Reading the Last Six Episodes of Ulysses

Previously on Claudia Reads Ulysses and It NEVER Ends:
Reading episodes 1-6
Taking a break to tell an anecdote
Reading episodes 6-12

This week I didn't have a lot of time for Ulysses. I had one last exam to pass and then I graduated, so woo-hoo. It will take some adjusting to - I used to be a jobless student and am now a jobless person with a diploma. The changes a week brings! But at least I'm free to return to my reading, so you can now blame me directly for the lack of updates. 

Now, back to Ulysses, last time I read this I was Joyce's fan for two episodes: Lestrygonians and Cyclops. There's half of this book left, and I really want to  be done with it and move on to some Victorian literature, but at the same time I'm enjoying it. So, here we go. 

Episode XIII: Nausicaa 

Not my favorite episode, but significantly easier to follow than many of the others. The first part is written as a pastiche of sentimental novels. We're supposed to get the first female perspective of this book, that of a young girl named Gerty, through this collection of romantic cliches. Gerty is out at the beach with two friends and their little brothers; she sees Bloom and casts him as her Tortured Romantic Hero. What's interesting here - and anticipates Molly's soliloquy in a way - is that Gerty is aware of her sexuality, though not entirely. On one hand, her dream of married life only includes Platonic hugs. But on the other, she understands sexual urges and masturbation, and wishes there were women priests to hear intimate confessions from girls. She's also aware that she's enticing Bloom, who masturbates watching her. I'm not quite sure why she doesn't consciously connect the two: her dream of domestic bliss and sex, but I suppose the romance novels of the day didn't either. 

As for Leopold, yeah, sorry, little sympathy from here. It's creepy to masturbate in public looking at teen girls, and that's that. What I found interesting is that the theme of Bloom as the foreigner continues from last chapter. Among the bigots at the pub, Bloom's foreignness was a fault. In this chapter, it was a quality. Gerty decides he must be a foreigner, judging by his looks, and she's fascinated by it. And Bloom remembers asking Molly, "Why me?", and she replying, "Because you were so foreign from the others."

Episode XIV: Oxen of the Sun 

Oh look, a bunch of men discussing contraception, abortion and related issues with no women present. Oh, and no one but Leopold gives a damn about the woman that's actually giving birth while they are having this conversation? Thank God (sp?) it's not 1904 anymore.

This was not easy to read. Remember this quote? This was it, the heavy language sand weighing down the prose. We go through the styles of different periods in the development of the English language, chronologically (I think?). Some of them are devilishly hard to follow (aren't you grateful Latin syntax went out of fashion?). I wish I could say I identified even half of these correctly, but I haven't, so I won't. The last two pages were unreadable. It know the brothel episode will be worse. Sigh. Onwards then.

Episode XV: Circe 

Nora Joyce once said, "I guess the man's a genius, but what a dirty mind he has." (Did that sound like the intro to Criminal Minds? It did to me.) She would know. But that's pretty much all I can say about this episode too. It was brilliant and dirty and farcical and a little heartbreaking at the end, when Leopold 'sees' his dead son. It was pretty wonderful in its insane way.

Episode XVI: Eumaeus 

Joyce writing like a stupid person. I think I prefer his usual style, whatever that is (that's one question to consider - I don't feel like I know Joyce's writing. I sometimes imagine him using all of these different styles and tricks the way a kidnapper would use letters cut out from newspapers to disguise their writing. That probably makes me a naive reader - what is a writer's real style anyway? - but it's a nice image). You'll catch on to my general opinion of Dickens if I tell you I thought for a second Joyce was parodying him again in this episode. The lack of sentimentality tipped me off. 

Bad writing or not, Leopold continued to be adorable, even when he was misguided or small minded. (He did spend a fair bit of this episode pondering how to make money off Stephen.)  It's just that all is a bit anti-climactic, like the book is winding down. 

Episode XVII: Ithaca 

What was Claudia's prevalent feeling reading this episode?  
Awww, Bloom. 
Who did she dislike and why? 
Stephen, because he is is a complete ass. Why would you sing an anti-Semitic song to the person who dragged your sorry ass out of the gutter? What sort of a person does that? Bloom might have gotten over it, but Stephen is still a shitty human being.
What would be a suitable punishment for Stephen? 
To rain on him on his way home! (He's a hydrophobe, which in his case is short for "I'm too much of an artist to wash. Woe is me. So is dirt.") Alternatively, he could trip and fall into a puddle.
Why was Bloom was awww-worthy?
It was pretty adorable to see his contradictory dreams of traveling the world (hi, Ulysses) and being king of the suburbs. It was sad to see him deal with Molly's adultery. And the content of his locked drawer is so him (who else would keep his daughter's childhood drawings together with pornographic photos and still be more awww-worthy than creepy doing so?)
Why is this written in a silly Q&A form?  
Because the episode is written like this (catechism style or something) and your here blogger is a silly person and couldn't help herself. 

Episode XVIII: Penelope 

Done. That last page was so beautiful. Molly is not a character I empathize with, but she is hilarious and it was good having her perspective. And that last page was so beautiful. 

The Poetry Appreciation Chat: Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

What's this? The Poetry Appreciation Chat is a (hopefully) weekly series where we pick a poem and discuss it on chat. You can read more about how and why we decided to do it here. You are always welcome to join our discussion in the comments.

This week we decided to go with a Victorian poem, Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson, published in 1842. We had a great time discussing it (...and Mad Men, and the British Empire and aristocrats in conjunction to it). This series is shaping up to be the most fun thing we do for the blog. You can read the poem here/scroll down and then below you have our conversation about it.

Reading after Bloomsday

So Bloomsday passed and it was wonderful. I really enjoyed reading and following everyone's updates yesterday. Unlike the insanely awesome o who read the whole of Ulysses yesterday, I only got up to section 7. I did enjoy it, though, and I like the system of writing down some quick thoughts after I read an episode, so I'm going to continue my reading today (and probably tomorrow as well) and update this post as I go. I suppose it's no longer a readalong, but I find that keeping track of my progress this way is nice. I want to write a review for Ulysses after I'm done, so I can cross it off the Classics Club list as well. So, without further ado: 

Episode VII: Aeolus

I remember this section being awfully confusing. This time around I had better luck with it, mostly because it occurred to me that I should ignore the newspaper headlines that break up the text. Without them, this piece is not at all different from the funeral episode that precedes it. Still, the text moved awfully fast and there were a lot of characters and conversations to keep track of. You know those stock exchange sequences in movies? When everyone is yelling at the same time and you can barely follow? It was a little like that, except that people were yelling lines from Shakespeare and obscure jokes. Still, if Joyce based this on the chaos of howling winds, then it makes perfect sense. I felt it was useless to even read the notes for all the references.

Favorite quote: 
We were always loyal to lost causes, the professor said. Success for us is the death of the intellect and of the imagination. We were never loyal to the successful. We serve them. I teach the blatant Latin language. I speak the tongue of a race the acme of whose mentality is the maxim: time is money. Material domination. DOMINUS! Lord! Where is the spirituality? Lord Jesus? Lord Salisbury? A sofa in a westend club. But the Greek!
I love this. It's the perfect subtle satire.

Favorite character: 

I very much sympathized with Stephen when he thinks "Dublin. I have much, much to learn.", mostly because I felt the same. But my favorite character in this section was Leopold. I enjoy his perspective, find it much easier to follow and he's so aww-worthy when he thinks of Molly. It was very interesting to see the difference in the way Stephen and Bloom are treated at the newspaper HQ. They belong to different worlds. 

Episode VIII: Lestrygonians 

This is my favorite section so far and it also contains my favorite line from Ulysses (I very much doubt anything will be able to surpass it). I feel the need to talk about why this section touched me. So in this section we get Leopold's stream of consciousness as he leaves the newspaper quarters, strolls through Dublin, goes to lunch and then ends up at the library. As he does so, he is constantly thinking of Molly. He knows that Blazes Boylan, her manager, will visit her during the day and he suspects she is/will be cheating on him with Boylan. His thoughts constantly return to that through the narrative and every time he decides there is nothing he can do; he cannot stop this. And every time these thoughts are mixed with his own desire for Molly. Watch their succession:
Useless to go back. Had to be. Tell me all. (...) A warm human plumpness settled down on his brain. His brain yielded. Perfume of embraces all him assailed. With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore.
I remember reading that Joyce worked a lot on that last sentence to make it perfect. I don't even find it good. But this is the first hint, an anticipation of much more powerful paragraphs to follow. Here's the next one, with Bloom eating and someone asking him about his wife's career.
Isn’t Blazes Boylan mixed up in it?

A warm shock of air heat of mustard hanched on Mr Bloom’s heart. He raised his eyes and met the stare of a bilious clock. Two. Pub clock five minutes fast. Time going on. Hands moving. Two. Not yet.

His midriff yearned then upward, sank within him, yearned more longly, longingly.
"A warm shock of air heat of mustard hanched on Mr Bloom's heart." That to me says more than all the mute obscure craves. And then comes the high point of this, my favorite passage from this book. Bloom is eating, contemplating exotic foods and then this happens:
Stuck on the pane two flies buzzed, stuck.

Glowing wine on his palate lingered swallowed. Crushing in the winepress grapes of Burgundy. Sun’s heat it is. Seems to a secret touch telling me memory. Touched his sense moistened remembered. Hidden under wild ferns on Howth below us bay sleeping: sky. No sound. The sky. The bay purple by the Lion’s head. Green by Drumleck. Yellowgreen towards Sutton. Fields of undersea, the lines faint brown in grass, buried cities. Pillowed on my coat she had her hair, earwigs in the heather scrub my hand under her nape, you’ll toss me all. O wonder! Coolsoft with ointments her hand touched me, caressed: her eyes upon me did not turn away. Ravished over her I lay, full lips full open, kissed her mouth. Yum. Softly she gave me in my mouth the seedcake warm and chewed. Mawkish pulp her mouth had mumbled sweetsour of her spittle. Joy: I ate it: joy. Young life, her lips that gave me pouting. Soft warm sticky gumjelly lips. Flowers her eyes were, take me, willing eyes. Pebbles fell. She lay still. A goat. No-one. High on Ben Howth rhododendrons a nannygoat walking surefooted, dropping currants. Screened under ferns she laughed warmfolded. Wildly I lay on her, kissed her: eyes, her lips, her stretched neck beating, woman’s breasts full in her blouse of nun’s veiling, fat nipples upright. Hot I tongued her. She kissed me. I was kissed. All yielding she tossed my hair. Kissed, she kissed me.

Me. And me now.

Stuck, the flies buzzed.
I don't even know where to start with this. With the Proustian episode of memory-inducing wine, caught so beautifully in one sentence: "Touched his sense moistened remembered"? With the lovemaking scene at Howth Head, which is the same scene that Molly remembers at the end, in her famous soliloquy? With how episode is framed by those damn flies, which make me feel SO sorry for Leopold? Or with the perfect line, "Me. And me now"? (Who hasn't felt like that at times?) This is why I said that Joyce can keep together gross details, dirty humor, sex while writing about as deep a feeling as any other writer. I felt this passage like a punch.

Episode IX: Scylla and Charybdis

This was another one of those episodes that I remembered were horribly HARD to follow the first time I read the book and that provided me with a pleasant surprise this time around. This is turning into an experience that's all about me and my progress as a reader. (Yay for narcissism!) I know a lot more stuff than I did the first time I tackled this book, and part of that stuff I know because of this book. So I didn't get completely lost during Stephen's conversation about Shakespeare. (Which is not to say I didn't still need the notes.) I'm still trying to figure out the importance of this conversation for the novel as a whole. I suppose it contributes to the larger father theme, but I confess that this theme never actually clicked into place for me, not entirely. Also, bah, is there anyone who would actually pick Aristotle over Plato? Stephen, you suck.

Favorite quotes:

This was the chapter for favorite one-liners:

"He laughed to free his mind from his mind's bondage."

"A father is a necessary evil."

"A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella."

And also, this:
Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.

Stuff to follow up on: 
  • Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis (having gone through a Hamlet obsession really helped with this chapter. I suppose it would have been better if I had read this as well. And a bunch of other stuff, but I doubt I'll actually read everything that's mentioned here, so this will have to do.)
  • Mallarmé, Hamlet et Fortinbras, Hamlet ou le distrait
  • Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, I love this guy's Contes Cruels, and maybe it's time to give his plays a try at all.
  • Goether, Wilhelm Meister
  • Maeterlinck, La sagesse et la destinée. Because OMG, he says this and I want to read more: "If Socrates leave his house today he will find the sage seated on his doorstep. If Judas go forth tonight it is to Judas his steps will tend."
  • Oscar Wilde, Intentions
Episode X: The Wandering Rocks 

I got a little distracted by some other books and stopped reading Ulysses for a couple of days. (It is a constant problem with me. It will say on my tombstone, "Here lies Claudia. She would have been a great [insert awesome profession here] and [insert personal relationship here], but she got distracted".) Anyway, this episode was like a puzzle waiting to be pieced together. It was, like Aeolus, an episode that I imagined as a movie sequence, with close-ups of a bunch of characters whose trajectories intersect in the end. Not my favorite thing to read, but interesting, I guess.

Favorite quote: 
Shakespeare is the happy hunting ground of all minds that have lost their balance.

So yes, this is said against Stephen and his theories about Shakespeare from the previous episode. It is, however, a great line :)

Favorite character: 

Stephen's sister, Dilly. After their mother's death, Stephen's sisters had to make ends meet on their own. Their father is helpless and Stephen, for all his whining about conscience, is above helping them. It might interfere with his navel-gazing, you see. Despite this, we get a glimpse at Dilly wanting to learn things, using some of the (little) money her father gave her to buy a French primer. Stephen got an education and left home. In this chapter a priest intervenes so that Dignam's son can get a free education. It just highlights the difference in opportunities between girls and boys and makes me want to give Dilly a hug.

Episode XI: Sirens 

Joyce starts to play with language here. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this chapter. It was one of those times when I got what's happening and why, but I was not convinced by it. Take for example, the beginning, the two pages of random quotes from the chapter that's to follow. It works on two levels. First, within the music theme that's heavy in this chapter. It's like you're listening to the first motifs in a symphony (or perhaps just to the warm up?). Secondly, it's like a parody of those novels that have mottos at the beginning of each chapter (I'm looking at you, George Eliot). You can't possibly get those mottos without returning to them after you've read the chapter. In the same way, you can't get the first two pages of this chapter without having read it in its entirety. It's smart. And the language games are pretty. At the same time, meh.

Episode XII: Cyclops 

I loved this episode. Joyce excels at portraying the mixture between narrow-mindedness, bigotry and chauvinism that is nationalism. The people assembled at the bar, but especially the Citizen, are the Cyclops. They are one-eyed in that they can't see beyond their biased worldview. And that worldview includes: glorification of their own country (here, Ireland), demonizing other countries (here, England), mistrust of foreigners, xenophobia, racism (catch the moment where they read of a lynching in America and rejoice), ignorance and general paranoia. And all this for a myth built by the 19th century through texts much like the ones Joyce imitates here. Nations are an illusion, but the only person who sees that here is Bloom. Bloom, who is the voice of reason throughout (or perhaps not reason, but just empathy and basic human decency) and finally stands up for himself at the end, when the underlying hatred of the group turns to real violence.

At the beginning of this chapter I was wondering if it wasn't too much to ask of a reader to follow all the references to Irish history and to topics that would have been the fodder of newspapers in 1904. It's probably still an issue, but I no longer think of that. Because this slightly surreal conversation right here, with its ignorant pride and bigotry? I know it. I've seen it play out, except that the names of the countries involved and the minorities demonized were different. Well done, Joyce, I'll remember this episode when you foist more unreadable stuff on me.

Favorite quotes: 
–Persecution, says he, all the history of the world is full of it. Perpetuating national hatred among nations.
–But do you know what a nation means? says John Wyse.
–Yes, says Bloom.
–What is it? says John Wyse.
–A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living in the same place.
–By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation for I’m living in the same place for the past five years.
After what I said above, it stands to reason that I'd like this fragment. It continues with Bloom claiming he's Irish because he was born in Ireland and the Citizen spitting to the side in reply. And that's the problem. It's not only that nations are an illusion, but they are not even a helpful one. They are an illusion that allows people to persecute other people. I'm not surprised that this book was written during World War I.

Continued here.

Bloomsday, Spanish Lovers and Christopher Hitchens

In honor of Bloomsday, I will share a funny story about Ulysses. This is something that happened to me in real life. Some time ago I happened to take an English Literature course. I was an exchange student in a non-English-speaking country, needed some extra credit and this was one of the few English-taught courses available. So I took it and had the time of my life rediscovering my love for literature. Truth be told, I would have been thrilled just to discuss my favorite writers with someone, anyone (Bueller?), but the fact that the professor was adorable didn't hurt at all. He was this old feminist guy with the loveliest of British accents (he wasn't British) and I was in awe of him up to the very end of that course. 

One of the last classes was on Ulysses. The Adorable Prof started by reading aloud the first chapter and singing "Introibo ad altare Dei" (as an aside, I can't read that phrase anymore without singing it to myself). He ended the class by reading from the last chapter. Considering his feminism, I suspect he didn't want to shy away from giving us the female perspective after he had interpreted Stephen and Mulligan, so he went all out with Molly's soliloquy. Which meant that (a) he tried to change his voice to sound like a woman and (b) he mimicked that orgasm right along with Molly. (a) was a cringe-worthy failure, (b) was a hilarious cringe-worthy failure. Our class ended with Adorable Prof™ shouting "YES, I WILL, YESSS!!". If you think you've never experienced mocking so far in your life, try being an old man faking a female orgasm in front of a class of undergrads. It was not pretty.

He could just show us this. Molly's soliloquy as a stichgasm. Source..

But then something else happened, which added to both the failure and the hilarity of the entire situation. The Adorable Prof explained what he thought was reading. He said that the book ends with Molly, the unfaithful wife, fantasizing about her Spanish lover. (He even extolled the talents of Spanish men in this respect, but the less said about that, the better.) Now, as far as I remembered, the whole point of it was that Molly, unfaithful though she is, thinks back at the moment her (future) husband proposed to her and they had sex for the first time. (A moment Leopold himself remembers earlier in the book.) 

I fretted a lot whether to tell the Adorable Prof™ that he was wrong, that Molly was thinking of Leopold at the end, not of a Latino lover. But how can you tell your prof, as an undergrad, "I read Ulysses and you are wrong!" without sounding über-snotty? Hint: you can't. (I suspect I sound snotty even writing this. Don't tell me if I'm right, illusions are all I have.) So I just kept quiet and wondered how this awesome person missed something I thought was very important in the book. It was a weird mistake.

I was reminded of this mistake recently, by reading an article of Christopher Hitchens': Joyce in Bloom. It is a nice and definitely entertaining piece. But, throughout it, Hitchens stresses Joyce's "infantilism and arrested development," as exhibited in the dirty jokes that abound in Ulysses. As exhibited in the reason Joyce chose June 16, 1904 to set his book. You see, we think it was Joyce's first proper date with Nora, his future wife. But in thinking that we ignore Joyce's dirty mind. Hitch does not and highlights the 'real' reason for Joyce's choice: "A century later, the literary world will celebrate the hundredth 'Bloomsday,' in honor of the very first time the great James Joyce received a handjob from a woman who was not a prostitute." [i.e. from Nora]

Joyce in his university days. Yeah, I can see the dirty mind vibe. Source: My Daguerreotype Boyfriend

Why did this catch my attention and what does it have to do with the Adorable Prof™ and his gaffe? I think Hitchens' idea about Bloomsday and the prof's idea about the last part of Molly's soliloquy come from the same place. And that place is called "ignoring that sex and mush sentimental value can co-exist and that they in fact do for Joyce." See, we are not celebrating a handjob on Bloomsday any more than we are celebrating Joyce's first date with a woman he loved. And Molly's soliloquy is an exploration of feelings just as much as it is an exploration of female sexuality. Which is why she doesn't need to think of a Spanish lover at the very end. Which is why the ending is bittersweet, if we consider Leopold and Molly's relationship as depicted in the rest of the book. 

And to me that is why Joyce rocks. Because he showed us that deep feelings and ideas can, and do, co-exist with sex and sexual images (and with other normal functions of the human body too). What's striking about Ulysses is that it shows how putting these things together doesn't take away from their value and function on their own. Dirty jokes can still be dirty. Touching feelings can still touch us. 

And with this bit of pontification, I'm off to read the book. If you want, you can keep up with my progress here :)

Reading for Bloomsday

Bloomsday is here and I'm up at an ungodly hour to start reading. (YMMV as to what "ungodly" means.) I will be reading Ulysses throughout the day, tweeting lines of the book as I go for the Tweeting Ulysses event and checking in with the people in the Bloomsday Readalong hosted by o from Délaissé.

This post will be updated with my progress as I go. I haven't decided yet if I'm aiming to finish the whole book today. I've already read Ulysses once, so, on one hand, I could push myself to reread it in its entirety in one day. On the other hand, I also feel like taking a detour to explore some of Joyce's references, particularly the literary ones. So I might stop to read some Yeats along the way, or I could just make a list of all the references and keep it as reading material for next week. We'll see.

Check back here for my progress in a couple of hours. And now... here we go.  Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead....

Episode I: Telemachus

This flew by easier than I expected. I remember the effort it took me to follow the dialogue the first time around. It's like you're dropped in the middle of a real life conversation that you have to do your best to follow. Even though I had read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and was familiar with some of the historical background, my best was not good enough and I spent a lot of time going "Huh? WHAT are they talking about now?" I also remember reading the word "Chrysostomos," looking it up and thinking that if I'm supposed to get all that just from a character opening his mouth, then I'm screwed. This time, though, I felt I was on top of it and that I could actually follow what everyone was saying and why they were saying it. I said hello to Chrysostomos, my old buddy. It was a good start and it's making me feel hopeful about the rest. :)

Favorite quote: 
Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coat-sleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.
I love how the undercurrent of Stephen's grief and guilt over his mother's death comes to the surface here. Joyce has this way of succinctly describing emotions that gives me the shivers. "Pain, that was not yet the pain of love" might be the best description of the mix of feelings after someone one's death I've ever read.

Favorite character: 

Buck Mulligan. I can't help it. I just sympathize with Mercutio-like characters. (And isn't Mulligan more Mercutio to Stephen's Romeo than he is a fake-Horatio to Stephen's Hamlet, as people describe him?) I know he's vulgar, I know he's irreverent and I know he treats Stephen badly. I get why he's in the story. But, at the same time, The Ballad of Joking Jesus is funny. And I like people that don't take themselves seriously. I wouldn't mind reading more of Buck Mulligan.

Stuff to follow up on:

I want to read some of the things that were referenced here. (I'm reading an annotated edition, and I try  to keep up with the notes as well, though I constantly forget to check them as I fool myself that I get what's happening I read ahead. Oh well.) Since making plans for what to read next is my favorite activity (much surpassing reading itself), here's my list:

  • Swinburne, The Triumph of Time (I love how they constantly call him Algy.) 
  • Yeats, Cathleen ni Houlihan
  • Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism & Culture and Anarchy (I've decided I'm going to try to read these for A Victorian Celebration.)

Episode II: Nestor 

Stephen teaching a history class. Some images that I loved (A pier is a disappointed bridge? That's actually quite brilliant, no matter what Mulligan would say.) This wasn't particularly hard to follow, even though Stephen started musing about history and the possible and Aristotle and all that jazz. (I wish I could say that, as a Philosophy major, I knew what he was talking about. But...yeah.) Still feeling good about myself, though.

Favorite quote: 
Like him was I, these sloping shoulders, this gracelessness. My childhood bends beside me. Too far for me to lay a hand there once or lightly. Mine is far and his secret as our eyes. Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants, willing to be dethroned.
Another example of Joyce capturing emotions in a striking way. Stephen is tutoring an ugly boy and thinking of how someone (i.e. his mother) must love the boy even though he's so ugly. From there he starts thinking about his own childhood. Do you see a pattern here? Most of my favorite passages from Ulysses are like this - easy to understand and easy to relate to (bonus if they make me think of my childhood).

Favorite character: 

After confessing my appreciation for Buck Mulligan, you thought I'd say I liked the old anti-Semitic misogynistic teacher, didn't you? No, I like Stephen here. What was interesting was that all the people so far are immersed in culture in one way or another. They can spout endless quotes. Parts of their conversation are just citing Shakespeare/various Irish poets. But at the same time, it's clear that not all of them are the real thing. Mr. Deasy (the guy who hates Jews and women) quotes Iago to bolster his point, because it's Shakespeare, you know? It makes one like Stephen, who at least knows what he's talking/dreaming about.

Stuff to follow up on: 
  • Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgment & The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
  • Milton, Lycidas

Episode III: Proteus 

Ah, there it is. The feeling that the book moves faster than your mind. I actually have a theory about what's happening here, and in Modernism in general. (Yes, that's one snotty sentence.) In this chapter Stephen keeps repeating two German words: "Nacheinander" (one after another) and "Nebeneinander" (side by side). The ever-helpful notes told me that these terms were used by Lessing to distinguish between things you can present in writing and things you can present in the visual arts. The subject of poetry (and, generally, written stuff) is always a sequence of events, one after another, while the subject of a painting is a conglomerate of objects that are there at the same time, side by side, and you, as a viewer, can take your time in noticing them.

Reading this explanation, I thought it fit Joyce unexpectedly well. To me it looks like what Joyce is doing here is precisely putting things side by side. Instead of getting the normal sequence of events, you get an image of everything the characters remember about their lives and about history. Everything they ever learned or lived is there simultaneously, mixed with the present. This is not a narrative in the traditional sense, this is more like a painting. It's an effort to say everything at once. And that's also why one can't take it all in immediately.

Don't mind my rambling, it was something I was struggling to put into words about Faulkner and why his sentences are so long, so I'm happy that I found these terms to describe it :)

Favorite quote: 
Before him the gunwale of a boat, sunk in sand. UN COCHE ENSABLE Louis Veuillot called Gautier’s prose. These heavy sands are language tide and wind have silted here. 
This section was so full of references and associations triggered by words. And then this, that works so well as a description for it. I have a huge soft spot for Modernism and for its troubled relationship with the cultural baggage it inherited.

Stuff to follow up on:
  • okay, this might be insanity, but I want to read Lessing's Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry. It might not say what I thought it said, and my off-the-cuff theory about Modernism might not stand, but it's worth a shot. 
  • Ibsen, Brand

Episode IV: Calypso

We get to meet Leopold and Molly Bloom. They're normal people, so seeing the world through their eyes is not as challenging as seeing the world through the eyes of Stephen, who can't go two minutes without thinking of Aristotle. At my first reading, I actually had more trouble following Leopold's thoughts, though. The problem is that, unlike with Stephen's snobbish references, there is no way you can trace all the biographical elements here without reading the book to its end and piecing it all together. At least this time around I knew Molly was born in Gibraltar, so Leopold randomly thinking of that place didn't throw me off. Oh yes, and Joyce following Leopold to the toilet still amuses me.

Favorite quote:
Grey horror seared his flesh. Folding the page into his pocket he turned into Eccles street, hurrying homeward. Cold oils slid along his veins, chilling his blood: age crusting him with a salt cloak. Well, I am here now. Yes, I am here now. Morning mouth bad images. Got up wrong side of the bed. Must begin again those Sandow’s exercises. On the hands down. Blotchy brown brick houses. Number eighty still unlet. Why is that? Valuation is only twenty-eight. Towers, Battersby, North, MacArthur: parlour windows plastered with bills. Plasters on a sore eye. To smell the gentle smoke of tea, fume of the pan, sizzling butter. Be near her ample bedwarmed flesh. Yes, yes.

I like this because of the last sentences, but I had to include it all because the last sentences didn't make sense without the rest. And what I like about those last sentences is how neatly they mirror the last sentences of the book, from Molly's soliloquy.

Favorite character: 

None. I feel a sort of pity and tenderness towards both Leopold and Molly, but I don't really like Molly so far, and seeing women through the eyes of Leopold got jarring pretty fast. He's a bit of a creep.

Episode V: Lotus-Eaters 

Not much to say about this one. I enjoyed it to a surprising degree and it flew by. I suppose I could talk about Leopold's pen mistress or about his funny comments about the church, but the truth is that I just want to keep reading and see how far this enthusiasm for the stream of consciousness technique carries me :)

Stuff to follow up on: 

I want to read something about Maud Gonne. I had no idea who she was before reading the notes, but she sounds like a pretty interesting person. She wrote an autobiography (The Autobiography of Maud Gonne: A Servant of the Queen), but I'm not sure I'd enjoy it.

Episode VI: Hades

I enjoyed this episode much like I did the one before it. I think this sort of technique, registering all the associations Bloom makes in a very succinct manner, is the one I like best. Bloom goes to a funeral, his way intersects with Stephen's for the first time and we get to meet the mysterious Man in the Macintosh! I confess I didn't give this guy a second thought the first time I read Ulysses. There was A LOT of mysterious stuff going on in this book, so I couldn't really tell which parts were really mysterious and which parts were just me being dumb. (The jury is still out on that one.)  Then I read Nabokov's lectures on Ulysses and he was all about the Man in the Macintosh and how this character appears throughout Ulysses and no one knows who he is. Nabokov's theory was that the Man in the Macintosh was Joyce himself pulling a cameo à la Hitchcock. I like the theory that Joyce just wanted to screw with us and our expectations :)

Favorite quote: 
Condole with her. Your terrible loss. I hope you’ll soon follow him. For Hindu widows only. She would marry another. Him? No. Yet who knows after. Widowhood not the thing since the old queen died. Drawn on a guncarriage. Victoria and Albert. Frogmore memorial mourning. But in the end she put a few violets in her bonnet. Vain in her heart of hearts. All for a shadow. Consort not even a king. Her son was the substance. Something new to hope for not like the past she wanted back, waiting. It never comes. One must go first: alone, under the ground: and lie no more in her warm bed.
Leopold musing about Queen Victoria. On one hand condemning her for her mourning, on the other condemning her for vanity. She can't win. It also amused me how terrible he is when he thinks of stuff with which to console Dingnam's widow. "I hope you’ll soon follow him. For Hindu widows only." (I sort of imagine this as a piece of dialogue in Seinfeld :)

Time for a break. I'm getting tired. Continued here.

Book Crush of the Week: Things We Say Today Which We Owe to Shakespeare

No author will probably ever match the sweeping influence of William Shakespeare in shaping the English language. We're always in awe of the many, many expressions he coined. There are too many to properly list here, although this awesome graphic does a job good of summing up some of the most famous, which is why it's our Book Crush of the Week:

Image via

Love it! What Shakespearean expressions do you use regularly? Mine are "full circle," "laughing stock," and "so-so."

Ten Books We'd Recommend as Good Beach Reads

School and work were brutal last week, so we ended up disappearing from the blog altogether. This week we're back with some Victorians (Eliot and Wilde) and ULYSSES! at the end (sorry, figured Bloomsday deserved ALL CAPS and needless exclamation marks. We've been waiting for it for some time now). But before we get to that, we thought it would be fun to get back into the swing of things with a Top Ten Tuesday list - so here are some books we'd recommend as good beach reads. They're mostly classics and some of them are tomes, but all of them are good.

Emma - The most lighthearted of Jane Austen's novels, Emma is a great beach read. Throw in an effervescent heroine (she's seriously so adorable and misguided), a charming plot brimming with fun twists, a handsome if misunderstood hero (it is Austen, after all), and some dazzling dialogue, and what more could you want from a book on a warm summer's day?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -  Clever and laugh-out-loud funny, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a double-edged advantage over the other books we picked: it has a rambling plot. So, even though you will be entertained by it while reading and will always return to it with a smile, you also won't have too much of a difficulty to put it down and go for a quick swim.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Yes, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tackles some dark themes, but it tackles them as only a Tennessee Wiliams play can--with a captivating, colorful set of characters sure to keep you turning the pages as their eccentricities and secrets unfold. Williams, no matter the subject matter, strikes a deft touch between melodrama and comedy. And he also keeps his drama, well, plain old hot with lots of intrigue and sexual energy. Also a bonus? Cat on the Hot Tin Roof is a quick read, perfect for a lazy day at the beach when you're as much reading as soaking up the sunshine. 

Le Grand Meaulnes - A French book that John Fowles called the greatest novel of adolescence in European literature, Le Grand Meaulnes has almost everything you could want from a summer read: a Peter Pan-like character, humor, romance, nostalgia and a very dreamlike quality to it. We discovered it by accident one summer and were charmed by it, so we heartily recommend it. You can find it translated in English both under this title or, sometimes, as The Lost Estate.

A Room with a View - Nicely written, quick to read and the most optimistic of Forster's novels, A Room with a View is a good choice for a summer day's read. You'll get your dose of Important Problems but without the bleak outlook that usually accompanies them in books.

Gone with the Wind - Sure, Gone with the Wind is a sprawling, 1000+ page epic and chances are you aren't going to finish it over the course of a leisurely day at the beach (or two-week vacation for that matter), but we can promise you'll be glad you packed it in your beach bag. Part bodice-ripper, part historical drama, Gone with the Wind offers two of the most compelling characters in romantic fiction: narcissistic, steely Scarlett O'Hara and dashing rogue Rhett Butler. Put them together and you're in for a quite an adventure. Just don't blame us if you end up getting sunburned from staying out in the sun too long trying to cram it all into one sitting.  

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - A bonafide American classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn offers much as a beach read. It's Mark Twain, so you know you're bound for a delightful mixture of satire and adventure, along with a host of outrageous characters thrown into the mix. Plus, we feel the need to point out the obvious: while Huck Finn gets into plenty of scrapes along the way, he spends a significant amount of time chilling on a raft in the Mississippi River. Now, doesn't that sounds like perfect reading material for the beach?

L'Écume des Jours - We know what you're thinking, another French book? But hear us out. L'Écume des Jours is all of these things: whimsical, bittersweet, surreal and wonderfully written. And on top of that it contains the ultimate fictional wishlist item: a cocktail-making piano or pianocktail. Who wouldn't want that? You can't miss out on this book. It's witty and entertaining enough to make for a good beach read, but it's the type of book that will stay with you long after you're done.You can find L'Écume des Jours translated in English as Froth of the Daydream (the British edition) or Foam of the Daze (the newer, American edition).

The Great Gatsby - Besides being an American classic that happens to take place in summer, The Great Gatsby is also that rare book that's at the same time wonderfully written, good food for thought and a reasonably quick read. You can't beat this combination. The Great Gatsby is one of those books we feel like revisiting every summer.

The Stories of Ray Bradbury - A collection of short stories sounds like a good idea for the beach. You read one, take a nap, read another, go for a swim and so it goes. Except that these stories are very addictive so you might end up glued to your towel reading the next and the next... But they're worth it.

The Poetry Appreciation Chat: One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

Today we are starting a new series here at the blog. We are not great poetry readers, so we thought to remedy that by turning poetry reading into a conversation, quite literally. How does that work? Each week, we'll pick a poem, read it and then discuss it live on chat. [enter remark about how chat and poetry are really very similar, given that they both rely on a succession of short lines and reveal more about you than you intended them to.] We'll post the poem and the resulting conversation here, and you're welcome to join our discussion in the comments. Hopefully, this will motivate us to read more poetry and get the hang of it in the end.

As fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will have noticed, the title of this series was inspired by a torture device in that book, called the Poetry Appreciation Chair. So do we think poetry is a form of torture? Well, we very much hope it won't be! Here's our very first poem, selected by Alexis, who's read it before (Claudia had not heard of it). You can read it and our thoughts below:

Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I was supposed to write another footnote for Where Angels Fear to Tread. But then I also wanted to review Wolf Hall before I forgot everything I had to say about it, and before A Victorian Celebration takes off for real next week. Wolf Hall won, so you get this lengthy review today. 

Reading Expectations & Reality

Let me begin by saying that, before starting to read, I wanted both to love this book and to hate it. I wanted to love it because I had heard good stuff about it from people I like and because "hello, new favorite!" is pretty much my favorite thing to say.  I wanted to hate it because I had heard bad stuff about it from other people I like - Alexis among them - and because part of me always longs to say, "I knew this book couldn't be that good!" about popular books of the day. (Yes, now that you ask, my personality is best described as a cross between squeeing fangirl and crotchety old lady.)

Convoluted reading aspirations aside, I had mixed feelings about Wolf Hall up to the very end. This book centered on a period I like (because I have an interest in pre-18th century stuff), but don't know that much about (because my interest fades the closer you get to the 1500s). Still, what I knew made it a little hard for me to suspend disbelief in the first half of the book. I kept thinking that something is not right about the way they speak, that some phrases are too modern. It wasn't anything obvious, more an undercurrent, the hint that Mantel's dialogue and the language I knew from the texts were informed by different sensibilities. I had the constant urge to run things through Google Books and see if they were really used like that in that period (not that it would have helped much, since the written and spoken usages could well be different). 

Vintage Illustrations of Jane Austen's Persuasion

What's a footnote?
Do you know what we love? Books is a good answer. Old books is an even better answer. Old books with pretty illustrations the best answer (or at least, the best answer considering we don't want to be here all night). So I was pretty excited to come across a 1898 edition of Persuasion containing some lovely illustrations by C.E. Brock (who was apparently a well-known Victorian illustrator; thank you, Google, for that piece of information!).

You can see all six of these vintage illustrations below, together with their context in the book. Our favorite thing about illustrations is seeing how the artist envisioned the characters and how closely his sketches match the pictures we had in our minds. It is also the main reason some people dislike illustrations *cough* Charles Lamb *cough*. What do you make of Brock's depictions though? We have to admit, we're not quite sold on his Captain Wentworth, but what do you think of Anne and the other characters?