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What's in a Name?

James Joyce gets a kick out of people who point out that he has a famous name. He gets even more excited when they know something about the guy who made his name so notable.

For a long time now, James Joyce, a mechanics supervisor for Broward County Public Works, has been intrigued by James Joyce, the late Irish writer. The living Joyce has been to Dublin three times to tour Joyce-related sites and became buddies with the writer's nephew. He attends Joyce symposiums and chats knowledgeably with literary scholars.

But the 64-year-old grandfather from Sunrise is eager to share his enthusiasm for the writer with a wider audience. "I want to dispel the notion that you can't read it, [that] it's too intellectual," he says of Joyce's works of fiction, which include Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. "It'll give you some insights into the Irish people, the culture at the time, the genius of the man, and the interesting life that he led."

Joyce will discuss the author and his 1922 epic, Ulysses, at the Fort Lauderdale Branch Library next week. The tome recounts a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, whose travels around Dublin parallel those of Odysseus, the hero of Homer's The Odyssey.

Joyce the mechanic was seven years old when he and his family, then living in Brooklyn, were told by a door-to-door salesman that he had the same name as a famous author. Joyce's curiosity was piqued, and as a teenager he picked up Ulysses, which is no easy read even for a graduate student. But the more he learned about Joyce, the more he understood the book, which delves into the search for the meaning of life.

"You have to get the stream of consciousness that he's coming from," Joyce explains. "Because he was so smart, you see, it takes a bit of work to stay with him."

Once Joyce dug into the intense prose, he was hooked. He could identify with the writer and his relationships. Since then he's made a hobby of studying Joyce and his work, but it wasn't until he was supervising an air-conditioning job at the library recently that he realized he could share his expertise with others. After a librarian commented on his name, they struck up a conversation on Joyce, and the lecture was arranged.

-- Patti Roth

James Joyce and his novel Ulysses will be discussed at the Fort Lauderdale Branch Library, 1300 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 20. Admission is free. Call 954-765-4263.

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Patti Roth

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