As I recently finished reading a survey of Joyce’s writings, it occurred to me that each of his four majors works could be compared to the four major acts of Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in order.
A critical care for presenting a realistic story gives us the first stage of the work. The inhabitants of this place are frustrated and stunted. The Kubrickian monolith is equivalent to the Joycean epiphany. Ironically, where the epiphanies of Joyce only instigate paralysis, the monoliths of 2001 catalyze a quantum leap in evolution.
= A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Here we see a truly new style (or, at least, a recent style perfected)–Joyce’s stream of consciousness and Kubrick’s special effects ballet. Each work is a seamless, totally integrated work of ambitious art, where every facet contributes to the whole united message. Each work, thematically and in its plot, is about man moving onward and upward.
A bracingly unique vision, extrapolating all that came before it into a new creation that sets the standards for all that would come after. Its influence on all later works is often subtle, but incalculably great.
Then-recent inventions that were rocking society (Modernism and Jung/Freud for Joyce, computers for Kubrick) are explored in profoundly philosophical ways, in an intensely intellectual environment. The implications of these innovations are explored in detail, often through means found tedious and obtuse by the audience.
Obviously, the title of each work is a reference to Homer’s Odyssey.
= Finnegans Wake
All that came before now climaxes in this, the apex of the creator’s artistic abilities. This is now a work so revolutionary–a sonic symphony of such mind-melting sensory overload–that few can even tolerate it, much less comprehend it in any meaningful way. We are left, then, with an open resolution that is so abstract, practically any subjective interpretation can be defended.
All we can really conclude is that this bizarre vision is somehow optimistic, an affirmation of the messy essence of what it means to be human.