. I went to visit his tomb in his home city of Heraklion where officially no priest attended his burial ceremony and internment. He was beaten to the Nobel prize in Literature by one vote after the Greek Orthodox Church lobbied against him (Camus won for 'The Stranger') and still holds a strange place in the Greek mind.

William still wages war at 75. His battles don't reflect well on the treatment of Artists in the modern world or our willingness to let someone else pay the price for our own lack of courage. He writes like he fights and he plays, no half measures.

Read 'Zorba The Greek', read 'First Born of An Ass'. You won't regret either of them

Monday, 19 September 2016


It's a rare thing in life to find courage, all the more so in the written word where too often pose and self consciousness takes the place of freedom of expression. It's highly understandable because it can be frighteningly real to show your true self to the outside world. It is the difference between someone who writes poetry and a Poet. For me William Joyce is a Poet.

Years ago I saw Keith Richards , one hand aloft playing the intro to 'Honky Tonk Woman', and I swear that even if he had no guitar the sound would have still come out of him. The Music was who he was, no barrier, no curtain, just the extraordinary ability to be exactly as he is. I had a similar experience reading 'For Women Who Moan'. It is musical and profound, funny and angry. I came away with the impression the poems forced their way out of Mr Joyce. They were born with a song of their own.

The poetry itself Spans twenty years (68-88) and covers Sex, Childhood, The mundane and Travels in Mexico and The West Indies. No review could possibly do justice to the quality of ideas, the absolute freshness of tone, the commitment to self expression or the talent of the work involved. I found its 104 pages to be as large as a continent and as small as the life of a mosquito. I had lines pop into my head in the middle of the day " A hand is its own grace " (The Lady's Departure Speech to Her Lover) and " I have traveled to your center of gravity and stepped back in amazement " ( For a Mouth That Never Resigns Itself to Sorrow ). And at night these poems have led me to think of the ubiquitous witnesses to poverty and unfairness of this life. Many times they are Children trying to sing their own songs in a world as hard as any killing machine. As Joyce himself writes " Songs always identify us for someone else's palm. That is why so many are voiceless." It takes courage to live your own life and not compromise. If we were all as brave as William Joyce or even some of the people he writes about, the world would be a quieter, saner place. It can take courage to read as well as write