That's James Joyce—the cold Outfit killer in the eye patch—and his dame, Nora Barnacle. When you add in their all-encompassing outlaw ethos she could be gamely called his moll. That makes these two the Bonny and Clyde of the literary scene, which in normal times is the nerdy sanctuary of introverts who need real social anxiety allowances in order to function. Of course there are plenty of fine exceptions to that general rule, but stereotypes don't come from nothing.
That picture is great for my purposes because I didn't want the first to be of James Joyce wearing coke-bottle glasses that presented him as a sort of confused, semi cross-eyed owl who'd had another mouse escape on him. There are plenty of those portraits; tend to turn people off. Joyce's eyes were awful and they got worse all his life. Had many eye surgeries in a losing effort to stay ahead of creeping blindness. Excessive reading in bad light wears down the eyes, but doctors now say the great writer likely had syphilis. The bad effects of that devilish "Cupid's disease" ruined more than one good man who enjoyed professional women in the days before penicillin was used to treat the infection.
Ironically, Barnacle wasn't a big reader and intellectually she was not outfitted—nor was she interested in—appreciating her husband's books. He liked her because she was clever like a good, practical peasant woman, had guts or not enough brains to know what she was doing took guts, and was good in the sack. She had personality qualities that were his opposite, which attracted him. Also, she didn't mind, or managed to accept, Joyce's unusual mating proclivities and obsessions that he blamed the Jesuits for instilling through their very-Catholic denial of the wholesomeness of a man's built-in drive to hide the devil as often as the urge came. In the capacity of not understanding Joyce's books, Barnacle joined millions of others. Those who read Joyce with pleasure are maybe what Stendhal meant when he mentioned the happy few.
This blog is getting off two weeks after the reading sessions began at Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, The library itself is a place that raises you up by its personality. It's a grey granite, arched hulk set back from Washington Square Park on the Near North side. Last week I approached its eastern face through big, starry snowflakes falling over the spire of Harvest Cathedral with the library framed in city-winter light beyond it, which was a sight to remember. It's stately and pompous in a way that won't put off the common slob or the scholar. It's architectures is something Spanish or Romanesque—makes one look up and contemplate the meaning behind things.