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!