Monday, February 19, 2007

Where are you, James Joyce?

It's protect-our-precious-children-from-naughty-words month here on the interwebs, and it knows no boundaries: first an Eve Ensler play that I though had been around too long to cause any more fuss and now a newly annointed Newbery winner. This was all over the news last week, and I think all the good jokes have been told. ("Mommy, what's a hoo-ha?"). And now this story about the 2006 Newbery winner and its use of the word "scrotum" is, at the moment, the most forwarded piece on the, and it even managed to rise to the notice of (though they've decided it's YA).

I'm going to resist the urge to defend specifically works I haven't read (I haven't read The Higher Power of Lucky, only articles about it) or ones that, in the manner of their being assaulted, are completely vindicated and widely promoted (attacking the Vagina Monologues in 2007? So, you've been in a cave for the last decade, eh?). But in the Times article, Higher Power of Lucky author Susan Patron makes such a beautiful case for the word that I want to rush out and buy the book. She says: “The word is just so delicious. The sound of the word to Lucky is so evocative. It’s one of those words that’s so interesting because of the sound of the word.”

It makes me believe in the future of humanity when I read statements like this. This is an author who gets it.

James Joyce tie in? Oh, yeah. In 1932, a US Federal court ruled that Ulysses was not, in fact, obscene, and in my mind Joyce owns the word "scrotum" (from the first chapter of Ulysses): "The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea."

In fact, now that I read the passage from The Higher Power of Lucky with the word, I wonder if Ms. Patron isn't channeling Joyce herself (from the Times, again): “'Scrotum' sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

Lovely! Someone get the woman a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy.

-Andrew Karre

No comments: