U-turned distillation notes reJoycing Ulysses in light of our own '...." '..SS" 'SSEY"
Dear Internet, Kathmandu—July 14, 2013
Last day in Kathmandu. Don't worry, we won't show anymore photos (basta in the last post). Cameras all wonky anyway ... same one been complaining about ... now totally whack. Who needs it? Sitting here surrounded by plush leopards, stags & penguins ... summoning the muse. Outside, the sound of beeping car horns & crows. Pigeons cooing on the blue ledge out our window. A protest just passed by with angry men chanting ... 3 cops with guns followed 100 feet behind. Guns have a plug in the end with a chain attached ... like the pop-gun in Peter & the Wolf. Men on the rooftops across the street stringing up new-bright prayer flags ... cutting down the faded ones & throwing the new coil across the street to span the gap (rather than just tie the new one to the old & pull it across ... which seems the logical thing to do). Earlier some people (seemingly novices) were playing those whaling Tibetan trumpet things (dungchens) ... practise makes perfect.
Can't be bothered to hit the streets today. Already seen everything ... or at least enough. Abbastanza. Not worth the hassles & risk of getting hit by a motorcycle or car. Instead we've been re-reading Ulysses. We bought it (at Pilgrim's) to read on the plane, but already read 133 pages ... while swinging in a hanging chair on the roof, or down in the kitschy lobby whilst eating momos. What follows are our linear impressions ... notes & particular lines we underscored for whatever reason ... with the emphasis of this re-reading being the 'SSES" 'SSES" 'SSEY" project we've embarked on (i.e. with thematic weight given to the likes of suicide, substance abuse & our brother's obsession with the book) ... to finish up our brother's unfinished business ... what it means to us ...
The edition (Wordsworth Classics compete & unabridged) we have contains a long introduction by some guy named Cedric Watts ... your standard commentary ... the one thing noteworthy (for our sake) is that he quotes some critic named John Carey as saying «Bloom himself would never and could never have read Ulysses.» This gives us a new angle of approach (to read as if we were Bloom) ... combined with what we quoted Faulkner as saying in our last post: «You should approach Joyce's Ulysses as the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith.»
The first time we read Ulysses was 1994 ... holed up in a cheap hotel in the Black Hills of South Dakota (where we worked as a cook & spent all our free time rock climbing). Wasted pretty much the whole summer (in the dark or rainy hours when we couldn't climb) trying to slog through Ulysses, but struggled & didn't get much out of it. This was after our brother wrote his 'SSES" 'SSES" thesis & we'd spent the previous winter together in southern France working on a film (so he spent quite a bit of time talking up Joyce). We never had an interest in Joyce independent of our brother ... read it mostly for his sake. The year before, when we were studying physics at University of Arizona, we started to audit a graduate-level class in James Joyce, wherein we were to read everything Joyce wrote over the course of the semester. But after a few weeks we got bumped from the class by English PhD students that needed to take it for credit (we were physics majors not needing to take it) ... probably for the better as reading everything by Joyce on top of our physics workload probably would've been insane. And most of it probably would've gone over our heads (most of the other students had already read most of Joyce's works & we hadn't read anything, except maybe Portrait of an Artist & some short stories ... The Dead being the only memorable one.)
A second wave of protestors just went by in the streets below ... unless it's the same ones circling around. Clouds are building, but no rain yet today. In the 3 weeks we were here, it never cleared up enough to see the Himalayas.
Some of these impressions here may or may not make it into the book we are writing for our brother (under the pen name Chalky) in some form or another. Some impressions ... especially the more personal ones ... we will likely not include here but only in our private notes we are taking in conjunction, for 'SSES" 'SSES" 'SSEY".
The above quote about Bloom not understanding Ulysses helps us to identify ... both with the book & Leopold Bloom. And since Stephen Dedalus is the artist from Portrait of an Artist As A Young Man, it makes sense that our brother Kevin (an artist) would fill those shoes. He also admittedly identified with Telemachus (we have a painting he did on our kitchen wall to prove it) ... the son in search of his father. Of course, Bloom could also easily be our father, an insurance salesman, who we never remember ever reading a book (except for Helter Skelter, a best-selling non-fiction book about Charles Manson). But this is all based on our sketchy memory of the first reading some 20 years ago & what we've read about Ulysses ... this is why we are re-reading it. Anyway, we don't have much more to say about the parallels ... the rest of what follows are our mostly our marginal notes that may or may not make sense to you in such a context.
Our brother (& you, The Internet) divided Ulysses into 18 episodes, each with an analog to The Odyssey. After doing our own mapping exercise (with the help of the Linati & Gilbert Schemata), we are discovering that this correspondence is not so straight-forward & linear. On the exterior, Joyce himself breaks Ulysses into only 3 chapters (with additional un-numbered & un-named breaks) & does not explicitly state these corresponding names from The Odyssey. The 3 chapters can be thought of in terms of: 1. Telemachy (when Telemachus leaves home to find out what happened to his father (& in Ulysses this is the first part about Stephen Dedalus)) ... 2. The Odyssey (the core of the book, where Odysseus is trying to find his way home to Penelope (in Ulysses this is the middle section about Leopold Bloom) & 3. Nostos (wherein Odysseus makes it home & opens a can of whoop-ass on Penelope's vulturous suitors (& Bloom brings Dedalus home, to Molly)).
Book I. Telemachy
Herein we meet Buck Mulligan who is Stephen's roommate & nemesis ... & his English friend Haines who Mulligan has allowed to freeload at their place ... much to Stephen's dismay. Buck teases & antagonizes Stephen & generally just acts like a dick. Stephen is fairly passive & introverted, but confronts Mulligan about a harsh thing he said about his mother, who died the year before. Buck kind of apologizes & says he didn't mean to offend the memory of his mother & Stephen says it wasn't his mother he offended but him.
Then Mulligan says: Look at the sea. What does it care about offences? ...There are already lots of references to the sea, which we can probably assume to be death. Death doesn't care about offences. Sorry, for stating the obvious ... this re-rendering is necessary & cathartic for us.
This is the outward drama ... but Joyce starts to weave in stream-of-conscious bits & poetry ... these lines of which Sonic Youth appropriated in their song "Secret Girl":
In a gender reversal (sung by Kim Gordon) that Joyce would probably appreciate. The three hipster-equivalents then go for a walk & a swim & Mulligan keeps riding Stephen, pushing him to lend him money & give him the keys to the tower. Stephen is sick of his shit, gives him some money & the keys & says he's not gonna bother coming home, calling Mulligan an «usurper» ... (i.e. Mulligan can be thought of as at least 1 of the suitors in The Odyssey, that try to move in on Penelope while Ulysses is away ... & Stephen in this sense, annoyed by these blood-sucking suitors, leaves home).
In the corresponding Odyssey chapter, Telemachus calls an assembly, feebly attempts to denounce the suitors & makes preparations to leave home.
Most likely, for our purposes, Buck & Haines will be replaced by junky friends of our brother ... friends of bad influence (before Kevin gets into hard drugs).
Stephen teaches his students ... one stupid kid in particular is having problems with arithmetic & Stephen is not so patient or sympathetic (in this thoughts) ... then the slimy headmaster Mr. Deasy comes along & pays Stephen ... while Stephen's free hand keeps fishing around in his pocket: Stephen's hand, free again, went back to the hollow shells. Symbols too of beauty and of power. A lump in my pocket. Symbols soiled by greed and misery ... as if Stephen is a prostitute to Deasy, or this payment of money is itself a sort of sexual act (the shells are specifically cowries, which back in the day were used as currency in Africa & also resemble you know what). Mr. Deasy keeps lecturing him on the virtues of money, quoting Shakespeare: Put but money in thy purse. Bragging about how —I paid my way. I never borrowed a shilling in my life. Can you feel that? I owe nothing. Can you? To which Stephen says: For the moment, no.
Not sure exactly who Mr. Deasy would be (in our brother's book), but sure there's a parallel here as far as our brother's obsessive concern with money ... inheriting dirty money from our father when he died, which he used to go to art school & take his trip. And then later the guilt of having to let others pay for his rehab or living with our mother because he couldn't afford rent.
Then (back to Ulysses) Mr. Deasy asks him to take some article he wrote (on hoof & mouth disease) to the newspaper to get it published ... sure there's a parallel here ... of friends asking for favors of our brother (nepotism was also another self-esteem-lowering preoccupation of his) ... especially being as our cousin (in real life) is oscar-winning Roger Avary (though likely we will not use his real name ... the initial thinking is that we'd instead search & replace with something like Spike Jonze (who our brother knew casually & mentions in his journals a few times ... before Spike Jonze was really famous).
In The Odyssey, Telemachus leaves home for Pylos & meets Nestor, a friend & comrade of Odysseus who doesn't reveal much, except that he's alive.
The sections starts with: Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that is no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, the rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies.
Which is to say things start becoming more about language than plot. Stephen is walking along the shore brooding, thinking, navel-gazing. We peregrinate with him inside his head. Some other lines that stand out ... The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. That is why mystic monks. [...] Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one. [...] Gaze. Belly without blemish. [...] In a Greek watercloset, he breathed his last: euthanasia. [...] They are coming, waves. The whitemanned seahorses, champing, brightwindbridled, the steeds of Mananaan.
The buddhist horns have started back up (in reality). It's 5'oclock. Not sure if the time has something to do with it. J is not coming back til later ... today was her big day ... where she had to present her findings. It smells like jasmine rice on our floor.
In The Odyssey, Proteus is the one who tells Telemachus that Odysseus is being held captive as a sort of sex-slave on Calypso's island. So perhaps in Ulysses the parallel you could make is that Stephen is held captive by his own thoughts. Not sure how this will play out in our book ... maybe this is where Kevin is held captive by his girlfriend in France (the initial thinking is that we'll refer to his love interest as Hope Sandoval, who also may or may not double as Molly).
Some other good lines from this chapter (especially in light of Calypso) ... A sentinel: isle of dreadful thirst. Broken hoops on the shore; at the land a maze of dark cunning nets; farther away chalkscrawled backdoors and on the higher beach a drying-line with two crucified shirts. [...] Here, I am not walking out to the Kish lightship, am I? He stood suddenly, his feet beginning to sink slowly in the quaking soil. Turn back. [...] The [tempting] flood is following me. [...] I'm the bloody well gigant rolls all them bloody well boulders, bones for my steppingstones. Feefawfum. I zmellz de bloodz oldz an Iridzman.
The last line our father used to say to scare us (the more traditional way of saying it—«Fe Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman»—that is used in a number of books (though wikipedia doesn't mention Ulysses)).
And «cunning nets» ... can't help but to thinks of Calypso & female temptation.
And Stephen pisses behind a rock.
Some of the best language so far is in this chapter, ... here's more: Me sits there with his augur's rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet night walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars. I throw this ended shadow from me, manshape ineluctable, call it back. Endless, would it be mine, for of my form? Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words? Signs on a white field.
And this ends the initial Telemachy book.
Book II. The Odyssey
Perspective shifts to Mr. Leopold Bloom as he goes about his day in the life (& in The Odyssey the perspective shifts to Odysseus stranded on the island of Calypso). We find out right away that Bloom likes the taste of kidneys because they smell faintly of urine (in the Gilbert Schema, Joyce also maps the various bodily organs to corresponding episodes, this one being the kidney section). This is the chapter where he posits the challenge of crossing Dublin without passing a pub.
We find out other things about Bloom, that he's a hen-pecked cuckold ... he brings his wife Molly breakfast in bed & delivers a letter from a guy that he seemingly knows (on some level) she is having affair with, but says nothing ... even though it eats him up inside. He reads a letter from his daughter (where she apologizes for her bad writing). And then Bloom takes a shit & reads the paper (& likens the two—publishing & defecation).
It's strange though, because even though it's Bloom's perspective, Joyce still uses highfalutin language, quoting in latin & whatnot ... it's essentially collective omnipresent 3rd-person narration. A few times he says «Voglio e non vorrei» (Bloom hears Molly practicing Italian) which means «I want and I would not (like)» ... though it's ambiguous, because (from what we remember ... native Italian speakers help us out here) not only is vorrei the polite way to say, in first-person (present conditional), «I would like» ... but conjugation-wise it seems like it should mean you want ('ei' being an ending typically for second-person conjugation). And it's strange that he says e (and) rather than ma (but). There's lots of little things like this that you could get lost looking into (as Joyce famously told his French translator: «"I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of ensuring one's immortality.»
Molly also asks him what metempsychosis is & Bloom knows it's from the Greek, meaning the transmigration of souls ... & they talk some about reincarnation.
This is where things start to get wonky chronology-wise, if you are trying to map Ulysses to The Odyssey ... as the Lotus Eater chapter appears later (chapter 9 of The Odyssey, which also corresponds with section 12 (Cyclops) of Ulysses. As we mentioned, we have a comprehensive mapping spreadsheet that perhaps we will post later ... but for now we will continue with chronology based on Ulysses.
In The Odyssey, the Lotus Eaters are the ones that intoxicate Odysseus's men by giving them Lotus fruit ... the obvious parallel in our book would be drugs. In Ulysses, Bloom goes to the post office where he gets a letter from his mistress (who calls Bloom Henry Flower ... which is perhaps Joyce's nod to the Lotus, not to mention its connection with Bloom). Some dude named McCoy tells him about the death of one Paddy Dignam, while Bloom tries to cop a look up some women's skirt. Then McCoy gets Bloom to put his name down in the funeral register for him ... You just shove in my name if I'm not there, will you?
This is also the section where Bloom buys the lemon soap from the chemist (which we re-enacted on a recent trip to Dublin) .. you could also draw a parallel between the ever-present soap & lotus/poppy flowers ... especially if 'cleanliness is next to godliness.' And then Joyce makes reference to Buddhism ... Wonder how they explain it to the heathen Chinee. Prefer an ounce of opium [...] Buddha their god lying on his side in the museum. (No doubt in reference to opium smokers lying on their sides.) And this brings it back to our brother & his desire to travel to China & Nepal on his own odyssey to metaphorically re-enact Ulysses ... & us also being here now.
And then, in regard to the chemist (the drug pusher) & self-medication (another term prominent in our brother's lexicon): He ought to physic himself a bit. Electuary or emulsion. The first fellow that picked an herb to cure himself had a bit of pluck. Simples. Want to be careful. Enough stuff here to chloroform you. Est: turns blue litmus paper red. Chloroform. Overdose of laudanum.
And then when Bloom takes a bath (though strangely not with the soap which remains naggingly in his pocket in subsequent scenes): He saw his trunk and limbs riprippled over and sustained, buoyed lightly upward, lemon-yellow: his navel, but of flesh: and saw the dark tangled curls of his bush floating, floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower.
J's talking in her sleep ... but we can't make out what she's saying ... a sort of babbling baby-talk. They give you separate beds here ... Nepal also the only country we've been to where they have separate lines for men & women going thru airport security ... at first thought it was a queue for the bathroom. 5:36 a.m. & crows are at it already. Last night ate Tibetan food at Yak something or other ... had buffalo thukpa soup, momos & a Tibetan hot millet beer (Tongba) ... which tasted somewhat like the homebrew we had in Ethiopia, but steaming hot ... like fermented spittle gone off ... so thick & stout & gritty with millet you drink it with a straw (filtered on one end). Charging devices now & backing up photos & what we're working on to dropbox & sticks ... & this html page pushing to the web (though unfinished) just to store it there. Burping up our breakfast ... yogurt & all milk products here come from buffalo teats ... tastes of grass & barnyard funk. Poop stayed more or less solid the whole trip even though we accidentally drank the tapwater a few times.
Favorite section so far ... not to dwell on the grim. In The Odyssey, this is a chapter in the middle of the book where Odysseus & his men travel to the land of the dead. In Ulysses, Bloom & a couple of other guys (including Stephen's father, Simon Dedalus) travel by coach to the funeral of Paddy Dignam, who essentially died of drunkenness (like our own father ... so the correspondence is obvious here). We find out that Bloom's son Rudy died & that his father commit suicide (a double correspondence with us) ... which becomes a sensitive issue as the four men debate suicide. Mr. Power (who doesn't know Bloom's father commit suicide) is the most critical & judgmental ... saying: But worst of all is the man who takes his own life. [...] The greatest disgrace to have in the family. And then Mr. Dedalus (also apparently unaware of Bloom's father) adds: They say a man who does it is a coward. Mr. Cunningham seems to be the only one who knows about Bloom's father & somewhat defends the issue (It is not for us to judge) & later discreetly takes Power aside to inform him.
Through Bloom's parallel stream of conscious thinking, more is revealed about his father's suicide in bits: The afternoon of the inquest The redlabeled bottle on the table. The room in the hotel with hunting pictures. Stuffy it was. [...] Verdict: overdose. Death by misadventure. [...] No more pain. Wake no more. Nobody owns.
It seems Paddy Dignam perhaps has something to do with the initial Finnegan of Finnegans Wake? ... a funny scene where the hearse capsizes & dumps his body on the street brought Finnegan's initializing fall to mind: Born! Upset. A coffin bumped out on to the road. Burst open. Paddy Dignam shot out and rollover over stiff in the dust in a born habit too large for him. Red face: grey now. Mouth fallen open. Asking what's up now.
Their attitude going to the funeral is funny, the difference between how they outwardly act & what they say under their breath or think internally ... they have to remind themselves to look serious. We see into Bloom's thoughts: Paltry funeral [...] It's all the same. [...] Beyond the hind carriage a hawker stood by his barrow of cakes and fruit. [...] cakes for the dead. Dogbiscuits. Who ate them? Mourners coming out. Causes us to take a step back & realize what a strange ritual it is ... reenacted over & over until we forget original meaning. And the ritual of burying the dead ... that we are the only animals that do it ... that all humans do it (though actually Tibetan buddhists don't ... they cut up the corpses & feed them to vultures).
(Out our hotel window the Tibetan trumpets have started back up ... sound like those annoying vuvuzelas from the last World Cup ... earlier we saw 8 Tibetan monks stream out of an SUV & into the Tibet House across the street ... they are likely the ones playing ... keep practising).
And then when it comes to the 5 surviving kids ... they think to collect a fund: a few bob a skull. Just to keep them going till the insurance is cleared up. And then sympathizing with the priest: He must be fed up with that job, shaking that thing over all the corpses they trot up.
For our purposes (from our time spent there) it's interesting Joyce's numerous references to Rome (mostly as the seat of catholicism) ... & opium: Chinese cemeteries with giant poppies growing produce the best opium. [...] It's the blood sinking in the earth gives new life. Same idea those jews they said killed the christian boy. And then later ... A corpse is meat gone bad. Well and what's cheese? Corpse of milk. I read in that Voyages in China that the Chinese say a white man smells like a corpse. Cremation better. Priests dead against it.
This is also where we first meet the man in the macintosh ... which googling now seems to be one of the major puzzles of Ulysses. Also funny how they pass Stephen & also Molly's lover on the street.
Aeolus is the keeper of the winds in The Odyssey ... he gives Odysseus a bag of wind to guide them home ... until his men get greedy & tear the bag open thinking it contains gold.
This section is where both Bloom & Stephen go to the newspaper office (though again—like ships passing in the night—they don't yet cross paths) to get something published on behalf of other people (Bloom, an ad about some «house of keys» for a Mr. Keyes & Dedalus the hoof & mouth letter from Mr. Deasy ... though the substance of these seems inconsequential). To Joyce this seems to be an allegory about publishing ... the young (fine) artist pitted against the aging advertising half-wit. Bloom's ad is denied, as is his invitation to the editors to get a drink. But they roll out the red carpet for Stephen & he easily gets his letter published & then the editors take him out drinking.
Bloom gets hung up on selling his ad idea & can't articulate it well, his thinking getting increasingly (& brilliantly) obfuscated: Want to be sure of his spelling. Proof fever. Martin Cunningham forgot to give us his spellingbee conundrum this morning. It is amusing to view the unpar one ar alleled embarra two ars is it? double ess ment of a harassed pedlar while gauging au the symmetry of a peeled pear under a cemetery wall. Silly isn't it? Cemetery put in of course on account of the symmetry.
Not sure what this has to do with the keeper of the winds Aeolus ... except if you think of wind as influence & both Bloom & Dedalus are trying to exert their influence to get something published. And the professor (one of the editors) says: Enough of the inflated windbag! In response to another editor saying: or again if we but climb the serried mountain peaks [...] towering high on high, to bathe our souls, as it were ...
Which for our sake, ties into our brother's quest to climb in the Himalayas, as a sort of purification rite. And our (Irish-blooded) grandfather used to always call us windbags. And the 'trying to get published' comparison fits easy enough to our story ... both of us aspiring writers ... our brother being the popular one with friends of influence ... us being awkward & inarticulate & not having any influence.
Then the roving band of editors & Stephen bump into Bloom on the street (perhaps the first encounter between Dedalus & Bloom). Bloom is reduced to groveling to the editors, desperate to get his ad published, but the editors just laugh in his face while they strut off to the bar arm & arm with Stephen.
It occurred to us that one of the editors, J.J. O'Molloy is perhaps James Joyce himself? Not just because his initials are J.J. but because of some of the things he says: J.J. O'Molloy resumed, moulding his words: —He said of it: that stormy effigy in frozen music, horned and terrible, of the human form divine, that eternal symbol of wisdom and prophecy, which, if aught that of the imagination or the hand of sculptor has wrought in marble of soultransfigured and of soultransfiguring deserves to live, deserves to live.
Went out (in reality) for a last lunch & last minute shopping to use up rupees. Dal bhat & momos. Watched a drawn out scene of a group of shop-keepers beating up some crazy guy that wasn't wearing shoes. Ganging up on him ... kicking him, slapping him ... tying him up. Everyone watching & laughing. Nothing better to do. Entertainment for the day. We held our camera up & shot video just so they'd see that we were filming & their demeanor changed a bit ... wiped the smiles off their faces. Sure the guy was crazy & maybe he stole something or did something bad, but still ... not a soul was sympathetic. The guy was crazy (probably clinically) & yelling ... but very scared ... like a caged animal. Even when the cops came, they too were laughing, making no attempt to restore order or disperse the mob. You get the sense mob violence could quickly escalate here.
In The Odyssey, Lestrygonians were cannibals that ate some of Odysseus's crew.
In Ulysses, this section is all about food ... Bloom is walking around Dublin trying to find a place to eat, obsessing over what to eat. In particular, meat (the cannibal connection). Was getting hungry reading it ... Pungent mockturtle oxtail mulligatawny. I'm hungry too. Flakes of pastry on the gusset of her dress: daub of sugary flour stuck to her cheek. Rhubarb tart wit liberal fillings, rich fruit interior.
... & simultaneously disgusted, especially when Bloom stops in one place & gets so disgusted he leaves. See the animals feed. [...] swilling, wolfing gobfuls of sloppy food, their eyes bulging, wiping wetted moustaches. [...] A man with an infant's saucestained napkin tucked round him shovelled gurgling soup down his gullet. A man spitting back on his plate: halfmasticated gristled: no teeth to chewchewchew it. [...] Bitten off more than he can chew. Am I like that? See ourselves as others see us. [...] The smells of men. His gorge rose. Spaton sawdust, sweetish warmish cigarette smoke, reek of plug, spilt beer, mens' beery piss, the stale of ferment.
The latter a good description of what our hot Tibetan beer tasted like last night. Bloom retreats in horror. Eat or be eaten. Kill! Kill!
The number 32 reoccurs a lot (32 feet per second being the force of gravity). Grave-ty. Joyce uses it in other instances: Method in his madness, with a stopwatch, thirtytwo chews to the minute. Still his muttonchop whiskers grew. Plumtree's potted meat also reoccurs in other chapters & this one.
It goes beyond just food: I wouldn't be surprised if it was that kind of food you see produces the like waves of the brain the poetical. For example, on of those policemen sweating Irish stew into their shirts; you couldn't squeeze a line of poetry out of him. Don't know what poetry is even.
Bloom happy-go-lucky, likes the simple quotidian pleasures of life. Not sure if that applies to us, but we do share a similar love of food.
Towards the end of the section he helps a blind guy cross the street & in the aftermath reflects on what that must be like ... interesting in light of Joyce's own eye problems. What dreams would he have, not seeing? Life a dream for him. Perhaps this explains something about Joyce.
And even though Bloom is meat crazy ... he ends up famously eating a gorgonzola cheese sandwhich at Davy Byrne's ... downed with burgundy wine. Which seems to suggest taking communion ... & in his wanderings to find food he thinks he sees his name in an evangelist sign that says «blood of the lamb» ... which suggests Bloom is being prepared for sacrifice (which eventually comes to fruition in the Cyclops section) ...
Stephen hangs out at the library with his high-brow chums talking literature. Not our favorite section ... not so familiar with Shakespeare so sure lots of it was lost on us. Scylla is the 6-headed monster in Ulysses ... not sure what it has to do with Ulysses, except maybe because there are 6 of these library-hanging types, all talking shop ... could consider them collectively to be a literary monster. We'll just mention some lines here that stuck out for us:
At this point Bloom enters though we don't see him ... just a shadow of a figure that asks for various newspapers (presumably to look up old ad placements). They whisper about him ... someone identifies him as Bloom ... Buck Mulligan says to Stephen: He knows you. He knows your old fellow. O, I fear me, he is Greeker than the Greeks. ['Ulysses' being Greek for 'Odysseus'].
Back to their literary banter, Stephen says some revealing things in regards to fatherhood:
In such literary terms, Shakespeare (the main point of conversation) could be Stephen's father. Joyce could be father to our brother ... & (reluctantly) becoming ours.
They act out a play & Buck Mulligan writes a funny play called 'A Honeymoon in the Hand' ... & then Bloom exits & Buck Mulligan 'whispered with clown's awe: The wandering jew [...] Did you see his eye? he looked upon you to lust after you. I fear thee ancient mariner. O, Kinch, thou art in peril. Get thee a breechpad.
Which infuses a creepy homoerotic undertone which we don't remember (or glossed over) on the first reading. If you are like us you need to look up breechpad, which at first brings up references to people wondering what it means in the context of Ulysses... but googling deeper it seems to be some sort of backstopping pad in naval guns to prevent that from back-firing.
Doha airport, Qatar—July 16
Seven hour layover in Doha. Slept a bit. It's Ramadan so it's against the law to eat or drink in public during daylight hours ... thankfully it's the middle of the night ... but the airport still packed with those in limbo like us. What kind of religion has to have laws to enforce their cultish moral code? One thing to be devote & fast voluntarily but another to be forced to ... & not drinking water the whole day in this heat? Seems insane. And what of the woman (decked head to toe in black of course) next to us with a baby ... is the baby allowed even to suckle come daylight? Like fucking vampires.
Read a few more sections of Ulysses in Kathmandu airport (which has got to be the worst airport we've ever). Mostly Bhutanese refugees being redistributed to various parts of the world (including a bunch also on our plane to NYC) & loads of skinny young Nepalese men all off to work in Doha (guess that's where Qatar gets its work force). First time we've seen a UN plane land at a civilian airport. Ending up sitting on dirty ant-covered upholstered couches ... next to us happened to be the couple in Lumbini staying next door to us, that were driving their motorcycle around until they crashed & the guy broke his leg or something.
10. Wandering Rocks
Not sure if it was because of distractions in our immediate environment, but our mind started to wander in this section ... maybe that's why it's aligned with «wandering rocks». The perspective kept shifting, following different characters going about their day. Hard to keep track of who's who. And so many references to places in Dublin ... suppose it might be different if the book took place somewhere more familiar to us ... like NYC. Someone reading a newspaper mentions a catastrophe in New York ... In America those things continually happening. A bit of googling (thanks to free wifi in Doha) & we find out it was the PS General Slocum disaster ... on June 15, 1904, the day before Bloomsday ... where a boat full of Lutherans on the way to a church picnic caught fire & some 1,000+ people died. Never even heard of this until now.
Someone else calls America 'The sweepings of every country including our own.'
And some guy talking about Bloom say: There's a touch of the artist about old Bloom.
Wandering rocks in The Odyssey were rocks that shifted position in the fog ... threatening obstacles to capsize ships (Odysseus succesfully avoids them altogether). Surely not a coincidence—the mentioning of the Slocum disaster. Even though it is only mentioned once in passing, wondering if the date of Bloomsday strategically has to do with the Slocum?
Otherwise, the disjoined ramblings in this chapter could possibly serve as textual obstacles to navigate.
Mind was still wandering in this section ... Bloom eats dinner with Mr. Dedalus, the 'famous father' who also plays in a band ... half-keeping an eye out for Blazes Boylan who he knows has a 4 o'clock rendezvous with Molly. All thoughts in this section seem to revolve around music & sex. Boylan, the 'conquering hero' also drifts through before leaving for his escapade with Molly. So basically Bloom is being seduced by the music of the elder Dedalus & the barmaids while Molly is home cheating on him (somewhat with his knowledge).
Direct references to sirens: Musemathematics. And you think you're listening to the ethereal. [...] The sea they think they hear. Singing. A roar.
And while Odysseus has his men tie him to the mast, Bloom's restraint is self-imposed. He knows where Boylan is going but resists following him or interfering.
Back home. It just happened we finished the book as we were taxiing to the gate. What are the chances? Took us 4 days ... with all the time differences hard to say, but maybe 32-36 hours altogether of reading time? & we're fast readers ... at times speed-reading thru the more boring or tedious sections. So if Ulysses is supposed to be a stream-of-consciousness day in the life ... specifically a 16-18 hour day ... from 8 AM to 2 AM + ... this seems to be a major fault of the book. Would've been ideal if the time it takes to read it is equal to the time elapsed in the book.
We all know who the cyclops is. What does it mean in Ulysses? ... for starters this section is the 1st written in 1st person (a bizarre almost Biblical 1st person), though we don't know who this person is. So maybe this «I» is the cyclops eye ... the single-minded & myopic view. I = 1. Again, interesting in light of Joyce's near blindness & wearing a patch over one eye. The word parallax is also thrown around a lot ... not just here but elsewhere in the book ... 2 eyes, or viewpoints, more reliable than 1 ... especially to gain a truer perspective.
This one-eyed section takes place ... where else? In a pub. Bunch of dudes headed by a belligerent anti-semite referred to as the citizen (like the narrator, unnamed ... perhaps 1 & the same person). Heated talk centers around topics of Irish nationality & Judaism ... the citizen leading a tension-building diatribe against Bloom. So the cyclops could also be the citizen ... the angry one-eyed monster that keeps Odysseus & his man captive in his cave-cum-pub.
In our book, not sure yet what or who the cyclops would be. Our brother had a strong sense of Irish identity & pride (tho we are of the same blood, we don't feel it as much ... not to the extent of our brother, that when he went to Ireland (of course in his odyssey's itinerary) & saw other Irish people, he felt like he was looking into a mirror ... a deep fraternal bonding). The cyclops could be our grouchy grandfather on our mom's side ... who carried most of our Irish blood (last name Collins, first name Cal ... in case you're wondering what the Cal in Cal A. Mari signifies, that's half of it ... the other half comes from our father's name) ... our grandfather Cal Collins who died the same year as our father & almost on the same day (fifteen years earlier) as our brother (April fools). The other noteworthy thing worth mentioning about our grandfather is that whenever we'd return to his house (the one our brother at least also identified with as our only true 'home'), our grandfather would get out of the car & piss on the lawn ... telling us kids that the only reason to own your own house is to have such a place to piss all you want (this point becomes relevant towards the end ... when Bloom & Stephen both pee together on his lawn).
This is the section where you start to feel for Bloom (unless you're an anti-semite) ... & he grows some cajones under his proverbial kilt ... defending himself against the citizen's tirade (here is where the citizen can go beyond just the single citizen, but it starts to feel like Bloom against everyone else in the pub ... verging on a witch hunt/lynch mob) ... not just in regards to his Judaism & how Irish he is, but they antagonize him about his sexual perversions, lack of manliness, intellectual righteousness, refusing a drink when offered, etc. This section is also overdosed with name-dropping & Irish historical facts, hard to wade thru ... here's some lines that stuck out for us:
At which point he throws the tin biscuitbox at Bloom .. though it surrealy remains suspended in a drawn out state of Biblical proportions .. so you're not even sure if he hits Bloom with it or not ... or does it matter? Here we have Bloom not only becoming the Christ figure about to be nailed (or re-nailed) to the cross, but we also felt almost Buddha-like qualities attributed to Bloom ... in his benevolence, non-violent composure, inner calm, ability to keep his wits & to turn the other cheek.
Even though this concludes section 12 of 18, page-count wise we are not even half-way through the book (in transcribing our marginal notes). We have lots more to say, but since we've been away from home (not as long as Odysseus & no suitors to contend with, but still ...) we've got stuff to do ... so will finish the second half of this rejoycing Ulysses in the next post ...
Yesterday ... thru customs ... starting to recognize these customs officers ... always commenting on the thickness & number of stamps in our passports ... as usual, first thing we notice is how fat Americans are (compared to Nepalese) ... in addition, everyone complaining of the heat & looking particularly lethargic ... everything in slow motion, exagerrated by our jet lag ... cargo shorts with folds of fat hanging out, clutching 64-ouncers of soda (then again, our way home cuts all the way across 125th street). When in fact, it's really not so hot, even compared to Kathmandu which is fairly mild temperature-wise) ... maybe compared to the rest of the year, but not compared to the rest of the world. Ate some pasta & hit the sack before it even got dark out (& of course waking up in the middle of the night).
Next morning back to our Manhattanville quotidian life ... went for a run in Riverside park, shaved off a month-long beard, restored files to the mothership iMac we are now writing on, then went out on errands ... to the post office to send books ordered while away (aplogies to those) ... to the bank to deposit checks ... to Ricky's to get some hair dye as our hair is starting to look like Spiccoli (was trying to go for ash or charcoal gray, but strangely it ended up more or less back to our natural color), to the market to get fixings for tacos, then looping back home, passed by Riverside church again to see if we could catch a glimpse of the peregrines ... but alas, no sign of them, not even a severed pigeon head.
Got back & Sleepingfish 12 had arrived ... 3 boxes worth. Threw up some paypal buttons, so come & get it. If you are in the issue, your copy's on the way ...
Also put up buttons to come & get Scott Bradfield's The History of Luminous Motion ... if you feel so inclined.
& Numéro Cinq did this interview with us (thanks Nance!) ... us being Cal. A. Mari & Ark Codex (or a mutated goat) ... not fully Bloomed.
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