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A disgruntled Community College professor who loves literature but loathes his students. A homicide detective who takes her inspiration from Patti Smith's punk period. A cult of Christian zealots who livestream actual crucifixions.
And a writer of porn movies whose career does not have a happy ending. All of them connected by a lost manuscript written by one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. (That is, if it exists.)
At the heart of this multi-faceted narrative is Lucia Joyce, James Joyce's daughter and muse, a brilliant and visionary woman whose life remained shadowed by the specter of madness.
Was she the recipient of her father's last masterwork? Where are the letters that would tell her story?
Would she have shared his final work if she had ever been released from the mental institution where she languished her entire adult life?
The Last Words of James Joyce is a modern-day literary treasure hunt, feverishly churning through the worlds of social media, academic conferences, sanitariums, porn movie sets, and late-night diners,
with a cast of characters who'd be right at home in the most wild Joycean fantasy, all drawn by the prospect of the literary find of the century: an unpublished work by the master modernist and literary icon himself.
Both playful and profound, this modern quixotic adventure explores the life of a neglected and heroic woman and her legacy as the keeper of strange and dark secrets, and the scramble for fame, fortune, and infamy that her silence spawned.
But as this novel reminds us, some voices simply can't be stilled -- not by time, death, or deceit -- and what we think are lost words sometimes turn out instead to be last words.
James Broderick is a professor of English at New Jersey City University. He is the author of several works of non-fiction, a previous novel, and an off-off Broadway play. He and his wife, Miri, live in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.