National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee
Most accounts of James Joyce's family portray Lucia Joyce as the mad daughter of a man of genius, a difficult burden. But in this important new book, Carol Loeb Shloss reveals a different, more dramatic truth: Lucia's father not only loved her but shared with her a deep creative bond. His daughter, Joyce wrote, had a mind "as clear and as unsparing as the lightning."
Born at a pauper's hospital in Trieste in 1907, educated haphazardly in Italy, Switzerland, and Paris as her penniless father pursued his art, Lucia was determined to strike out on her own. She chose dance as her medium, pursuing her studies in an art form very different from the literary ones celebrated in the Joyce circle and emerging, to Joyce's amazement, as a harbinger of modern expressive dance in Paris. He described her then as a wild, beautiful, "fantastic being" who spoke "a curious abbreviated language of her own" that he instinctively understood—for in fact it was his as well. The family's only reader of Joyce's work, Lucia was a child of the imaginative realms her father created. Even after emotional turmoil wreaked havoc with her and she was hospitalized in the 1930s, Joyce saw in her a life lived in tandem with his own.
Though most of the documents about Lucia have been destroyed, Shloss has painstakingly reconstructed the poignant complexities of her life—and with them a vital episode in the early history of psychiatry, for in Joyce's efforts to help his daughter he sought out Europe's most advanced doctors, including Jung. Lucia emerges in Shloss's account as a gifted, if thwarted, artist in her own right, a child who became her father's tragic muse.
In Lucia's world, beautifully rendered in this remarkable narrative, Shloss has uncovered fascinating material that deepens our understanding of Finnegans Wake, the book that redefined modern literature. Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake is a milestone work in the study of art in the making, as well as a thought-provoking meditation on fathers and daughters. Through the life of Lucia Joyce we see the birth of modernism not just as a series of texts but as a mode of daring.