Back to DanWilbur.Com

On Reading Ulysses #3: pages 115-151

I’m lost again, and wouldn’t you know it, Stephen, was around when I was at my most lost.

Here’s a list of what’s important from this section, I guess:

Palindromes.
Parallel Lives (the whole book is about this!)
Some people are windbags, har har har. Get it? like in the Odyssey, there’s a bag of wind!

This section was primarily about the happenings in Dublin, so in order to prepare myself for truly understanding the mindset of a Dubliner, and because I have a girlfriend, I watched the movie “Leap Year” on Leap Day (All right, I picked the movie! I admit it!). What great prep for reading this section, though. For, as my girlfriend pointed out, there are many parallels between the Odyssey and Leap Year, for instance:

Characters in both works are on a journey.

…That’s it, actually.

This movie sucked and I suck for watching it. It lulled me into an anti-intellectual understanding of the Irish: they drink all the time, they’re all xenophobic, and they are constantly mean to everyone, even their friends. Wait! That is what Ulysses has been like thus far! It was a great depiction of the Irish! And unlike Joyce’s story, I could follow this one for more than thirty seconds before swearing at myself for trying to understand why someone wrote it (I did this with Leap Year too, but only during the second half of the movie).

What I liked from this section of Ulysses:

Bloom realizes that the machines are in control of humans while looking at newspapers getting made. Joyce knew about Skynet years before any of us fathomed it!!

Bloom, for the second time, fantasizes about having a writing job: this time considering a Savage Love-type column, offering intimate personal advice to the average reader. It made me think that when Odysseus returned home and was in charge of Ithaca once more as its sovereign king after spending years attempting to dissuade his shipmates from their dooms, he probably spent all his pent-up energy from lack of travel writing a column answering questions like the ones you’d see in an “Ask ______” column. Here is a quick interpretation of what Odysseus’ column would look like:

How do you keep your marriage so fresh and lively?
-Antiloches, age 31, Large Cave Near Tallest Mountain, Ithaca

Great question. Firstly, kill any other men that look at your wife or who have eaten food in your house while you were away. Women claim they don’t like this “Cro-Magnon” act, but trust me. Ladies dig a guy who shows he cares through violence. Secondly, sleep with goddesses who kidnap you. As long as you don’t take the goddess’s offer to turn you into a god, she has nothing to be jealous about. Go get it!

How do I know my wife isn’t screwing around on me?
Patroklos “Patty” Lystrigonia, 37, Village Near Wheat Fields, Ithaca

Build your bed out of a tree. Did anyone move the bed while you were out? No? Then she’s faithful. I know it seems impossible that the bed would move even if a hundred dudes were in it, but trust me here. She’s not messing around.

What’s a good way to cover a wineskin stain on a new shirt?
Penelope, 41 anxious wife and mother, Castle

With the blood of a hundred treacherous maids.


Back to the matter at hand: why was I so lost, even after watching Leap Year?

Perspective: it’s all off-kilter. I noticed it first during the funeral section, that occasionally Joyce leaves his main character’s voice behind to overhear something going on with others who are present. Can Bloom hear his friend talking behind his back? Does Bloom hear everything that’s happening in the newsroom? Or, like in the Odyssey, is there alway an omniscient narrator who takes us from Odysseus crying on Calypso’s island, to mount Olympus, back to Ithaca, seeing fights between gods while the human characters are none the wiser (not to mention when the narrator starts saying “oh you, my swineherd”)? And why does Stephen show up suddenly and nearly meet Bloom? Is that because in the corresponding section of the Odyssey, Odysseus nearly gets home before his crew open the infamous bag of wind? That Odysseus nearly saw his son again much like Bloom nearly met Stephen?

Maybe. Then again, Joyce might just be doing something totally abstract and I’m reading into it as much or as little as I wish. He might be screwing with me once again, for, as you can see in this clip, the Irish are a tricky, lying bunch:



For those of you who need this to be a synopsis, here’s what happened:

blah, blah, blah, newspapers
Stephen is there. Couldn’t tell you what he’s doing
“Butt Bridge” is mentioned!
Bloom is told that his employer should kiss the editor’s Royal Irish Ass
Everyone goes to a pub

Questions, comments, the name of a good therapist? E-mail: dwilbs@gmail.com

3 Notes
  1. danwilbur posted this