"I stand on Kite Hill, looking across the London panorama below and remember the ending of Joyce's The Dead. "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead." My soul was swooning (there, I admit it) yesterday as I stood and saw the snow falling, not on Joyce's Ireland, but on dirty old London, reborn as a thing of beauty. It was snowing from Epping Forest to Heathrow, Upminster to Uxbridge, on duke and dustman in a way that it hasn't for ages and probably won't for a good while. Savour it, I told myself."
But that story of Joyce's is not comforting, in any way. The snow universalises, yes, but it has a horror about it that I was in part trying to get to yesterday - snow as numbing, cleansing, rotting death. The article is in general lovely, and littered with literary references ('measured out our lives in coffee spoons' - why miss a chance to link to that poem?), but I think he misses the reference in the Joyce. Either he's showing off and getting it wrong, or is plain wrong. It's disappointing. I must re-read 'The Dead'.