This novel is a recreation of the tortured life of Lucia Joyce, the schizophrenic daughter of James Joyce. It follows Lucia’s struggle to survive despite the terrifying effects of this devastating mental illness. Today is the birthday of Lucia’s father. Following, is the note to the recently reissued TMI edition of Clairvoyant: The Imagined Life of Lucia Joyce
Note to New Edition — Clairvoyant
As a superstitious person, like James Joyce, always looking for signs and omens and coincidences in life, I thought it a good idea to visit the graves of the would-be subjects on whose biographical armature my fiction would hang. I caught a train from Euston Station in London that took me to Northampton, in the English Midlands and from there, a taxi drove me to St. Andrews Hospital where Lucia Joyce had once been a long term patient. Near to the sprawling complex formerly known as Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, I found tree-shaded Kingsthorpe Cemetery and began searching for Lucia’s gravestone. Up and down the rows and sections I wandered, with no luck. I’d almost given up when, at last, I spied her engraved name on a modest stone among the graves of dead Czech soldiers, and was able to lay the armload of roses I’d been clutching on it.
A few weeks later, early on a Sunday morning, in Zurich, Switzerland, I followed a street map to deserted Fluntern Cemetery, again searching the engraved stones of the dead. This time it was easier, and I found the Joyce burial site in which James, Nora, and Giorgio, their son, lie side by side for eternity. There’s a space here reserved for Lucia, but it remains empty, since by her own choice, she decided to be buried where she had spent the final 31 years of her life. She had not seen her parent’s since before the war and, even in death, there would be no reunion.
I laid flowers on Nora’s section, careful to avoid James’ since he hated cut flowers. Instead I slowly poured a bottle of Irish Jameson Whiskey into the soil atop his and, because I was feeling some ambivalence about writing a novel based on his cherished, troubled daughter, began to explain my qualms to him. Essentially, the superstitious side of me was asking for his blessing. Give me a sign, I asked Lucia’s father, and waited, hearing nothing but birds chirping and a sighing breeze. If somehow he was against it, I’d abandon the idea. I asked again and was startled by the sudden, shocking noise of a supersonic airplane breaking the sound barrier. Then silence.
Yes, I’d gotten a sign. But what had it meant? I still wonder as this welcomed new edition is being prepared for publication by TMI Publishers.