Sunday, December 27, 2015

Back to (Almost) Normal, Falling Off the Mountain, A Reading Challenge

**NEWS FLASH** I AM BACK!!!!!!!!!!

If you read my blog, thank you very much! I hope you missed me -- I missed you! Feeling much better, not quite 100%, but getting close. I have missed blogging very much and am quite happy to be back.

During this hiatus, I have had lots of time for reading and reflection. Health issues have a way of focusing the mind. And, in times of crisis some important things are no longer important. Please pardon the confessional bits here -- I have always taken too much pride in my smarts. I have smarts. But, I also lack the common sense gene. I admit it! I set high expectations for myself because I have to live up to my smarts, but the reality is, I spend (spent!) a lot of time doing this and that because I thought it was absolutely necessary to accomplish these things. One of these "things" is reading Ulysses. So, in the spirit of stepping away from what I used to think was SOOOO important, I am calling a halt to the Mt. Ulysses expedition. I was very enthusiastic and enjoyed the endeavor at first. While down and out I felt guilty for not reading, listening, or researching Ulysses and Joyce. As I began to feel better, I started listening to the dramatization again and realized it did not appeal to me at all. In fact, it was boring, tedious, unintelligible, and too much WORK. It became obvious that I was no longer enjoying myself and if I am retired and in control of my own doings, why do something so awful? Clarity is good. So, thanks to the gods of recuperation, I am embarking on new adventures and leaving James Joyce and his genius behind. I hope no one is disappointed, (she smirks). We are officially OFF the mountain! Fair warning, this might not be the only project I abandon. If a book does not grab me I will let it go.

First things first before we can really move on. Let's clear our agenda for a fresh start in 2016. Taking stock of past reading projects I see we have three unfinished sojourns.

-- The Collected Stories of Colette
-- The Mountains of the Moon
-- Pepys' Diary

All are worth finishing, so look for coming posts on these in the new year.

I am still using LibraryThing and its Legacy Libraries feature as my reading guide. So far, I share books in my library with 52 Legacy authors (there will be more when I have cataloged my entire library). Homer's works are those most commonly shared, 34 out of 52 authors having at least one of his works in common with me. I have read and discussed Homer so we are done with him, unless his work becomes part of another discussion. Moving forward, I want to divide my reading and the direction of this blog into several "groups". Since I have always had more than one book going at the same time, I want to keep (loosely) to something like this:

-- History & The Classics

-- Biography, Diaries, Letters

-- Travel, Nature

-- Literature, Poetry, Essays

-- 2016 Reading Challenge

-- Everything Else (includes art, movies, and life in general)

Finally, at this time of year there are tons of "Best of" lists and reading challenges for the coming year. One of the challenges I have always enjoyed (but have never accomplished because I am easily distracted) is the "Read xx number of books in the coming year" kind of thing. Without formally joining a challenge on another blog, I am creating my own challenge. You, dear reader, are not required to join in, but it might be fun for you to stroll through your "To Be Read" stack and pick out your own books to read in 2016. Clear those decks, forget resolutions, just read!

So here is the challenge:  Read 16 books from your To Be Read stack in 2016. Here are mine:

Stack #1

Stack #2

Stack #1:

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
     Currently on page 234, so have a head start but will finish in 2016 so it counts

Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa
The Sea, the Sea, Iris Murdoch
Provence, Ford Madox Ford
Portrait of a Marriage, Nigel Nicolson
The Virginia Woolf Reader, ed. Mitchell A. Leaska

Stack #2:

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Bad Land, Jonathan Raban
Venice, Jan Morris
Crossing Open Ground, Barry Lopez
The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume One 1915-1919, ed. Anne Olivier Bell, Introduction by Quentin Bell
The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell
The Fact of a Doorframe, Adrienne Rich
The Art of Drowning, Billy Collins

Happy New Year, and gather those books for the 2016 Reading Challenge!!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Windbags, Cannibals, and "Caught Between a Rock and a Whirlpool"

Aeolus, Ruler of the Winds

It is late morning in Dublin. Bloom is back from Paddy Dignam's funeral, and Stephen is off the beach. Episode 7 takes place in the Freeman newspaper offices.

Headlines in Large Bold Type

disrupt the narrative text and the interior monologue of previous episodes is mostly absent. Leopold Bloom stops in to discuss a newspaper ad for one of his clients. Staff is gathered in the front office listening to one of their colleagues mock a political speech reprinted in the morning newspaper. Interspersed with this oration are various jokes, riddles, bragging, philosophical arguments, and predictions about today's horse race. Basically, it is a gathering of windbags, including the editor, dawdling through the late morning. Simon Dedalus, Stephen's father is also present.

"The episode parallels the aftermath of Odysseus's visit to Aeolus, the god of the winds in the Odyssey. One of Odysseus's men disobeys him, opening a bag of winds that then blows them off-course. In the "Aeolus" episode of Ulysses, wind is represented by the windy rhetoric used in journalism and oratory. The newspaper-room setting of the chapter, the episode's headlines, and men's own inflated speech, together with the conversation about rhetorical and journalistic triumphs, all support the theme of the episode." 

And, as Odysseus was blown off course, so Bloom has a setback getting an ad into the newspaper. His client wants the ad only for the month of July; the foreman asks for "a three months' renewal". Bloom spends the rest of the episode attempting to reach his client and being rebuffed by the editor as he hopes to circumvent the foreman's three-month renewal dictate.

After Bloom ("the Father"), leaves the office, Stephen Dedalus ("the Son"), enters. He joins in the general conversation and is asked by the editor to write a piece for the newspaper. At one point, narrative changes to Stephen's interior monologue. Reacting to part of a bombastic speech, he thinks: "Gone with the wind. Hosts at Mullaghmast and Tara of the kings." My first thought on reading this was "a ha!, Margaret Mitchell took this line for the title of her masterpiece and the name of Scarlett O'Hara's plantation." No, both Joyce and Mitchell lifted them from lines in the poem "Cynara" by Ernest Dowson. Makes one feel very un-read.

At the end of the episode, Bloom and Stephen cross paths as they meet on the steps of the newspaper office as staff are leaving for lunch. Bloom approaches the editor about his ad but the editor has no time for him. He is more interested in what Stephen is saying.

The Isle of Cannibals

"Bloom is primarily alone in episode 8, "Lestrygonians". He does not have any errands to run yet; he is merely strolling the city street and looking for lunch. In episode 4, we were first introduced to Bloom as a preparer and eater of food, and, most notably in the opening lines, a meat lover. Yet, now, outside his own home, the prospect of getting and eating food is more overwhelming and problematic. Episode 8 corresponds to Odysseus's visit to the island of cannibals in the Odyssey. Under this thematic menace, the meat-loving Bloom opts not to eat at the Burton, where men shove meat into their mouths, and heads instead to Davy Byrne's for a vegetarian lunch.

The episode opens outside a candy shop, and food pervades Bloom's thoughts and serves as a tie-in with many other disparate topics. Thoughts of food connect with thoughts of pregnant women, from Molly's hunger for certain foods while pregnant to Mina Purefoy, currently in labor with many other mouths to feed at home. Food connects with sex, in Bloom's memory of making love with Molly years ago on a hill as she fed him a seedcake out of her mouth, and in his thoughts of aphrodisiacal food." 

As Bloom wanders, he thinks of the scientific term "parallax" and its meaning. The word is "an astronomical term that roughly refers to the way in which an object seems to be positioned differently when viewed from a different vantage point." This is a key to understanding Ulysses. The way we think of events and people in the novel will change as we read about the same events and people from a different character.

At the diner, patrons gossip about Bloom behind his back. Bloom daydreams while he eats and contemplates beauty. He thinks about the statues in the National Museum and wonders if there is anything under the statues' robes and decides to sneak a look later in the day.

Underlying Bloom's thoughts throughout this episode is his fear that Molly will be having sex with Blazes Boylan later in the afternoon, in their home. The episode closes as Bloom spots Boylan across the street and ducks into the gates of the National Museum to avoid him.

Scylla and Charybdis
"Caught Between a Rock and a Whirlpool"

Episode 9 is all about Stephen and his "Hamlet theory". He is expounding it in the National Library (part of the National Museum) director's office to his literary friends, Eglinton, a critic; A.E., a poet; and Lyster, a librarian. "Stephen contends that Shakespeare associated himself with Hamlet's father, not with Hamlet himself." And, he says that Hamlet was based on Shakespeare's dead son Hamnet. He also says that Shakespeare's unfaithful wife, Ann Hathaway, was the inspiration for Hamlet's unfaithful mother. In episode 1, Stephen's friend Buck Mulligan teased him about this theory, saying that Stephen would explain it algebraically to the Englishman Haines after they had a few pints at The Ship bar.

"He never met Haines and Buck at the Ship pub at 12:30, as they arranged this morning...Stephen is trying to interest Eglinton and A.E. into publishing the theory and in his own talent in general...There are frequent interruptions and digressions, and Stephen often ad-libs, using thoughts or the words of others from earlier in the day. Episode 9 corresponds to Odysseus's trial-by-sea in which he must sail between Scylla, the six-headed monster situated on a rock, and Charybdis, a deadly whirlpool. The concept of negotiating two extremes plays out several times within the episode, most notably in the Plato-Aristotle dichotomy that Stephen mentions. Like Odysseus, Stephen sails closer to Scylla, and thus Stephen's thoughts and theories owe more to Aristotle's grounded, material, logical sense of the world (symbolized by the rock) than to Plato's sense of unembodied concepts or ideals (symbolized by the whirlpool)."

As Stephen contends that Shakespeare based his work on the realities of his own life, his friends argue that a writer's personal life should not be used to judge the works produced by that writer. During this conversation, Buck Mulligan enters the room and begins to mock Stephen with his extreme physical-based humor. Stephen is annoyed by Mulligan and wants to be accepted by his literary friends. And, he is sad that they have not included him in their upcoming compilation of young Irish poets.

Stephen and Bloom again cross paths as Bloom is following Stephen and Mulligan out the door of the National Library. Mulligan had earlier seen Bloom peeking under a statue in the lobby and jokingly warns Stephen that Bloom must be homosexual.

"The cameo appearances of Bloom in this episode remind us of the sonless Bloom's suitability as a replacement father figure for Stephen. The schematics of the chapter reinforce this sense. Though Stephen himself seems to be the Odysseus figure for a time in the 'Scylla and Charybdis' episode, in the schematic of Shakespeare, Bloom seems to be the father figure (Shakespeare) and Stephen, the son (Hamlet). Bloom is aligned with Shakespeare through their similarly unfaithful wives and dead sons, Hamnet and Rudy, respectively."

Episode 9 is especially down in the literary weeds. I relied a LOT on SparkNotes throughout this post, but especially for the episode 9 section. All quoted sections in this entire post are thanks to SparkNotes. I appreciate all of the online resources now available for interpreting Ulysses. No wonder this book has been considered inaccessible to the general reader since its 1922 publication. Even with reading aids, it is still WORK for me to understand it, but we are now just about halfway through the book, thank goodness!

My next Ulysses Project post will be on episodes ten, eleven, and twelve. See you then!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The View From Here

Fellow climbers, we have reached the 1/3 mark on our haul up Mt. Ulysses! Six "chapters" completed, twelve to go.

The climb has been greatly aided by RTE's radio dramatization of Ulysses. Here is a link to the actual recording.

Audio Recording of Ulysses

I listen to a chapter then read the text. This method makes it easier for me to follow the story as a character's thoughts are differentiated from narrative by a change in the voice of the narrator.

After finishing the first section, the "Telemachiad", we begin the "Odyssey" section. Whereas the Telemachiad is about the "Son", Stephen Dedalus, the Odyssey is about the "Father", Leopold Bloom.

A nice touch by Joyce is having Stephen and Bloom both notice the same cloud covering the sun while they wander through Dublin on their separate journeys.

Calypso's Island

The first section of the Odyssey is "Calypso". In Homer's The Odyssey, Calypso is a nymph who keeps Ulysses captive on her island for seven years by bewitching him and using him as her lover.

Joyce introduces us to Leopold Bloom, the "Ulysses" to his wife Molly's "Calypso". Bloom is in advertising. He is middle-aged and lives with his wife Molly in a middle-class neighborhood in Dublin. He waits on Molly hand and foot, is obsessed with what she is doing when he is away, and suspects she has a lover, one Blazes Boylan, a concert producer. Molly is a singer and performs in musical revues and concert tours. She is preparing to go on the road with Boylan's production company.

Bloom and Molly have a fifteen-year-old daughter, Milly. She lives away from home and works as a photographer's assistant. She may be the young woman referred to by Buck Mulligan in Chapter One as the "photo girl" recently befriended by an acquaintance of his and Stephen's. The Blooms had a son, Rudy, who died several days after his birth. Bloom still grieves for his lost son.

Joyce has already shown us Stephen's morning on this June 16, 1904. Now we follow Bloom on the same day as he gets up, prepares Molly's breakfast, feeds the cat, and leaves the house to buy a pork kidney for his own breakfast. Not we see Joyce setting up Bloom as a secular Jew in the very Christian Dublin. Remember Mr. Deasey, at the close of Chapter Two, telling Stephen the joke about Ireland not persecuting the Jews because "she never let them in". Obviously not true.

Bloom reads a letter from Milly while he eats his kidney breakfast and thinks about the funeral he will attend later this morning.

Where Stephen is cerebral, Bloom's physicality is in the foreground. He is a sensual man, practically a walking groin as he has carnal thoughts about most of the women he sees carrying on their own business around town. Joyce takes us along to the outhouse with Bloom, and in the next chapter into his head as he thinks about masturbating in the bath he plans to take before attending the funeral.

The Lotus Eaters

In the second section, "The Lotus Eaters", Bloom walks through the streets of Dublin as he completes several errands. The Homeric parallel is Ulysses' telling King Alcinous about the land of the Lotus eaters where his men were drugged by eating flowers and no longer cared about returning home. Ulysses gathers his men together and returns them to the ship to set sail once again.

As he is wandering, Bloom daydreams about the exotic east. Molly was born in Gibraltar. She exudes a Mediterranean languor and as she is usually in Bloom's mind, this exoticism extends to other thoughts as well. He also has voyeuristic fantasies (the walking groin again) about women he sees on the streets. He stops by the Post Office to pick up a letter from a woman named Martha with whom he is having a surreptitious correspondence using the alias Henry Flower. He keeps the Post Office card in the sweatband of his hat, out of Molly's sight.

After he reads Martha's letter, he goes into a church and takes a seat near the door at the back. He ponders Catholic rituals, especially the idea of communion being the drinking of Christ's blood and the eating of his corpse. He also thinks the church would be a "nice discreet place to be next to some girl". Walking groin, in a church. Was it just Joyce, or were most men obsessed with sex in the repressed early 20th century? Maybe most men still are?

Bloom goes to a chemist's shop to have a lotion made up for Molly. He buys a bar of lemon scented soap to use in the public bath house. This section ends with Bloom's fantasy about masturbating in the bath before he goes to his friend Paddy Dignam's funeral which is at 11:00.

He foresaw his pale body reclined in it at full, naked in a womb of warmth, oiled by scented melting soap, softly laved, buoyed lightly upward, lemonyellow: his navel, bud of flesh: hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands, a languid floating flower.


The third, and final section for this post, is "Hades" and is primarily concerned with Paddy Dignam's funeral. The Homeric parallel is Ulysses' trip to Hades to seek advice from dead friends and relatives about the course of action he should take to return home.

Bloom shares a carriage with three acquaintances as they travel in the procession behind the hearse carrying Paddy in his coffin. One of the acquaintances is Simon Dedalus, Stephen's real father.

The four make small talk and comment on people they see on the street as they move along. Bloom sees Stephen on the sidewalk and points him out to his father. Simon makes disparaging remarks about Stephen's friends, especially Buck Mulligan. The carriage passes Blazes Boylan at the same exact time Bloom is thinking about Boylan's upcoming visit to Molly this afternoon.

Bloom is set apart from the group in the carriage because he is Jewish and because the men consider Molly, a singer on the stage, to be a loose woman. A chance remark he makes about dying in one's sleep being the best way, causes a reaction as the other men silently disagree because Catholics fear sudden death since they would not have time to repent. They also refer to Molly as "Madame" (a veiled insult) when speaking of her upcoming concert tour. Bloom seems to be vaguely aware of these slights.

He also thinks of his own father's suicide and appears not to notice when a member of the party speaks disparagingly of suicides. 

At the funeral, Bloom is preoccupied with thoughts of his own dead son, wonders how the cemetery attendant, living so close to a graveyard, convinced any woman to marry him and bear his children. He thinks about the horror of being buried alive and how telephones in coffins could prevent this. Rather than being respectful and thinking of his friend and his friend's family, Bloom is being self-centered and thinking irreverent thoughts.

So, there you have the most recent three chapters and are caught up to the end of this part of the Mt. Ulysses climb. I will be honest and say that except for the idea of "Why do you climb this mountain? -- Because it is there", I would not read Ulysses. It is not an enjoyable read, it is work, and frankly not very interesting. I still appreciate the literary genius of James Joyce, and will definitely finish the book primarily for the sake of his memory, and because it is there.

Thanks to SparkNotes and Kate Topper for the fine analysis of these three chapters.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ulysses On Archive.Org

A short post to let you know I found an audio recording of Ulysses on and it is wonderful! Here is the link to Ulysses:

Audio book link

This is much more than someone just reading the book. It is like listening to a radio play. The narrator's voice changes when the text is an internal dialogue which makes it so much easier to understand.

I have changed my approach now that I am finished with the first three "chapters". I am listening to a chapter before I read the text. And, I am continuing with the Delaney Podcast.

My goal is to finish the book by the end of the year. I will check in here each time I complete three chapters. In a few days I will post about chapters four through six.

I hope you check out the recording. It is a really good way to "read" Ulysses if you do not want to plough through the text.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Proteus, the god of "elusive sea change"

Here we are again, climbing Mt. Ulysses. The end of the three episodes of Part One, the "Telemechiad", is a good place to catch our breath.

We have discussed "Telemachus" and "Nestor", episodes one and two, here. They describe the early and mid-morning of the young intellectual, Stephen Dedalus. Joyce has cast Stephen in the role of Homer's Telemachus, son of Ulysses, who goes on a journey to find his missing father. Stephen wakes up after spending the night in a Martello Tower rented by his ersatz friend Buck Mulligan. Buck's bullying and cajoling gets on Stephen's nerves and he vows to sleep elsewhere in future. Stephen goes on to teach a history class to a group of upper class boys in the school run by Mr. Deasey. Joyce has cast Mr. Deasey as a father-figure and mentor to Stephen. In Homer's Odyssey, Telemachus seeks out Nestor, a wise old man and friend of his father for advice on how to find the missing Ulysses. In Stephen's mind, his "Nestor" is a fool and a cranky old man. Mr. Deasey gives Stephen a letter he wants published in the prominent Dublin newspapers and he hopes Stephen will pass it along to some of his journalist friends.

Episode three, "Proteus", finds Stephen walking along the beach at Sandymount Strand. He is killing time between his teaching gig and an appointment at The Ship pub where he is meeting Buck Mulligan for lunch and a drink.

"Proteus" is the chapter that usually turns off new readers to Joyce and is where I have given up more than once. It is so multi-layered it took Frank Delaney 67 episodes to cover it. Mind you, these are weekly episodes, so more than one year! Delaney says that Joyce once told a friend he wanted "the professors to spend three hundred years figuring out Ulysses". I have twice read through "Proteus" and have listened to all of the podcasts and will now do my best to give you a summary. This is based on Delaney's episode 157 where he outlines the major themes of the story so far and how they relate to Stephen's actions on the beach in "Proteus".

We already know about Joyce using Homer's Odyssey as a loose framework for the plot of Ulysses. Whereas Telemachus was looking for his actual father, Stephen is looking for a father-figure. His own father is alive and well but Stephen has rejected him as a basically worthless human being. The father-son relationship is a major theme in Ulysses. Joyce touches on Hamlet's quest to avenge the death of his own father, Christianity's trinity -- Father, Son, Holy Ghost -- and on Stephen's grief upon the recent death of his mother.

Joyce referred to this episode as "Proteus" because it is about the sea and about change, which creates uncertainty. While walking on the beach, Stephen is doing some major navel gazing. His inner thoughts, in a stream of consciousness form, are interspersed with Joyce's narrative and it is sometimes very confusing which is which. Here he sees a dog trotting along the shore:

"Looking for something lost in a past life. Suddenly he made off like a bounding hare, ears flung back, chasing the shadow of a lowskimming gull...He turned, bounded back, came nearer, trotted on twinkling shanks. On a field tenney a buck, trippant, proper, unattired. At the lacefringe of the tide he halted with stiff forehoofs, seawardpointed ears. His snout lifted barked at the wavenoise, herds of seamorse. They serpented towards his feet, curling, unfurling many crests every ninth, breaking, plashing, from far, from father out, waves and waves."

The first, fourth, and maybe the last sentence are Stephen's thoughts, the rest are Joyce's narrative. See what I mean?

Like Joyce, Stephen has very poor eyesight. He has lost his spectacles, so everything appears as if in a mist. It is mid-day, when sunlight creates a sort of "miasma" along the shore, so Stephen finds everything sort of undefined. His mind goes off to Aristotle and his writing about how we perceive the physical world through our senses. The idea of "if you can't see something, does it exist?". Like the "if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it, does it make a sound?". Stephen closes his eyes and thinks about what he smells and hears. This leads to hazy snatches of memory about the time he spent in Paris where he met a friend of his fathers, an old Irish bomb thrower, Kevin Egan. He imagines a visit to his Uncle who lives nearby on Sandymount Strand. He thinks he sees two midwives and wonders if they are burying a dead fetus on the beach. He imagines Eve who had no navel. Then he thinks of the umbilical cord as a telephone line to "Edenville".

Delaney points out that Joyce is a master of "show don't tell" writing. Here is his description of a gypsy couple Stephen sees scavenging shellfish on the beach:

"Shouldering their bags they trudged, the red Egyptians. His blued feet out of turnedup trousers slapped the clammy sand, a dull brick muffler strangling his unshaven neck. With woman steps she followed: the ruffian and his strolling mort. Spoils slung at her back. Loose sand and shellgrit crusted her bare feet. About her windraw face her hair trailed."

Word combinations, like "turnedup" written as one word convey a visual image of the man, as does "windraw" used to describe the woman's face. OMG Joyce. And, I just realized, OMG Dylan Thomas ("a springful of larks in a rolling cloud..." and "the heron priested shore"). I think I am beginning to understand "show don't tell".

Since I do not want to spend three hundred years writing this post, and you, dear reader, do not want to spend three hundred years reading it, I will not recount the hundreds of other thoughts in Stephen's mind as he ambles along the beach, takes a break, sits on a rock, ruminates, masturbates, urinates, and picks his nose. Yes, really. I admit that I did not recognize the bodily functions as such on my first read through. Suffice to say, there is no doubt this is definitely Mt. Ulysses at its most steep.

Delaney concludes his summary by saying that at the end of this chapter, we "know who we are dealing with". From now on, when Stephen appears in the story, we will recognized who he is because we know him, we know what to expect. Joyce has given us a complete characterization.

And, finally, we are free to meet the next and even more major character. Coming up -- our introduction to Leopold Bloom.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Let's Bury the Wine

Curemonte, France

It is lovely, isn't it, this quiet medieval village in central France with its chateaus and imagined winding cobbled streets. Are the crumbling ruins of a chateau still hiding there, on a hill overlooking the village? Those ruins, where Colette, nearing 70, took refuge in the summer of 1940 after the German army entered the outskirts of Paris. Colette writes:

"We have been here since 15 June. We had to leave on the fourteenth or the thirteenth, because the Germans had reached Mere. And I wanted to stay. And despite everything, I regret not having stayed. Curemonte, in ruins, has been loaned to my daughter by one of her brothers. We are waiting, and with such a hunger, to go back to Paris as soon as there is a route open. Not enough petrol...
'When it rains, the damp soaks into and revives the colours of the little dome, twelve or fifteen feet above our heads, which forms the roof of a little circular room in the ruin. In dry weather, the same paintings, apparently dating from the Renaissance, turn pale and powdery. We gaze up at them from below, there is not a single wall solid enough to lean a ladder against. These inexpungeable frescoes, consisting entirely of geometric decorations converging on the keystone of the dome, are painted very closely over a background of dark stone. They once enlivened with their yellows, their blues, and their olive greens, the solitary state of a Lady who kept herself warm without the aid of a fire, her feet tucked up in her great skirt...
'It is her bedroom that we are burning, its wooden panels carved into flowers and picked out in colours; under the paint it is crumbling away and as soft as sponge. From her little square window, the Lady used to see the invader, the ally, and the merchant mount the hill; she used to watch for the approach of what we lack: her freshly churned butter, her honeycombs, her rents paid in kind with chickens strung up by their legs, and the fine-ground flour...The curfew was not, as it is for us, the moment to be dreaded above all other, the moment when we all know that we can no longer count on anyone but ourselves until the coming of the clear dawn, cold as in all mountain districts, and heralded by a hundred goldfinches perched on the tips of the pea stick."

She remained in the chateau ruins with her husband, her servant Pauline, and her daughter Bel-Gazou's family for only a short time. In September she made her way back to Paris ("I'm used to spending my wars in Paris!"). The following year her husband, a Jew, was arrested by the Gestapo and interned. He was released several months later and left Paris to escape possible re-arrest. Suffering from arthritis, Colette remained in Paris.

I am continually in a swoon as I read Colette. Her writing is evocative, beckoning, picks me up and swoops me back in time. I hover over her shoulder while she, at her desk near a window in her beloved Palais-Royale apartment, scribbles on sheets of light blue paper (her "fanal bleu, or blue beacon light"). 

Nearing the end of Earthly Paradise, her collection of memoir pieces, I think her writing is getting stronger, more alive. A lifetime of writerly observation has given her pen a knife-like edge. She chronicles her life with a keen sense of certainty. And, her mother, Sido, remains the major influence on her outlook.

Writing about her own experience during WWII, she remembers how Sido reacted to her first glimpse of a Prussian soldier on a country lane in Burgundy during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870: 

"It was up in Fox Lane...At dusk there is almost always a mist up there, along Fox Lane, because the spring is smoky then. So there I was, and I saw a soldier with a spike on his helmet standing in the middle of the lane. He was holding his rifle as though it was a shotgun. I could just make out that he had a thick, short beard. I think he was a Bavarian. Because of the dusk and the mist, there was no way of telling the colour of his uniform or of his beard. And for a moment I had the impression that the whole German Army must be composed entirely of grey men just like him, grey clothes, grey faces, grey hair, like people in engravings...
'What did you do?
'I went straight home and buried all the best wines."

Of course.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cosy Blankets and Cosy Mysteries - - My Sweet Distractions

Cosy Stripe Blanket

I am just loving that summer is in our rear view mirror and my favorite favorite favorite season is here. I love autumn, especially when the rains return. One of my very best things is to be outdoors when a Pacific storm is rolling in. The clouds race by, gusty warm winds carry loads of negative ions, leaves swirl down and around, and I am standing, facing the wind. It is so exhilarating. I dream of it during the dog days of summer when my misery index is sky high. And, in the depths of cold, gray, sometimes icy winter when my misery index and my Vitamin D levels are hellishly low. Spring? It is my second favorite season tempered with the knowledge that summer is just around the corner.

So, now you know I am obsessed with the weather. It comes from being an Oregon native. Oregon, where the weather changes by the hour. At least it used to do. Fellow-Oregonians, is it just me, or does it feel like we are now living in the San Joaquin Valley of central California? Gosh, if I wanted to live in that climate, I never would have moved back home to Oregon. But, I digress from the subject of this blog post.

Distractions...the first big one is pictured above. I love to knit and crochet, and this is my latest project. A king-sized crocheted afghan. I am using a very nice Stylecraft Special DK ("sport weight") acrylic yarn. I order it from Wool Warehouse in the UK. This yarn is soft, does not separate with use, and comes in a variety of eye-popping colors. Being acrylic, it is easy to care for. I have used it for several projects and have not been disappointed yet.

You might notice a new blog on the list to the right. I have been following Lucy at Attic24 for several years. She is a master crocheter, very generous with her patterns, and her blog is a joy to read. She lives in Yorkshire, UK. As an aside, if you watch Last Tango in Halifax you will see canal and small town scenes from Lucy's hometown! Anyway...the Cosy Stripe Blanket is one of her patterns. Bold bright colors are her trademark. The colors in this blanket are a bit muted because it is meant to be a fall project. Lots of warm autumn colors. Lucy has opened a Wool Warehouse shop on her website where you can buy "packs" of yarn for some of her specific patterns. It certainly takes the guesswork out of choosing yarn. Wool Warehouse shipping charges are about the same as if ordered from an online store in the U.S.

Since I am a little "antsy" (some people might say A.D.D.) I have to be doing something else when I am doing needle work. If we are not watching a movie (or the playoffs...GO METS!), I am listening to audio books downloaded from the Oregon Digital Library Consortium.

I love cosy mysteries. There are scores of authors I could name, but Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Deborah Crombie, M.C. Beaton, and now Charles Todd are my favorites. Usually set in the UK, preferably prior to 1950. Deborah Crombie and M.C. Beaton are exceptions as their stories are set in the present.

I first discovered Charles Todd when I was browsing through the digital library looking for a new-to-me audio book mystery. I found one of his later Inspector Ian Rutledge stories. Really very good! I was transported to the UK. The time period is just after WWI. A shell-shocked veteran, Scotland Yard Inspector Rutledge solves crimes (so far all set in the idyllic countryside) and battles his demons. His sidekick, Hamish is always present. He offers advice, insights, caustic comments, and is often downright annoying. Unfortunately, Inspector Rutledge cannot shut Hamish up because he lives inside Rutledge's head. It is embarrassing when Rutledge speaks out loud to Hamish.

What I like about this series is the multi-layered story. Not only are we with Inspector Rutledge as he methodically solves the crime, we are also with him as he fills in his and Hamish's back story from WWI. It is very compelling reading. Perfect for whiling away the hours as I work on my cosy blanket.

And it is all a very sweet distraction from serious reading for this blog. I am making progress on Ulysses and will report in with an update very soon. Stephen Dedalus is almost off the beach and we are about to be introduced to Leopold Bloom, the main character in the story.

Links to the blanket pattern and to the Charles Todd audio books I have listened to so far:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Shakespeare & Company

Memoir of a Paris Bookshop in the 1920s

American ex-pat and arts scene insider, Sylvia Beach, opened her Paris bookshop and lending library, "Shakespeare & Company", in late November, 1919. It was an English language bookshop and the opening coincided with an influx of American and British artists and writers to Paris after World War I, now referred to as the "Lost Generation". The bookshop was an immediate success. As Sylvia says:

"A good many friends had been waiting for the opening of Shakespeare and Company; and the news soon got around that the time had come. Still I didn't really expect to see anybody that day. And just as well, I thought. I would need at least twenty-four hours to realize this Shakespeare and Company bookshop. But the shutters in which the little shop went to bed every night were hardly removed (by a waiter from a nearby cafe) when the first friends began to turn up. From that moment on, for over twenty years, they never gave me time to meditate...The news of my bookshop, to my surprise...spread all over the United States, and it was the first thing the pilgrims looked up in Paris...Often, they would inform me that they had given Shakespeare and Company as their address, and they hoped I didn't mind."

In the summer of 1920 Sylvia attended a party where she was introduced to James Joyce. This meeting proved to be a watershed moment for Shakespeare and Company and for James Joyce. He became a "regular" at the bookshop, often sitting next to Sylvia's desk and telling her of his life and the difficulties of being a poor writer with a family to support. At this time Joyce had been working on Ulysses "for seven years and was trying to finish it". Between 1918 and 1920, twenty-three installments had been published in The Little Review, an American literary journal. When obscenity charges were leveled against the journal, publication of the installments ceased. Joyce was left in limbo and was seeking a publisher. Sylvia Beach offered to publish Ulysses and the rest is history.

Shakespeare & Company tells the story of the publication of Ulysses, but it is also a fascinating tale of the "Lost Generation" in Paris. We are introduced to Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Archibald MacLeish, Stuart Gilbert, Djuna Barnes, Sherwood Anderson, D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda (later a friend of Georgia O'Keefe when they both lived in the Taos, New Mexico art colony).

Although I read this book for background on The Ulysses Project, it proved to be about so much more. It has languished on my bookshelf for years but this was definitely the right time to read it. Funny how that works!

If you are interested in the "Lost Generation" and life in 1920s Paris, I highly recommend this wonderful book.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Computer Issue Resolved

Whew, feels like I am in a foreign country, but slowly getting back up to speed with the computing situation. Hope to return with more reading adventures in a day or two.

In the mean time, here are more books added to LibraryThing. As you see, I am in the "Gardening" section of my library.

The author of the Forever Lavender Manual is my sister. This little book is a very useful guide to growing and using lavender.

The Picnic does not really belong in the gardening section. Not sure how it ended up there. A gift from a friend, and a great resource for picnic ideas.

See you soon with another post from Mt. Ulysses.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


I had planned to write about Sylvia Beach today. I finished Shakespeare and Company last night and want to share her stories about James Joyce and other ex-pats in the Paris literary world of the 1920s. However, that will have to wait because of a bit of Serendipity to start my day.

Eric Clapton

Delaney Bramlett

Leon Russell

This morning over coffee, my husband shared a tidbit from Eric Clapton's Clapton, The Autobiography about the musical genius of both Delaney Bramlett (of the group Delaney & Bonnie) and the rocker Leon Russell. How they could both compose perfect lyrics out of thin air. My husband is very deep into the connections between various blues and rock musicians so this conversation was not that unusual.

Speaking about Delaney Bramlett and Leon Russell, Clapton says:

"...we would be on the way to the studio in the morning and Delaney would say, 'What about a song about a bottle of red wine?' and he would start singing, 'Get up and get your man a bottle of red wine...' It would just flow out of him, and by the time we got to the studio, the song would be finished. I remember thinking to myself, 'How does he do it? He just opens his mouth and out comes a song.' We'd go straight to the studio and record it live. Then I would put a couple of vocal tracks down, with Delaney coaching me, and then it would be time for the girls and the horns. Rita and Bonnie would be given their parts and they'd sing it, Jim and Bobby would put some riffs on, and that was the whole thing wrapped up...Delaney had brought out something in me that I didn't know I had...Making that record was one of the most important steps I would ever take, it was a truly memorable experience. I remember going in one day when we didn't have a song planned, and Leon came up to me and said, 'I've got a line for you', and thinking aloud, he said 'You're a blues musician, but people don't know that you can also rock 'n' roll, so we can say...

'I bet you didn't think I knew how to rock 'n' roll.
Oh, I got the boogie-woogie right down in my very soul.
There ain't no need for me to be a wallflower,
'Cos now I'm living on blues power.'

Just like that, no effort, and that was the birth of the song 'Blues Power', one of my favorite songs on the album."

By the way, the "Rita" mentioned above is Rita Coolidge!  Those connections...!  Here's lovely Rita:

And this is where the Serendipity comes in:

Colette's Memoir

As you know from previous posts, I am interested in the power of genius. I am also interested in the power of the muse, manifested through whatever medium the artist chooses -- words, music, painting, sculpture, etc. So, after our morning coffee, I was still pondering Clapton's account of  lyric-writing genius and musical collaboration when I picked up Colette's memoir, Earthly Paradise. Amazingly, she is writing about the same exact creative process Clapton was! Here is how she describes an encounter with the creative musical genius of Claude Debussy:

Claude Debussy

"All my meetings with Claude Debussy took place in the sonorous warmth, the delicate fever of an exclusively musical atmosphere. A composer at the piano, a singer leaning back with his elbows resting on its bare top, or a woman singer, not leaving her armchair, but singing, exhaling the melody like a cloud of unconsidered smoke, head tilted back...At such times, Debussy seemed to become intoxicated by the music. His ambered satyr's face, his spiralling locks of hair, in which the eye instinctively sought for a glimpse of vine leaves and grapes, would quiver with an inner delirium. In moments of fixed intensity, his pupils would cross their sight lines slightly, after the fashion of hunting animals hypnotized by their own watchfulness. It seemed to me that he loved music in the way a crystal tulip loves the shock that draws a pure note tingling from its bowl. One Sunday evening, after hearing 'Antar' played for the first time in France, unless perhaps it was 'Scheherazade', we both chanced to go on the same party, and Debussy, obsessed, overcome, was singing his symphonic memories of the work inside himself. He was giving out a sort of bee-swarm buzzing, something like the sound you hear from telegraph poles, a groping and hesitant murmur. Then the memory grew more precise, and his closed face suddenly opened.
'Wait! Wait!' he said very loudly. 'Like that...mmmmm...and like this: mmmmm...'
One of us caught at this remembered shred of melody before it could fly away again, and drew it out a little further.
'Yes, yes', Debussy cried. 'And then at the same time there are the cellos lower down, saying: mmm...And the kettledrums, oh heavens, the kettledrums, just the faintest murmur to tell us there's that explosion coming from the brass, and...and...'
Lips pursed, then miaowing as he went on to imitate the violin, he panted on, torn apart by all the different timbers vying for places in his memory. With the poker clenched firmly in one hand, he hammered on the rosewood of the piano. With the other he made a zzzzzzzzzzing! sound against the windowpane, then plopped his lips together drily to re-create the xylophone, and made a sound of 'duk, duk' in a voice like crystal, to recall for us the liquid notes of the celesta.
He stood up, using his voice, his arms, and his feet all at once, while two black spirals of hair danced on his forehead. His faun's laugh rang out in reply, not to our laughter, but to some inner solicitation, and I engraved at that moment in my memory this image of the great master of French music in the process of inventing, before our very eyes, the jazz band."

OK, Claude Debussy is no jazz artist, but the creative process, the ability to pull orchestration out of thin air and physically manifest it -- oh, to have seen that!

Sylvia Beach will appear very soon because she has a lot to say about associations and creative genius too.

Here are some samples of the music mentioned in this post. Enjoy!

Bottle of Red Wine

Blues Power

Debussy Arabesque No. 1 (an example of Debussy's style, actually quite subdued compared to the picture Colette painted above)

--Note--I am having terrible difficulties with my old laptop. It is running Windows Vista and things have gone downhill very badly all of a sudden. I am taking a short break until I get a new computer. See you on the other side!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spider Season and the Bowl of Hot Chocolate

Summer is definitely gone. We know this because our autumn visitors have arrived. They show up all of a sudden, a scurry across the living room floor, a captive in the kitchen sink, a still brown shape on the wall next to the bed, ugh...

Eratigena atrica, aka Common House Spider

Sorry, "Common" is a bit mild. How about "Scary House Spider", or "Giant House Spider", or "The Heart Attack"? Apparently the specimen pictured above is about average size for the "Air-uh-TIH-gen-uh-aa-TRICK-uh. This one looks like its leg span is about 2.5 inches. The largest can reach up to 4 inches!

My husband rescued this thirsty guy (gal?) from the kitchen sink. "C" used to be extremely arachnaphobic but for some reason, this year, he has decided these are good spiders, we should not kill them, we should rescue them and put them outdoors. OK, I get it, but they will just come back inside. According to Wikipedia:

"This species is native to Europe but was introduced to southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the early 20th century, and has since spread to mainland British Columbia as well as Washington and Oregon...Most specimens mature in the summer or fall and mate shortly thereafter. On warm nights in the summer and fall, the adult males wander in search of mates and may be caught scurrying across the floor when the lights are turned on. Females will typically construct more than one egg sac in their lifetime, and will suspend them in  her web...These large spiders help prevent 'hobo spiders' from becoming established indoors. They out-compete and displace the hobo spider indoors and the males often kill male hobo spiders (without necessarily eating them). Hobo spiders are not an indoor spider to begin with, but Eratigena atrica is helping to keep them that way."

Since "hobo spiders" are poisonous, and we do have them in this area, the Common House Spider is a good one to have around even if they scare the beejeezus out of me! It is the startle factor.

Colette has a charming little story about her mother's pet house spider. From My Mother's House, a memoir of growing up in Burgundy, Colette tells us:

"Have you ever heard tell of Pelisson's spider that so passionately loved music? I for one am ready to believe it and also to add, as my slender contribution to the sum of human knowledge, the story of the spider that my mother kept--as my father expressed it--on her ceiling, in that year that ushered in my sixteenth spring. A handsome garden spider she was, her belly like a clove of garlic emblazoned with an ornate cross. In the daytime she slept, or hunted in the web that she had spun across the bedroom ceiling. But during the night, towards three o'clock in the morning, at the moment when her chronic insomnia caused my mother to relight the lamp and open her bedside book, the great spider would also wake, and after a careful survey would lower herself from the ceiling by a thread, directly above the little oil lamp upon which a bowl of chocolate simmered through the night. Slowly she would descend, swinging limply to and fro like a big bead, and grasping the edge of the cup with all her eight legs, she would bend over head foremost and drink to satiety. Then she would draw herself ceiling-wards again, heavy with creamy chocolate, her ascent punctuated by the pauses and meditations imposed by an overloaded stomach, and would resume her post in the centre of her silken rigging."

Oh my. To be so in tune with the creatures who inhabit one's world. I would like to have known Colette's mother, Sido. She counted the four cardinal points as either friends or enemies (the East wind was always an enemy) depending on circumstances. Her world was one of nurturing family, farmhouse, animals, and every square inch of garden on her little plot of land. She was one of that ancient race who still believe in..."The mists of a  primitive religion--belief in fairies, in charms, in sorcerers--(that) everywhere lingers over French fields" (A. Maurois, A History of France).

Sigh, there will be nothing so romantic as a  garden spider or common house spider lurking on my bedroom ceiling waiting for the moment when I invite her to share my bowl of hot chocolate. Rather, there will be a cry for "C" to move the poor thirsty thing outdoors immediately.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Free to Soar

One of my elders passed away yesterday. A beautiful woman in every way. My mother's cousin, best friend, confidante. Now they are both free to soar.

Reading Colette this morning, I found this lovely passage about aging, thought it worth saving here, and so:

Setting the scene -- Colette is remembering her childhood and the magic of New Year's Day, her most special holiday. She is in Paris and has just returned from an evening romp in the snow with her two dogs. They are now warming themselves by the fire.

"Still under the spell of my daydream, I am astounded to find I have changed, have aged while I dreamed...I could repaint on this face, with a tremulous brush, that fresh childish face, toasted with sunlight, rosy with cold, the firm cheeks curving into a pointed chin, the mobile eyebrows prompt to frown, a mouth whose sly corners belie the short, ingenuous upper lip...Alas, for only a moment. The adorable velours of the resuscitated pastel brushes off and blows away...The dark water of the small mirror keeps only my image, which is quite, quite like me, marked with light scratches, finely lined at the eyelids, the corners of the lips, and between the stubborn brows...An image which neither smiles nor becomes sad, and which murmurs for me alone: 'One must grow old. Do not weep, do not join supplicating hands, do not revolt: one must grow old. Repeat this word, not as a cry of despair, but as the signal for a necessary departure. Look at yourself, look at your eyelids, your lips, raise from your temples the curls of your hair: already you are beginning to drift away from your life, don't forget it, one must grow old!

'Go away slowly, slowly, without tears; forget nothing! Take with you your health, your cheerfulness, your coquetry, the small amount of kindness and justice that rendered life less bitter for you; don't forget! Go away adorned, go gently, and do not stop on the irresistible way, you will try in vain to do so -- because one must grow old! Follow the road, and do not stop for rest except to die! And when you do lie down across the vertiginous undulating ribbon of a road, if you have not left behind you one by one your curly locks, your teeth, your limbs one by one worn out, if the eternal dust has not, before your final hour, weaned your eyes from the marvelous light -- if you have, to the very end, kept in your hand the friendly hand who guides you, then lie down smiling, sleep happy, sleep as one privileged...'

Joy and Paula

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Podcasts and "Planet Ulysses": An Update

Opening Paragraph Part I: Chapter One

Reporting in with an update on The Ulysses Project. It is a long post because there is oh so much to cover. When I left you, I was on page 18 of "Mt. Ulysses" and bemoaning the slow progress. However, as I inch up the slope, I now understand why it has to be one small step after another. As I said in the beginning, Joyce is a Giant, and Giants must be placated or else! Where is that bag of beans? Oh, never mind...

Here is the thing. As I read along with Frank Delaney and his podcast Re: Joyce I am happy to move slowly because there is SO MUCH to glean from this masterpiece. Delaney explains the allusions, and points to references and influences that Joyce has woven into his story. Without awareness of the scope of Ulysses, reading all 783 pages would simply be an exercise. Yesterday I completed "Nestor" which is Chapter Two of Part I, and Podcast #89.

There are three main characters in Ulysses. Stephen Dedalus, a young intellectual, recently bereaved by the loss of his mother, referred to by Delaney as "the 'head' of the book; Leopold Bloom, who has yet to make an appearance, the 'heart' of the book, again per Delaney; and Molly Bloom, Leopold's adulterous and loving wife. The entire story takes place on June 16, 1904 in and near Dublin, Ireland.

Here are notes from some of my climbing aids:

From Monarch Notes:

"...there are three main parts: The Telemachiad, or account of Dedalus' morning; The Odyssey, or account of Bloom's wandering through Dublin; and Nostos, or the return home of Bloom to his wife and, symbolically, Stephen to his 'father'. Each part is made of chapters...named here in terms of their parallel in the Odyssey. Part One has three chapters describing Stephen's experiences at breakfast in Martello Tower on Dublin Bay, where he has been living (Telemachus 8 a.m.); Stephen teaching at a school in Dalkey, near the Tower (Nestor, 10 a.m.)..." We will see the summary of Chapter Three at the end of this post.

Delaney explains that Joyce packs meaning into nearly every word. Nothing is simple, nothing can be taken at face value. For example, Stephen's name: Stephen Dedalus. Our character Stephen is really the young James Joyce. His book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an account of Stephen's younger years and Ulysses picks up two years after A Portrait leaves off. Stephen was educated at a Jesuit school and the book is full of biblical allusions and Catholic traditions. These are fully explained by Delaney so do not feel intimidated. So, back to Stephen's name -- "Stephen" is the first Catholine martyr and "Dedalus" was the father of "Icarus". Remember Icarus from Greek mythology? His father (Dedalus) built him a pair of wax wings so he could fly but he flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, and he plunged to his death in the sea. Delaney says Dedalus was also a "cunning creator, innovator, and Knossos labryinth builder".  Monarch Notes says "Stephen is an intellectual Telemachus (Ulysses' son in the Odyssey), with the same qualities of the mythical Dedalus as we saw in A Portrait -- the artificer, the maker of wings of flight, all of this viewed partially ironically, since Stephen is still more the intellectual aesthetician than an artist." OK, now I need to read A Portrait next!

"The" Martello Tower

From Chapter One, Stephen's "flat mate" in the Martello Tower is the bombastic Malachi (Buck) Mulligan, a medical student. Buck bullies Stephen, especially around Stephen's massive intellect and his lack of faith. Delaney explains that Buck Mulligan is based on a real-life person, Joyce's false friend Oliver Gogarty. Notice the syllables -- Malichi Mulligan -- Oliver Gogarty. In later life Gogarty confessed that he was ruined by the publication of Ulysses because people who knew him and Joyce easily made the connection.

Joyce did have a massive intellect. Delaney tells how Joyce admired the 19th-century Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen so much that he learned the Dano-Norwegian language so he could correspond with the great man. And, Sylvia Beach, the publisher of Ulysses, writes in her memoir of life in the bookstore of the same name, Shakespeare & Company, that Joyce had "a memory that retained everything he had ever heard. Everything stuck in it, he said". On a hospital visit to Joyce while he was recuperating from eye surgery he asked, "Will you please bring The Lady of the Lake. The next time I went to see him, I had the 'Lady' with me. 'Open it,' he said, 'and read me a line.' I did so, from a page chosen at random. After the first line, I stopped, and he recited the whole page and the next without a single mistake. I'm convinced that he knew by heart, not only The Lady of the Lake, but a whole library of poetry and prose. He probably read everything before he was twenty, and thenceforth he could find what he needed without taking the trouble of opening a book."

As an aside, I admire and envy people who have a photographic memory. In my lifetime, I have known two such persons and remember one of these people asking someone to wait a moment while she "found the passage from a journal article" they were discussing. She was quiet for a few seconds and then recited the passage. The other person could discuss any subject, in great depth, anytime. Wow.

Now let's move on to Chapter Two, "Nestor". Stephen is teaching a history class at a "prep" school near Dublin. At the end of class, he tutors a student who needs help with his algebra. Stephen then goes to the headmaster's office to collect his weekly pay. Mr. Deasy (the "Nestor" character who was an aged mentor to young warriors in The Iliad, later sought out by Telemachus for information about his missing father, Ulysses) expounds, as an old man will, on political themes (Protestant vs Catholic, English superiority); financial wisdom (save money, buy a mechanical wallet to dispense coins); displays his bigotry toward the Jews and sexism "in its primal form", according to Delaney, when he reminds Stephen that "A woman brought sin into the world" (the odious excuse through the ages for discrimination against women). Stephen cannot wait to get out of Mr. Deasy's office but is held up while Mr. Deasy finishes typing a letter and asks Stephen to deliver it and a copy to any newspaper editors he may know. He wants the letter about foot and mouth disease in cattle to be published because he is sure he has the solution for preventing outbreaks. An old man's crusade, and like many of the Headmaster's opinions and "facts", ironically erroneous.  As Stephen takes his leave, Mr. Deasy makes a crude joke about Jews as he walks away. Stephen is resolved to quit his position at the school.

I made a few notes about Joyce's influences and references as I listened to the Delaney podcasts:

Ancient Irish myths
Shakespeare's Hamlet
Dante's Divine Comedy
Greek mythology
William Blake
Symbolist poet Jules Laforgue
Catholic religion

Thank goodness for Frank Delaney. He holds Joyce and Ulysses in very high regard. Here is what he says about Joyce and the contribution he made to the literary novel going forward.

"Joyce is a restless intellectual, an artist wandering the shores of thought and inquiry and art."

"He didn't just tip his toe in the exotic water, he plunged in the whole foot and sometimes the entire body."

"Using as literary material, as art, the most ordinary aspects of life. Real, mundane facts, details, occurrences, tiny incidents such as Mr. Deasy tweaking his nose -- all going to build the imagery of the novel...the ordinary lives of ordinary people on an ordinary day in an ordinary city BUT through James Joyces' writing the human condition thus becomes elevated through art. THAT IS GENIUS."

So now, we are moving up to Chapter Three "and Stephen walking on the beach at Sandymount, north of Dalkey ("Proteus", 11 a.m.)." -- Monarch Notes

Delaney warns us that "Proteus" will be a very intense experience. I will be reporting back to you when I finish Chapter Three.

P.S. Delaney refers to Ulysses as "Planet Ulysses". I think that is more apt than my "Mt. Ulysses", but I am going stick with my name for this wonderful book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Panther

Artists and Their Subjects at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris

I abhor all zoos, game parks, marine parks, aquariums, animal circuses, and any other commercial venue for wildlife captivity. I do not include centers for the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife as they do good work. I am talking about scenes such as the above. It just makes my skin crawl to think of the misery these poor creatures endured.

The roar of a captive lion woke me in the night last week. I was staying with friends at the beach near Bandon, Oregon. A "game park" is nearby and the lion is in residence there. A poem came to mind before sleep returned that night. The poet Rainier Marie Wilke visited the Jardin des Plantes. His visit inspired this:

The Panther:

His gaze against the sweeping of the bars
has grown so weary, it can hold no more.
To him, there seem to be a thousand bars
and back behind those thousand bars no world.

The soft the supple step and sturdy pace,
that in the smallest of all circles turns,
moves like a dance of strength around a core
in which a mighty will is standing stunned.

Only at times the pupil’s curtain slides
up soundlessly — . An image enters then,
goes through the tensioned stillness of the limbs —
and in the heart ceases to be.

- English translation by Stanley Appelbaum

Monday, September 14, 2015

Oregon Coast Getaway

We will return to the Ulysses Project and check in with other reading but today I will tell you about a relaxing little sojourn I took to visit friends at the southern Oregon Coast. As you may know, the best time to visit our seashore is in the fall, particularly September. The weather was perfect, except right on the beach where the summer fog lingered into the afternoon. Here are a few pictures (not taken by me).

Beach near Bandon

Face Rock


Bandon Lighthouse

My friends live on a farm and I was delighted to meet two miniature donkeys, two tiny goats, five or six big goats, many cats and chickens. The rooster was magnificent! He looked like an Old World rooster, quite colorful, and very much in charge of his hens. There was a lovely garden too. Perfect.

Nearby "wildlife" woke me from a sound sleep. There is a Game Park nearby and the lions can be noisy!

In case you ever wondered why it is foggy and cool on the Oregon Coast in summer, it is due to the influence of the California Current (my dad always referred to this as the "Japanese Current"). The effect along the Oregon Coast is significant, especially between April and September. The day I left it was sunny, warm, and beautiful just slightly inland from the beach. When I drove by Face Rock on my way home, I could not see anything for the fog.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the current:

"The California Current is an Eastern boundary current and is also part of the North Pacific Gyre, a large swirling current that occupies the northern basin of the Pacific. The movement of northern waters southward makes the coastal waters cooler than the coastal areas of comparable latitude on the east coast of the United States. Additionally, extensive upwelling of colder sub-surface waters occurs, caused by the prevailing northwesterly winds acting through the Ekman Effect. The winds drive surface water to the right of the wind flow, that is offshore, which draws water up from below to replace it. The upwelling further cools the already cool California Current. This is the mechanism that produces California's characteristic coastal fog and the negative temperature anomaly we measure in California's coastal waters during summer (Mann and Lazier, 2006). This translates into cold coastal waters during the summer, stretching from Oregon to Baja California. Note, this does not include the coastal water surrounding San Diego. There is a warm water anomaly off San Diego (Mann and Lazier, 2006)."