Columbia Library columns (v.38(1988Nov-1989May))

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  v.38,no.1(1988:Nov): Page 23  


Painting Finnegans Wake


■ y husband, the late Nathan Halper, used to joke that the
reason we got married was entirely because of James
L.Joyce's Finnegans Wake. When we met I was an artist who
was not very literarily inclined, and I had no idea that he was a pas¬
sionate Joycean. Now, most Joyceans are academics, but Nathan
never wanted to teach; he was primarily a scholar and writer. I guess
we each were very lopsided people, but we complemented one
another in our interests.

My father was an English violinist manque, and my mother was an
American singing teacher. We three children, two boys and myself, a
girl in the middle, were all born in Paris, France. My parents sepa¬
rated when I was six years old, and my mother had custody of us. She
cared nothing for the education of a girl and lavished much of her
energies on educating my two brothers. My education was very bad,
nothing at all until I was nine years old, then any old school of no
consequence in France, England, and America was good enough for
me. Mother brought us to Manhattan, her native city, when I was
twelve years old.

When I was seventeen, we discovered the art colony at Province-
town, Massachusetts, and from then on spent summers there. I stud¬
ied art as compensatory activity for which I showed talent. In 1930
my mother bought a house on the bay in Provincetown with the
most beautiful view imaginable. None of us had any knowledge of
winter storms and the damage they inflicted on the waterfront, but
we soon learned it would keep us poor. Nevertheless, we were
addicted to that beautiful view.

I inherited the house during the war and found myself renting parts
of it to a good number of psychoanalysts who summered in Provin¬
cetown. Then after my mother's death, the director of the William

  v.38,no.1(1988:Nov): Page 23