June 16, 1904

Wrestling with the Beast

A reader's diary about James Joyce's Ulysses, with scholarly commentary provided by Strunkface Jones and endless bitching by Diablevert.


Where Read: My house, mostly.
First sentence: "Stately plump Black Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed."
Last Sentence: "On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins."
My Comment: Started reading Ulysses. (This one.) I confess, I anticipated it would be a bit of a slog, but it seems surprisingly readable so far; on the other hand, I'm only forty pages in. Stephen Dedalus is a bit a twat, though, huh? Oh, he's so sensitive. So spiritual. I think I agree with Black Mulligan when he calls him a Jesuit, and this makes me like Black Mulligan more than I'm supposed to.
Strunk's Response: It isn't even an HC!?! If you're going to by a thousand plus page book at least try and get your hands on the Pirate Jim version. (If you need help on that one, I'm always here.) And I would be berating you so much if I could find my version and perhaps re-read, or at least re-skim with you. And it's that same Hamlet teenaged moodieness that's kicking around Stephen's head. Read bits of it over again . . . I'll wait . . . see, it's that same gut reaction to a lazy kid who won't kill his father's killer just because he's lazy & worried. More later when you tell me what page you've made it to and I can dig up pirate jim.
Rebuttal: Yeah, I see what you're saying about Hamlet. But Stephen is already one up on the gloombrowed Dane in symbolic parent- murdering, so well done there. That's what makes me agree with Black Mulligan calling him a Jesuit. In the episode with his mother he places his own obedience to --- or rather defiance of --- an abstract ideal above compassion. When really flaunting your defience suggests as much a belief in the importance of that which you defy as much as meek submission. Everybody always forgets that old wheeze --- "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, that thou canst not then be false to any man," --- is part of Polonius' speech, and Polonius, as everyone knows, is a pompous ass.


Pages: 45-72
Where read: By and large, lying on my living room couch during the Saturday game and while sitting by a dam in the foothills of the Dublin mountains.
First sentence: "Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes."
Last Sentence: "He Walked back along Dorset Street, reading gravely."
My Comment: Okay, this part was a bit of a slog. It starts off with that "Inelculable modality" mumbo jumbo and doesn't let up for quite a while. It's a stream of consciousness bit from Stephen Dedalus' head as he sits on the beach killing time between his morning tutoring job and meeting his friends at the pub. He thinks a bit about the time he spent in Paris before being called home because of his mother's illness. Reading it felt a bit like watching a movie in a foreign language you're not quite fluent in; you go along okay getting the general gist of stuff, but you're missing a phrase here and there and a first you try and stop and nail down every one, but after a while you tire of of getting bogged down are content to just let it flow over you. The last tne pages of this chunk it switches over to Leopold Bloom's perspective, and there the going gets much easier. I can state definitively that that bit concerns him preparing some toast for his wife and then making a run to the butcher's to get himself a breakfast kidney. He manages to work in a little light ogling of the neighborhood fauna while in line at the butcher's.
Strunk's Response: So, Pirate Jim turned up behind some Russians and Under a Volcano . . . now we can get down. And I can admit that I never got the 'Ineluctable modality of the visible" line, but it seems that at least a few poorly written theses have used only that line. Also, there's a bit on pat 44 of the Pirate Jim edition that mention's the Giant's Causeway, ironically. It's this place in county Antrim - and there's some picutres of it here: http://www.geographia.com/northern-ireland/ukiant01.htm. The bit is at the bottom and it begins: I'm the bloody well gigant rolls all them bloody well bolders, bones for my steppingstones. Feefawfum. I zmellz de blood odz an Iridzman. That "bones for my steppingstones" bit is quite nice, even if the boy is being self-absorbed.

For those of you playing at home, Pirate Jim is the 1992 Modern Library Edition of Ulysses with the Eye-Pached author picture on the cover, in sepia, of course. Also, word of the day: quoits. Quoits is basicly a game of pitching rings around a pole. I have a penciled in note at the bottom of the Pirate Jim about this. Quoits. Quoits. Sounds dirty dosen't it? Especially since they're the quoits on the bed that Bloom's wife is sleeping in. They're busy jingling. It's just a thing.



Where read:The Stag's Head, off George's Street; while waiting in queue at the Social Welfare office; sitting under a tree by the pond at St. Stephen's Green.
First sentence:"Agendath Netaim: planter's company."
Last Sentence:"Woman all for caste till you touch the spot."
My Comment:Not much to report; still with Bloom's morning. He walks back home, eats breakfast, reads a letter from his daughter, takes his wife her toast (she's hiding a letter from him) goes out to the post office to pick up the mail, and is on his way to a funeral when he meets an acquaintece in the street and must stop to chat.
Strunk's Response: "Agendath Netaim" Do you really have to start with the Hebrew bit? I'll tell you that there are pictures of Agendath Netaim on the web and leave it at that. Well, that, and this bit at the bottom of PJ63 that you might have missed: Her full lips, drinking, smiled. Rather stale smell that incense leaves next day. Like foul flowerwater.

Now a guy named Bloom talking about how his wife, or at least the bedroom, smells like foul flowerwater, sounds a little bitter, dosen't it? It also remids me of that bit in Gatsby about how Daisy's voice sounds like money. But that's just me. And it seems like reaching for the obvious to complain about using insense for a cheap joke.

Read faster.


Posted by Diablevert at June 16, 1904 10:50 AM

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