Shloss, Carol (Loeb)
Shloss, Carol (Loeb)
CAREER: Has taught English at Wesleyan College, the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, and West Chester University; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, Segal Visiting Professor in Irish literature, 2003; Stanford University, Stanford, CA, visiting professor of English, 2004–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowship for creative nonfiction writing, Pew Fellowships in the Arts; National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, 2004, for Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake.
Flannery O'Connor's Dark Comedies: The Limits of Inference, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1980.
Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to Gentleman Photographers: The Work of Loring Underwood and William Lyman, edited by Robert Lyons, Solio Foundation (Florence, MA), 1987. Also contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, New Yorker, and scholarly journals. Member of editorial board, Joyce Studies Annual and College Literature.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A book on poet Ezra Pound and Pound's daughter, Mary.
SIDELIGHTS: Carol Shloss has written several books involving her literary and cultural interests, including Flannery O'Connor's Dark Comedies and In Visible Light: Photography and the American Writer. She has received the most attention, however, for Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, a biography of James Joyce's only daughter. Lucia Joyce was born in 1907, when her father was only an aspiring writer. Growing up in Trieste, Italy, Lucia was described as witty, clever, and pretty, despite the crossed eyes that plagued her all her life. She studied modern dance and had a brief career as a dancer before her family decided that this career was not suitable for her. In subsequent years she gradually lapsed into mental illness, her condition exacerbated by the family's peripatetic life and a series of failed romances, including relationships with sculptor Alexander Calder and writer Samuel Beckett, her father's protégé.
Lucia's increasingly erratic behavior led her father to consult a number of prominent psychiatrists, including Carl Jung, for help. Although James Joyce tried to do what he could for Lucia, she was eventually institutionalized and remained so for the last forty-five years of her life. Shloss theorizes that Lucia's problems stemmed from the thwarting of her artistic talent in the shadow of her father's ambitions. Using what few primary sources are available, Schloss contends that Lucia was the muse who made Finnegan's Wake possible and that she inspired the character of Anna Livia Plurabelle.
Shloss insists that Lucia's story was deliberately erased by her family and by previous Joyce biographers. She relates, too, that Lucia and her father had a special, artistically symbiotic relationship that allowed for the emergence of her father's genius but caused the forfeiture of Lucia's own personality. In a review for the New Yorker, Joan Acocella called this theory "the book's most spectacular act of inflation," adding that "the less Shloss knows, the more she tells us." Shloss, commented Acocella, has placed Lucia in the tradition of "the biography-of-the-artist's woman," a modern feminist construct meant to show that the successes of artistic men were often "fed on the blood of women." Acocella further criticized Shloss for failing to produce evidence on the true nature of Lucia, but she also added that "a lot of people are going to feel shut out" when any artist "walks into that private room and closes the door."
Reviewers had doubts, as well as words of praise for Lucia Joyce. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote that the book "makes painful reading" but that it is a "ground-breaking new study" that serves as a "corrective" to the distortion of facts presented by earlier Joyce scholars. According to Nicholas Hengen in the Virginia Quarterly Review, "the evidence for [Shloss's] conclusion is hardly overwhelming," but while the book "never quite coalesces," it is notable for its "beautifully written collection of interesting moments." In a critique in the New York Times Book Review, Hermione Lee called Shloss's story an "emotional attempt to fish Lucia up from the depths" and labeled much of Shloss's writing style "fervid glop." Lee added that while Lucia's character is "completely romanticized," Schloss's "biography will certainly alert you to [Lucia's] presence, should you ever be reading Finnegan's Wake—a pathetic, vanishing figure, flitting through her father's book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New Yorker, December 8, 2003, Joan Acocella, "A Fire in the Brain," p. 128.
New York Times Book Review, December 28, 2003, Hermione Lee, "No She Said No," pp. 8-9.
Publishers Weekly, November 24, 2003, review of Lucia Joyce, p. 55.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 5, 2004, David Kipen, "Bay Area Writer Wins Top Award for Criticism," p. A2.
Time, December 1, 2003, Lev Grossman, "In the Orbit of Genius: Even Before Celebrity Culture, Life with a Star Had a Dangerous Gravitational Pull," p. 112.
Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 2004, Nicholas Hengen, review of Lucia Joyce, p. 269.