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.