Friday, 30 January 2015

Tuesday, 27 January 2015, PART B, Pages 235 - 236, Scylla and Charybdis, Episode 9

We read as far as "... on this side idolatry." (Gabler 9.45) (Penguin, 236.22)

After enjoying an easy episode characterized by Bloom's wanderings and musings, we have started an episode that is - to put it mildly - anything but easy to follow. As Bloom dominated that previous episode, Stephen is the person who is the major character here. Food was the staple factor there, literature here.

Gifford's introduction (page 192) to the episode in his 'Ulysses annotated' does offer some help in connecting Joyce's Ulysses with that of Homer. The essay on this episode by The Modernism Lab at Yale is a great help in understanding the episode. It is highly recommended. Read it here!

A shortened version of Gifford's introduction: 
When Odysseus and his men return from the Land of the Dead to Circe's isle, Circe gives Odysseus 'sailing directions', telling him about the Sirens and offers him a choice of routes: one by way of the Wandering Rocks and the other by way of the passage between Scylla and Charybdis. The latter route, which Odysseus chooses, offers a second choice: the ship that sails the side of the channel overlooked by the six-headed monster Scylla, that lives on 'a sharp mountain peak', does so at the sacrifice of 'one man for every gullet'. The ship that chooses the other side of the channel risks being totally engulfed by the 'whirling / maelstrom' of Charybdis.

Source: url
Let us try to remember the above story when we confront Scylla and Charybdis in this episode! Confront them, we will!

Source: File:National_Library_of_Ireland_2011.JPG
This episode takes place in the National Library of Dublin. On the first two pages of the episode we meet the Librarian, Stephen and John Eglinton. They are talking about, expressing their opinions of, the literary giants of yesteryears: Goethe, Shakespeare, Dante, Aristotle, Plato, Milton, Blake, Yeats, Ben Johnson, Synge.  They allude to thoughts, symbols and scenes from Paradise Lost, Inferno and Hamlet.

The quaker librarian does not just walk. He comes a step a sinkapace (a five-stepped dance) and he corantoes (a running dance) off!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015, PART A, Pages 230 - 234, Lestrygonians, Episode 8

Today we completed episode 8, and started on episode 9. Therefore this post will be in two parts: PART A deals with the last pages of episode 8. PART B will introduce the beginning pages of episode 9.

Mr. Bloom has had lunch at Davy Byrne's and is walking down Duke Street. (Click here for the route of Bloom's wanderings.) He sees an young, blind man. Bloom, the ever sympathetic man, wants to help him, and asks him, "Do you want to cross?.... You're in Dawson street,...Molesworth street is opposite."

He touched the young man's elbow gently, then took the limp seeing hand to guide it forward. (The cane that the blind person carries in his hand makes his hand a seeing hand.) Wanting to start a conversation but not wanting to seem to be condescending, Bloom makes a remark about the weather, but gets no response. Bloom feels sorry for the young man, and wonders how on earth he knows where anything is. Queer idea of Dublin he must have, tapping his way round by the stones.  Bloom admires that the blind people learn to do so many things like read with their fingers, tune pianos. He wonders about their sense of touch, smell,... asking himself how the blind know that black hair is black, white skin is white. To test his own senses, Bloom touches his hair, skin of his right cheek, and his belly. Naturally he knows that sliding his hand between his waistcoat and trousers to feel his belly must seem strange to the passersby, and hopes that they think, "might be settling my braces."

Though the young man has by now moved on to Frederick street, Bloom continues to think of him. Terrible. Really terrible. What dreams would he have, not seeing... Where is the justice being born that way. That thought reminds Bloom the news of the tragedy he had read that day. (The Freeman's Journal, 16 June 1904, carried the story on page 5: "Appalling American Disaster... Five hundred persons, mostly children, perished today by the burning of the steamer General Slocum, near Hell Gate, on the East River.... Gifford, 8.1146-47). Where is justice in such things? Karma? The thought of Karma brings back to his mind Molly asking him that morning the meaning of the word metempsychosis, a word she pronounced as met him pike hoses.

Molly and Boylan occupy Bloom's thoughts. He does try to banish these thoughts, often without much success.

Seeing Sir Frederick Falconer going into the freemason's hall (on Molesworth street), Bloom tries to imagine what judges speak of when they meet. Then he sees a poster announcing the opening of a bazaar, Mirus bazaar, to raise funds for Mercer's hospital. He remembers that Handel's The Messiah was first performed in Dublin as a benefit concert, also to raise funds for the same hospital.

Oh yes, before Bloom had taken the elbow of the young stripling to help him cross the road, he had passed Drago's ( a Parisian perfumer and hairdresser) on Dawson street, and recalls seeing his (Boylan's; though haunted whole day by memories of Boylan, Bloom does not name him on these pages) brilliantined hair that morning. He sees Boylan once again, as he (Bloom) reaches Kildare street. He actually wants go to the National Library, which is to his left, to check up he design for the advertisement. But as he catches the sight of the straw hat, tan shoes, and turnedup trousers, Bloom gets very flustered, very agitated. He turns therefore to the right, and go to the National Museum instead. Bloom does not want to be seen by Boylan. Feigning as if he is preoccupied, Bloom fumbles in his pocket, and takes out the brochure of Agendath Netaim (see episode 4), handkerchief, a copy of the Freeman, a potato, his purse, and then finally  the soap he had bought earlier.  Even in such a state, (breath coming in short sighs, heart racing,) he notices and appreciates the cream curves of the stone of the National Museum, whose architect, he thinks to be Sir Thomas Deane. By the time his hand find the soap in his pocket, Bloom reaches the gates of the museum.

He is Safe!

Thus we come to the end of the episode in which there are multiple references to food. In between feelings of hunger, passing many eating places, having lunch, Bloom is assailed by thoughts of Molly and Boylan. The episode also underscores various facets of Bloom - as a caring, empathetic person, as a person who always seeks for explanations to his questions, as a person who is an outsider in Dublin's society. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Tuesday, 20 January 2015, Pages 221 - 230, Lestrygonians, Episode 8

We read as far as "Will eat anything." (Gabler 8.1068) Penguin (230.12)

(By the way, unless otherwise mentioned, the page numbers mentioned refer to the 1992 Penguin edition.)

Last week we had left Mr. Bloom having his lunch in Davy Byrne's.

(Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

He ate his strips of sandwich, fresh clean bread, with relish of disgust pungent mustard, the ferry savor of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate. Nosey Flynn is also there, sipping his grog, and wondering loudly about which horse to bet on in that day's Gold Cup Race. Davy Byrne cannot help, saying, "I'm off that." Bloom decides not to say anything too because he is afraid Flynn will lose more (by betting on a horse.)

Bloom realizes that the wine tasted better as he was not thirsty. Perhaps he can (go home?) at about six o'clock. Time will be gone then. (What he no doubt means is that the visit will be over by six o'clock.) His eyes unhungrily saw shelves of tins of seafood. Bloom then muses over the various kinds of odd things people pick up for food. Of how the animals are picked, treated, cooked, the kind of food rich people eat,... Thinking of Oysters, for example, he recalls seeing that morning, on the way to the Dignam's funeral, Boylan in front of the Red Bank (a seafood restaurant). 

Stuck on the pane two flies buzzed, stuck. Their buzzing reminds Bloom of the time he had spent on the Howth with Molly, how the bay looked, how she passed on a piece of seedcake from her mouth to his, how her eyes were like flowers, take me, willing eyes, how he kissed her, how she kissed him,.. He thinks, she kissed me. Me. And me now. (Here Bloom is thinking of one of the nicest moments of his life. She had kissed him. Him. Now he is knows that Boylan will be visiting Molly that afternoon, and so has kept out of the house.)

His downcast eyes followed the silent veining of the oaken slab. At the counter of Davy Byrne's bar. These veins in the wood make him think of curves, of lovely forms of women, of sculptures. The next question that arises in his mind is whether these lovely sculptures have ...? Because we stuffing food in one hole and out behind. They have no. (that anatomical feature Bloom is curious of, is not mentioned.) Bloom, who has never looked whether or not they have any.., decides to go to the National Library to investigate the sculptures. (The National Library houses many such sculptures). He would bend down as if he is retrieving something he dropped, so that the keeper won't see what he is up to!

Bloom has to go out of the bar quickly. In his absence Nosey Flynn and Davy Byrne discuss about him, coming finally to the conclusion that He's not too bad. By then new customers walk in- Paddy Leonard, Bantam Lyons and Tom Rockford. (Bloom had passed on his paper that morning to Bantam Lyons saying that he was about to throwaway the paper anyway.) 

Mr Bloom walked towards Dawson street. Wandering, wondering about many things. For instance, for some reason not apparent, he thinks of the final aria of Don Giovanni. He dreams about how much money he could make if he gets ads from Keyes, Prescott's,... What all could he do with that money? Could buy one of those silk petticoats for Molly, tour the south,... At the same time, he is trying not to think. Of what is to happen today

He sees a loafer outside the pub, John Long's.  And the notice that says, "Handy man wants job. Small wages. Will eat anything.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Tuesday, 13 January 2015, Pages 213 - 221, Lestrygonians, Episode 8

We have read until: – Ay, he said, sighing. (Gabler 8.842) (Penguin p. 221)

On his way to lunch, Bloom continues his walk down Grafton St, one of the main streets in Dublin, where all the good departmental stores would be. Various thoughts pass through his mind, including one of his son, who died only eleven days after he was born, followed by,
"Could never like it again after Rudy" (8.610), although it remains unclear to us whom this refers to exactly (who would never like it after: Bloom, Molly, both?). Bloom becomes aware of the jingling of the horses' harness (indeed, "jingle" is one of the words that rings through the book and will always be reminiscent of the noise the Blooms' bed makes). He notices women's legs and stockings, particularly what they look like and if they're elegantly or shabbily clothed. He thinks, "All the beef to the heel were in" at 8.617, as Milly had written in her letter about the women at the country fair (4.403). "Beef To The Heel Like A Mullingar Heifer" is an Irish expression referring to a woman's ungainly lower legs.

Two further textual notes at this point:

– Bloom thinks, "Women won't pick up pins. Say it cuts lo" (8.630). He's thinking of "cuts love", as in a popular belief, which here literally cuts love: the word "love" is cut, leaving only "lo".

– "Perfume of embraces all him assailed. With hungered flesh obscurely, he mutely craved to adore." (8.638): Joyce's friend Budgen tells an anecdote about these sentences. When he once asked Joyce about the progress he was making with Ulysses, Joyce replied, "I have been working hard on it all day". Budgen: "Does that mean that you have written a great deal?" Joyce: "Two sentences." "You have been seeking the mot juste?”, Budgen asked. “No,” said Joyce. “I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentence. There is an order in every way appropriate. I think I have it.” The words in question were the ones at 8.630, which describe the seducing effect the silk petticoats hanging in shop windows have on the hungry hero. (In Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses”, pp. 19-20). Fritz Senn comments here on Joyce's skill and thought that went into working out how to express sensations. 

To resume the story, Bloom next enters Burton, a cheap eating place, which he leaves again rather quickly disliking its soppy eaters. (The passage (8.650 ff.) is a good and vivid example of how to render of disgust, the monosyllabic words are put to great effect.) At the same time, though, Bloom also thinks, "Am I like that?", trying to see himself as others might see him (as is typical of him) (8.662). Bloom leaves (after a pretence of looking for somebody who doesn't seem to be there) and goes to Davy Byrne's, a pub that still exists today.

A couple of additional notes:

– "Sandwich" triggers "Ham and his descendants musterred and bred there". (8.741). To understand the joke that flicks through Bloom's mind we need to know that it is taken from a comic rhyme: "Why should no man starve on the desert of Arabia? / Because of the sand which is there. / How came the sandwiches there? / The tribe of ham was bred there and mustered" (Fritz Senn, JJQ 12, no. 4, 1975: 447). Ham is the one of Noah's three sons who saw him drunk and naked.

– The potted meats he notices on the shelves (8.742) bring back the Plumtree ad he saw that morning under the obituaries. As far as scholars have been able to find out, it was never actually was under any newspaper's obituary notices, but it is in the one Bloom is reading.

In his musings about food, Bloom goes through a whole range of eating habits and customs (eating, not eating, eating something specific at a particular time, for customary or religious reasons,  there's digestion, cannibalism etc.) Finally, Bloom settles on a cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy. Note that his choice is unusual: Gorgonzola would have been (and still is) an particular variety of cheese at the time, and he has wine, not beer like most Dublin men probably would. Bloom is different from others in nearly every respect.

A note on cheese: If your edition gives "Mighty cheese" it is a misprint which should be corrected to "Mity cheese" (8.755). What lies behind this is a saying that originated in the 16th century: "The process of making cheese was popularly regarded as a process of digestion because it involved the use of rennet, a substance derived from animal stomachs and used to curdle milk" (Gifford, Ulysses Annotated). In addition, Beck and Simpson explain in their James Joyce Online Notes that the pun mity/mighty would have been a well known one at the time and was used in advertisements for cheese too:

A few closing words on the "Table talk" in Lestrygonians, the episode pervaded by the theme of eating (8.692):

– Expressions like "Bitten off more than he can chew "(8.661) and "Working tooth and jaw" (8.663) are figures of speech with (appropriately) a food reference.

РTo "ruminate" (cf. "Ruminants" at 8.1034) is to chew the cud (wiederkäuen) but also to think deeply about something, i.e. it makes a good word to describe the interior monologue in the context of this chapter.

– In the passage about the "silver knife in his mouth" (8.682 ff.), Bloom is reflecting around a word play that does not work. (We almost witness a 'word play in the making')

– At 8.692, we read "I munched hum un thu Unchster Bunk un Munchday" (for: I met him hin the Ulster Bank on Monday). This could be called 'the language of munch' (what comes out when you eat with your mouth full). It is not only imitative language but also, in Fritz Senn's take, an instance of how language translates itself.

– At 8.830, we find "Zinfandel", the favourite horse of the race which is talked about repeatedly in the book. It is of interest here since Zinfandel is both the name of a horse and that of a wine. In other (Fritz Senn's) words, "even the horse is drinkable in this chapter".

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

13 January 2015

This is a special post to commemorate the passing away of James Joyce on 13 January 1941 in Zuerich.

Listen to the audio recording or (download the recording) of Ulysses at

Read the interesting story of the publication of Ulysses in USA at

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Tuesday, 6 January 2015, Pages 205 - 213, Lestrygonians, Episode 8

Read as far as "The harp that once did starve us all." (Gabler 8.907) (Penguin 213.11)

Bloom is still wandering along the Westmoreland Street. In the pages we read today, we enter his mind, follow his thoughts, his stream of consciousness. He does not meet anybody with whom he converses. But he sees lots, remembers many things - among them much about Irish history. So Bloom keeps challenging us as we follow his thoughts!

Before the huge high door of the Irish house of parliament (today's the Bank of Ireland) on his right, Bloom sees a flock of pigeons flying. He wonders on how they would pick on whom to do it on. For example, the fellow in black... That makes him recall his childhood friends, Upjohn and Owen Goldberg, who used to call him Mackerel (a slang word for a pimp or bawd.). We don't know why he was called thus.

At the crossing of Westmoreland and College streets, Bloom sees a squad of constables marching, coming after lunch from their station. Another squad is moving towards the station. Bloom thinks of the song, 'A Policeman's lot is not a happy one', replacing the 'not' with 'oft', thus changing the meaning of the song! On seeing the policemen, Bloom thinks, among other things, of the demonstration that took place on the day (18 December 1899) Joseph Chamberlain came to Dublin to receive an honorary degree at Trinity College (Gifford 8.423-24). Bloom had got himself swept along with the medicals. At least so he got to know young Dixon who had dressed his bee sting much later in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital. Now, years after that demonstration, Bloom thinks of those students who had participated as silly billies as surely later half of them would have become magistrates and civil servants, having given up their 'revolutionary' ideas.

Bloom thinks of how raw youths are made to become informers, using among others, housemaids, barmaids, tobaccoshopgirls to gather information. The one, who knew how to frustrate such spies, was James Stephen, the organizer of Irish Republican Brotherhood.

As all this history comes to Bloom's mind, his smile fades, a heavy cloud hiding the sun slowly, shadowing Trinity's surly front. 
(Source: Trinity_College,_Dublin,_Ireland_(Front_Arch).jpg)
Bloom has suddenly become philosophical. Ah, how do words matter! Useless words. Things go on same, day after day. Police march. Trams move. Dignam is buried. Mina Purefoy is waiting to give birth. To yet another child. One born every second somewhere. All are washed in the blood of the lamb (recalling the phrase on the flyer he had been handed over at the beginning of his walk.)

Bloom catches the sight of John Howard Parnell, marshal of the City of Dublin, brother of Charles Stewart Parnell, passing by the window of Walter Sexton's shop, across the street from the Provost's house. So his thoughts move to city marshals, to both the Parnell brothers, to the election John Parnell lost to David Sheehy, etc. Just then, Bloom overhears a conversation (... of the towheaded octopus....) between a couple riding bicycles. The man in beard was A. E. (What does that mean?) aka George Russell. The woman could have been Lizzie Twigg. Bloom had thought of her earlier that day, when he passed the newspaper office. (He had placed an ad in the newspaper, and one of the answers he had received was by a Lizzie Twigg.) Bloom thinks of A.E.'s vegetarian habits, of Twigg's stockings that were loose over her ankles. 

By then Bloom has reached Nassau street corner, and stands before the window of Yeates and Son, opticians. Must he get his old glasses set right or find a suitable pair in the railway lost property office? He checks his eyesight by looking at the sun, thinks of sunspots, eclipses, and again of the timeball on the ballast office....

Bloom's thoughts - expanding - move on to what made the universe as it is, of its origin, of gas that became solid, then  world, then cold, ... of the moon. Thinking of the moon reminds Bloom of the full moon on the night when he walked down by the river Tolka with Molly, who was humming, The young May moon she's beaming, love. He recalls Boylan being on her other side and imagines their fingers touching in question and answer. But Bloom does not want to think more of Boylan. He tells himself, 'Stop. Stop. If it was it was.'