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On Reading Ulysses #2: pages 51-114

I kept two promises: I kept reading, and I read while hammered.

While drunk however, I was only able to get through one page, and only made one note:


Apparently, the thoughts of cats hold some literary weight for the drunk.

Sober; at land. This section was beautiful, dark, funny, poignant and all that other bullshit people write on the back of books these days. Only this section was way better than the last because the goofiness of Joyce is still in full swing, and we’re through all the mind-reading of Stephen, who sounded like he was having a mental breakdown caused by reading too much William Blake and Aristotle.

I loved this book in college and the ecstasy I garnered from the text can most certainly be attributed to my use of marijuana. I know this sounds purely like a joke, but it’s true. It’s also fitting to bring this up now since the sections feature the Lotus Eaters and a trip to Hell. How can you not be reminded of drug experiences?

Much like the choice to pass through the gate of horn or the gate of ivory in Hades, every time get high, I can only enter one of the following worlds: a) a false one where I can feel demons lurking around every crevice of my apartment, waiting to pounce on me and break the news that all of my friends think I’m a horrible human being or b) a world where I’m (rightfully!) rapt up in euphoric fascination with the workings of the brain and nature. (Oh, there are some side-effects: namely eating my weight in white cheddar Pirate’s Booty, laughing at anything, and convincing myself that everyone, LITERALLY EVERYONE is flirting with me.)

These are not, as Bill Hicks said, idle thoughts. What I’ve experienced while stoned is important to the text. I’m not trying to tell anyone to do more drugs [listening kids?], but I am saying if you read the Lotus Eaters and the Hades sections of this book, you understand the good and bad mental processes that seem amplified while you’re high. And safe experimental adventure is what Odysseus himself was all about (otherwise, why would he not put wax in his ears like everyone else while passing the Sirens, and instead strap himself to the mast, ears open, and have the experience of safely listening to them?). I haven’t smoked pot in about six months (new job, shit I need to get done) but the way I’m sure some people crave cigarettes and whiskey while watching Mad Men, that’s the way I want to break out a bong while rereading this entire section. I quit smoking pot because one of these days I’m going to make a kid, and much like Bloom has paranoid thoughts about his dead relatives, here’s a transcript of future-me, if I got stoned with a baby in the house:

Me: Hello, 9-11?!!? My baby is gonna die!!!!

Operator: Slow down, Sir. Tell me, what’s wrong with your child.

Me: NO!! Nothing’s wrong, I just mean sometime- Someday we’re all gonna die!!!

That dialogue is, in a nutshell, what reading this section was like for me. How can we live through the everyday, when we know we all have a ticket to Hades and unlike Odysseus, we can’t just go visit to ask the shades what it’s like down there.

Sober thoughts go like this: hungry, tired, I want, I need, I plan, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. High thoughts go like this: I need food right now or I can’t function, where does food come from?, living things eat other living things, we live because other things die, WOW! the human condition is fucked, but seriously, where is the food happening?- I CAN NO LONGER BE NEAR OTHER PEOPLE IF THEY KNOW I KNOW THE SECRET ABOUT FOOD BEING DEAD THINGS! I’m going home to eat ice-cream in bed and watch old episodes of Cheers. It will be like I’m in a womb. rhymes with tomb, OH GOD NO!!! Here we go again!!!!

This is how I think Bloom feels even if he’s not expressing it openly.

Pretending to not be stoned while being stoned is also exactly how Bloom’s life reads when he’s around other humans. How often have you been forced to engage in small talk about the weather while you’re concerned with personal matters that can’t be brought up in polite company, such as your fear of a disappointed God you’ve betrayed countless times, or worse yet, severe jock itch. This is what it’s like to be Bloom, and what it’s like to be a human. Now add these factors: Bloom’s on his way to a funeral for a friend, his Dad committed suicide, his child died at eleven and he’s been having an extramarital affair with a woman who’s writing him love notes: who wants to keep all that in his head and talk about the weather? This sort of sums up how I would deal with it, though Bloom is less angry:

Constant talking while inner turmoil abounds. Jokes about the dead, about life insurance, serious thoughts about how life is a joke, wordplay in your brain that you dare not say out loud for its inappropriate timing and corniness, constant thoughts about food, death, sex and parenthood, and now someone wants to talk about bullshit like the weather?! Why do we do this?! How can we talk about the weather when surely everyone is consistently going through inner turmoil also. Bill Murray handles it in a drastic way, Bloom handles it by keeping the thoughts to himself. He’s better at not looking constantly miserable the way Stephen (annoyingly) does. And herein lies the answer to my own question (and the answer to why I dislike Stephen): talking about the weather is a nice way to enjoy the moment and for a split second not be devoured by doubt, shame, and dark thoughts. If the weather is nice, comment on it. Don’t walk around the beach, constantly thinking about your Mom’s death and high minded literature, then not share anything with anyone. Relax a bit. Lay off the pipe. Talk it out.

And that’s the message I’ve garnered from this section: Everyone, even those who aren’t acting awkward, are going through some heavy shit at every moment. If we could put it all on paper, we might see a pattern: people making the same off-color jokes in their heads, men staring at butts on the way to a funeral, and constant awareness of eternal doom. And when we write it all down and read it back to ourselves, we will be reminded of times we were super stoned and how funny/terrifying it was.

Funny things I found in this section:
1. the word “Ballsbridge”
2. a lot of pooping and a glorification of poop in Bloom’s thoughts about what manure really is: life-sustaining excrement. You could write award-winning critical essays on this subject, grad school kids! Or, as Joyce would write: “Defecation. the Deceased.

3. There’s theses in this feces.” (that was fake. don’t put it in your paper…)
wiping your butt with a moving piece of literature (Bloom does this on the toilet reading TitBits (also funny)). I feel like I’m doing the same by writing about this book.

For those of you who need this to be a summation of what happened in these pages:

Bloom eats meat. Talks to his cat as if it’s a human (where we’re all headed. Don’t doubt it)
Bloom says hello to his wife Molly in bed, who makes a similar, less communicative sound than the cat made (telling!)
Blooms goes outside and buys a kidney from the butcher, but while there he spends some time checking out a hot lady’s butt that he keeps thinking of as hams attached to her body, since humans (not just women) are huge piece of meat that we occasionally imagine devouring in a sexual way.
Bloom returns home and talks to his wife in bed. He burns the Kidney in a frying pan.
Bloom gets a letter from his mistress who keeps calling him a naughty boy. It is STEAMY!  He puts the flower she sent in his pocket.
At the funeral, Bloom thinks about how people should be buried and remembered. He imagines a phonograph at every headstone and thinks about why we don’t bury the dead standing up to save space.

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12 Notes
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  3. anokarina reblogged this from danwilbur and added:
    the enlightenment continues seriously
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