I'm ashamed to admit that I own the majority of James Joyce's work, but have read very little of it. Today is, of course, the centenial of the events of Ulysses. The New York Times has done a very nice retrospective of their original reviews and such like. I don't have any Joyce here, so I can't leave you with a quote from the genius himself, but here's a quote from a review a half-century old:
Ireland is not a country that any Irishman easily forgets. The loss or denial of his religion leaves in him an ache of emptiness. If anyone wants to feel what that ache meant to Joyce, all he need do is listen to, let us say, the Domine Deus or the Cum Sancto Spiritu of Bach's Mass in B minor and imagine Joyce, hearing that music in after years, feeling: "This is what I do not believe, this is what I have lost." Bloomsday is not only Bloom's day; it is Stephen's dark night of the soul; and I believe that these two are in face a composite character - Stoom; Blephen, as in one place they are called.
"History," says Stephen, "is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." And does not this mean much the same thing that Albert Camus means in L'homme revolté, when he says that all "artistic creation is both a demand for unity and a refection of the world"? As he says, also, that every individualist - and who was a more total individualist than Joyce? - must deny reality in order to affirm his own existence?