Facebook friends may recall my New Year’s Resolution to read the novels of the writer James Joyce.
This past Sept. 24, I celebrated my birthday in his native Ireland.
I’m about halfway through “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” regarded by aficionados as the necessary prelude to tackling ‘”Ulysses” and “Finnegan’s Wake.”
My longtime friend high school classmate, friend, writer, scholar and world traveler, Dr. Ralph Berenger of Boise, Idaho, predicted I might find the going tough at times.
He sure got that right.
I recently put “Artist” aside temporally until I could find the research tool depended upon by generations of college students when suffering literary confusion — a copy (used) of “Cliffs Notes.”
It has now arrived from Amazon.
Cliffs Notes seeks to clarify matters both of a major and minor nature.
The major category in the “Portrait” includes but is not limited to the Irish school system, family life, religion, politics and even the hero’s emerging sexuality. (Joyce’s work was banned for a time in the U.S. for being contrary to the moral standards — some would say the hypocrisy — of the 1920s.)
In the minor category is the recipe for “drisheens,” a dish mentioned as a favorite of the book’s hero, Stephen Dedalus.
It’s made of 1 pint of sheep’s blood, 1 pint of milk, one-half pint of water, one-half pint of mutton suet, 1 cup of bread crumbs, salt, pepper, thyme leaves and a pinch of tansy. (I had to Google “tansy;” it’s a poisonous herb.)
The mixture is formed into a thick roll, tied tightly and steamed for an hour. It’s said to be delicious hot or chilled.
Finding sheep’s blood in U.S. grocery stores is difficult, so I may need to wait until I return to Dublin to sample it.
More immediately, I’m ready to dive back into the book