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  • Penelope Says
  • Robert Berry

Crediting the Source Material

At the Antwerp Symposium this summer, many readers mentioned to me that they really enjoyed the pages of PENELOPE "says" that we've been running here in the James Joyce Quarterly. Muchibus thankibus. With Dan Pipito working on new material for the website, this seemed like a good time to mention something about the origins of those pages and the way I've decided to depict Molly in them.

Molly has always been the most difficult character to cast in adapting ULYSSES. I believe this is because she has such a special place in the imaginations of each true fan of the book; we all have our own Mollys. Working chronologically through the book's events as I do, I haven't had to make too many decisions about Molly just yet. There's a little in-joke to one of the images shown here in a Bloomsday poster from 2013 where I used a famous Marilyn Monroe photo as an example of the worst casting choice possible for Mrs. Marion Bloom. When the JJQ suggested we do some kind of ongoing strip in each issue with two full-color pages, "Penelope" seemed the obvious choice; subscribers here, already terribly familiar with the material, would find treats and small gags in the work that new readers of ULYSSES "seen" might find too obscure. The trick came in breaking the long speech that closes the novel into a form that might be delivered in tiny chunks of about eight pages a year. They would be more like stand-alone posters that celebrate brief moments of the text. For many reasons, this suggested to me the idea of calendar and pin-up art and I knew, right away, that Molly herself should be larger-than-life, unabashedly naked, and a kind of gigantic center of the design of each page.

This is where the wonderful work of American pin-up painter Duane Bryers comes into play. Bryers's full-figured nature girl, Hilda, has become an internet favorite in the past few years. I was dimly aware of his work a few decades back and all but forgot it until researching a look for Molly on this project. A quick internet search will show you just how deeply I've mined this one artist's work to come to conclusions about where to take my own. Much of his clean lines, facial features, expressions, direct poses, lighting, and mood go into the pages you've been seeing here. His Hilda has an innocence and a naiveté that has nothing to do with our Molly, but I begin often with one woman to find the unique voice of the other. I encourage you to look for Bryers's work and see for yourself how there's a kind [End Page 413] of personality and charm there not often found in typical cheesecake art of that genre—a kind of earthy gigantism that brings my own Molly to the page. [End Page 414]

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[End Page 415]

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[End Page 416]



Additional Information

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pp. 413-416
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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