Culture Magazine

A Laughing Criticism of James Joyce’s Story “The Dead” and My Similarity to a Character in “Winnie The Pooh” Books

By Thejohnfleming @thejohnfleming
A jar of honey before being emptied

A jar of honey which has not been emptied

Last night, I woke up in the middle of a dream about a multi-storey tower block constructed from the horizontal pages of books, all flapping in the wind while Benito Mussolini handed out prizes for art.

Benito Mussolini was confused.

So was I.

It is not uncommon.

I was confused a couple of evenings ago, when my eternally-un-named friend laughed at my daily blogs over the Christmas period.

Towards the end of yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that my eternally-un-named friend had, the previous day, laughed out loud at some of my blogs.

“I was creasing up this morning,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “at John’s blog about how he likes to be depressed at Christmas and…”

“A mis-representation,” I interrupted.

What actually happened was this…

She had got behind in reading my blogs over Christmas and read three at once. Then she started laughing hysterically.

“I didn’t think they were funny,” I told her, surprised. “Why are you laughing?”

She was reading my Boxing Day blog.

“At the end of your blog,” she laughed, “after writing about two other people’s diaries, you’ve said Samuel Pepys & his wife and James Boswell & Louisa are long dead…”

Then she started laughing again.

“That’s your contribution,” she said. “Having plonked in all these diaries from long ago, that’s your contribution… And you say you had  done virtually nothing and your Christmas Day was a comparatively miserable time and people are now dead while you’re living and you’re having a boring time!”

She started laughing again.

“You don’t even mention the Christmas pudding you cooked and these two guys hadn’t even cooked a carrot…”

She started laughing uncontrollably.

“On Christmas Day,” she laughed, “you’d had a phone call from the dead comedian… Okay… And Christmas Eve – Oh whoopee! – While the rest of us are thinking Oh! I wonder what we’ll get tomorrow. Oh! I wonder if he’s going to like that present and wrapping things and Oh! Something nice to eat! you’ve blogged The best-written paragraph in English was written by a short-sighted Irishman. And then there’s this miserable paragraph that’s unreadable and I dunno what’s going on. It sounds like someone’s lying next to someone who’s dead… And you say that reminds you of Christmas!”

She started laughing uncontrollably again.

“You’re just a miserable old wotsit!” she laughed. “You’re Eeyore!… Mind you, at least he was happy when he was given a balloon that had burst and someone else had given him an empty honey jar. Ooh! I can put the burst balloon into the honey jar!” And I suppose you would do the same. Do you know that story?”

“I don’t know Pooh,” I said.

“You don’t know Pooh at all?”

“I know shit about Pooh,” I replied.

“So,” explained my eternally-un-named friend, “it’s Eeyore’s birthday and he’s always so bloody miserable…” and she started laughing again. “Eating nettles!” she laughed. “Oh! My day! My life! Woe is me! And it’s his birthday and Piglet and Winnie-the-Pooh both think Oh, it’s Eeyore’s birthday. We’ll give him something! And Piglet thinks I’ve got a balloon! It’s a big red balloon. And he’s running along, excited to give it to him and he falls over and it bursts. And Winnie-the-Pooh thought I’ll give him one of my jars of honey. But he gets a bit peckish on the way and sits down and eats it.

“So, when they get to Eeyore’s field, they only have a burst balloon and an empty jar to give him. Oh, he says, well at least I can put my burst balloon into the empty jar – because it wouldn’t have fitted otherwise. So that was good all round. He saw the positive.

“There’s a book written – The Tao of Pooh – to follow the ways of Pooh with ‘attitude’ and the way to happiness is not to think beyond lunchtime. You miserable little sausage! People are going to be reading your blogs and thinking This guy is into emotional masturbation. The misery! It’s a slightly teenage kind of attitude. Oh, woe is me! I have nothing! which is easy to do.

“And this blog about your favorite passage in English! I’m not even sure if the woman he’s got in bed next to him is dead in whatever that book is.”

The Dead,” I said.

“He gets into bed next to her,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “and she hasn’t responded. I’m thinking she’s dead. And there’s something about her eyes that last saw… and she’d had to lock away the love of her life and looking at his eyes because he’d said he’d kill himself. I’m not sure which one was going to kill themselves of these bloody guys. Whether it was him and she hadn’t got off with the love of her life or the love of her life said he’d kill herself. Or he’d killed herself and she was left with this one who was in bed beside her while she’s dead. I have no idea.

“Meanwhile, he’s then blah blah blah – I have no idea what that was about – and something about the snow falling on the…”

“The Bog of Allen,” I suggested.

“…on the graves and the fences,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “And we saw Doctor Who which had snow in it.”

My eternally-un-named friend stopped laughing and blew her nose.

“And you say that always reminds you of Christmas,” she told me. “Not one word about Christmas. The snow might be, slightly, but…”

There was a long pause.

We both started laughing.

“So I read that,” she said eventually, laughing, “and felt I’d failed you by not giving you the wretched bones of a Pope or a photograph of a dead archbishop in Milan or something… Oh! I’ll give him a shrunken head next year… I’ll give you that. This was once a person. They had a bad time, you can say, but not as bad as mine! At least they’ve thrown off this mortal coil and they’ve lost weight.

“There’s no point me trying to say something comforting to you, because you want to be miserable. So what can I do to make you miserable? I could trim your eyebrows.”


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