For years the numbers 2*2 or 2*2*2*2 or numbers that are multiples of two brought me luck, often with my writing (sales, translations, a prize …) or with safe travel, and in other arenas.
They still do.
The origin of this superstition: James Joyce’s birthday – 2/2 – the publication of Ulysses – 2/2/1922 – and the first novel I wrote/published (Mainstream/UK, Hyperion/USA in 1992) – Clairvoyant, The Imagined Life of Lucia Joyce.
With the passing of time, though well reviewed and received, as is the way with publishing, the book went out of print. A long sigh lasted until my lungs had emptied, when – happily – a fresh, blousey breath of air came in the form of an offer to reissue it by TMI Press/Providence. It was decided that I would write a note to the new edition. And did. In honor of Joyces 136th birthday, here is that brief preface:
Note to New TMI 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 buried 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 thirty-one 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.
Alison Leslie Gold
New York, 2014