Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

There will be no blogpost for Tuesday, the 29th of March, as I could not attend the reading.

Please note that there will also be no blogposts about the readings on 5th, 12th and 26th April.

My apologies!

If any one of you will be willing to write in the 'Comments' section below, the last sentence that was read on these days, it will be of great help.

Thank you!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Tuesday, 22 March 2016, Pages 635 - 644, Circe, Episode 15

The reading was stopped at ""Truffles!" (Penguin 644.17), (Gabler 15.2741)

Though a mind-boggling mixture of echoes of earlier episodes, Shakespearean as well as Biblical references and (mis)quotations, metamorphoses of humans to animals, songs of unknown origins, frankly expressed opinions about The Church, sex-changes, talking doorhandles, fans as well as hoops, these pages are incredibly hilarious.

At the end of the previous reading session, Florry had asked Stephen whether he was out of Maynooth (a college to train young men for priesthood), and had said that he was like someone she knew once. This reminds Zoe about a priest who had visited them two nights ago, who had buttoned up his coat, obviously to hide his Roman collar. Granpapachi Virag is not surprised at hearing this. He interprets this kind of sexual experience is what led to the fall of man. Even though Lynch, Zoe and Bloom pay little attention to Virag's Kamasutra-like-discourse, he continues in strong language about Jesus. (He had a father, forty fathers. He never existed.... He had two left feet...). In a couple of sentences, Virag, who has assumed the appearance of a monster (has a mooncalf nozzle, tortured forepaws,...), refers to a book by Flaubert, Book of Kells, beliefs of Cainites, and the book of Revelation.

(Book of Kells, Folio 7, Virgin and Jesus who has two left feet.
This triggers Kitty to tell the story about the baby of Mary Shortall and Jimmy Pidgeon. The mention of 'Pidgeon' is used by Philip Drunk and Philip Sober to take us back to episode 3 (Proteus), in which Stephan, walking along the Sandymount Strand reaches the Pigeonhouse (known also as the Poolberg Generating Station), which name makes him think of the conversation between Joseph and Mary in the book, La vie de Jesus by Lèo Taxil. (Joseph: 'Who has put you in this wretched condition?' Mary: 'It is the pigeon, Joseph'; Penguin p. 51). Virag, who is now a baboon, comes up other possibilities about Jesus's father.  (Panther, the Roman centurion...; Mary was impregnated through the tympanum of her ear...)

The word 'Tympanum' triggers the appearance of Ben Dollard. We had met him in Sirens, episode 11, in which Dollard played the piano and sang in his heavy bass voice, 'When love absorbs my ardent soul...', only to be told by Simon Dedalus, '... you'd burst the tympanum of her ear, man, ... with an organ like yours.' (Penguin. p. 348). There are more references to the Sirens episode. Henry (i.e., Bloom) sings the aria from the opera Martha, caressing on his breast a severed female head. (The basis for this severed female head could be the myth of Medusa or the story of the St. Catherine of Siena or the story of King Arthur). Virag finally exists, slouching his skins, unscrewing his head and holding it under his arm, uttering, 'quack!'

The singing continues with Stephen, who has meanwhile turned into His Eminence Simon Stephen Cardinal Dedalus. (Conservio lies captured...., O, the poor little fellow....,  Shall carry my heart to thee...., songs which Joyce had heard from his father.) As the doorhandle echoes his 'theeee', a male form (we don't know who this is) passes down the creaking staircase, taking the waterproof and hat from the rack in the hall that Bloom had seen when he entered the brothel. Bloom, startled, wonders whether this is Boylan. 'After?' (after the tryst with Molly?), 'Or because not?' (did that tryst not take place?) 'Or the double event?' (first with Molly, and now here?)

As Bloom and Zoe share a chocolate, the door opens again. Bella Cohen, a massive whoremistress, enters. What happens between the two is right out of Sacher-Masoch's 'Venus in Furs'. Bloom once again exhibits his penchant for masochism. Goaded by the fan of Bella, Bloom bends down, with desire, with reluctance, to make a true black knot on Bella's bootlace. As Bloom knots the lace, her (Bella's) eyes strike him in midbrow. As if it was Circe and her sorcery, Bloom turns into a pig. A sow. A she pig. Bella also mutates. Into Bello. A man. What happens next is the topic for next week!

Friday, 18 March 2016

Tuesday, 15 March 2016, Pages 628 - 635, Circe, Episode 15

We stopped at "Do like us." (Penguin 635.27), (Gabler 15.2539)

We continue our sojourn with Circe, a world of reality and fantasy. One learns to appreciate these pages for their richness in creativity, if one simply accepts the mysterious happenings without asking whether anything makes any sense!

Oh yes, Bloom is back! And continues to hallucinate, peppered as usual with reality. This time he fantasizes about his grandfather, Lipoti Virag, who, dressed most fantastically, partly like an Egyptian royal scribe (basilicogrammate), chutes down like Santa Claus through the chimneyflue. He also wears a brown macintosh like the unknown person at Paddy Dignam's funeral in the morning. The grandfather (granpapachi) tries to educate the grandson about the various women assembled there without naming any. He calls Bloom's attention to the injection mark on the thigh of one. (Recall Zoe earlier had called the men's attention to the beautyspot on her behind.) Regarding Number two, the grandfather has comments on her dress, color, and glimpses of lingerie, which he says appeals to Bloom in virtue of its exhibitionististicicity. Bloom agrees that she is rather lean, and seems sad. (We had read earlier that Kitty Ricketts was a bony pallid whore, and that a tag of her corset lace was hanging slightly below her jacket / Penguin p. 621). Lipoti Virag says that where as Number two is the lily of the alley (Joyce has combined here the titles of the songs, 'Lily of the Valley' and 'Sally in Our Alley'; Gifford / 15.2341), Number three, who has plenty visible to the naked eye, is the ugly duckling of the party. (Number three is Florry Talbot, a blond feeble goosefat whore / Penguin p. 621). Advising Bloom to: 'Pay your money, take your choice', Lipoti Virag forwards his theory on how an elephantine size is reached: Pellets of new bread with fennygreek (i.e., fenugreek) and gumbenjamin (gum benjamin aka benzoin resin) swamped down by potions of green tea.

Next Virag (a) tells Bloom about all kinds of remedies for all kinds of things like stye in the eye (contact with a goldring), warts (wheatenmeal with honey and nutmeg), (b) admonishes him to exercise his mnemotechnic, and (c) shows his parchmentroll, declaring, 'this book tells you how to act with all descriptive particulars.'

At every step of this conversation, grandpapachi Virag undergoes Circean metamorphoses. While talking about the three whores, he barks cynically, hoarsely. Talking about the parchmentroll, he crows derisively. As Bloom gazes at the light, hearing the everflying moth, he prompts into his (Bloom's) ear in a pig's whisper, a discourse on insects, while his yellow parrotbeak gabbles nasally... Once he had a hardhumped nose, later a glowworm's one.

(Giovanni Matteo Mario)
Bloom, now Henry Flower, enters, resembling the tenor Mario of the romantic Savior's facefrom left upper entrance. He carries a silver-stringed inlaid dulcimer, which turns into a guitar, when Henry starts to strum it. Stephen is in his own world, telling himself to play with your eyes shut, thinking of visiting old Deasy or telegraph.  In the morning he had walked along the Sandymount strand, with eyes closed to hear his boots crush crackling wrack and shells (Episode 3, Proteus). His music teacher, Almidono Artifoni - we had met him in Wandering Rocks, episode 10 - makes an appearance, urging Stephan to think it over. ('Ci refletta'). Florry asks Stephen to sing something. Stephen hesitates. Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Two strangers, siamese twins, philip drunk and philip sober, appear in the window embrasure, arguing. (To appeal 'from Philip Drunk to Philip Sober' is to ask reconsideration of a matter that has been decided in haste and on impulse / Gifford 15.2512).

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Tuesday, 8 March 2016, Pages 621 - 628 Circe, Episode 15

We read as far as "Would you suck a lemon?"  (Penguin 628.12), (Gabler 15.2299)

I had written in the last post that 'Circe becomes more and more bizarre as we turn the pages'. How little I knew then what was in store for us this week! Even Fritz Senn commented at the beginning of the reading session that strange and difficult parts lie ahead.

What happens on these pages is strange indeed. Very strange. For instance, Stephen holds a conversation with Lynch's cap. A hobgoblin - in the image of Punch Costello (episode 14, Oxen of the Sun) -, The End of the World - in the form of a twoheaded octopus -, and Elijah i.e., Alexander Dowie of the flyer, 'Elijah is coming!' (episode 8, Lestrygonians) all appear, hold discourses in various languages and accents, adding their share to the confusion/strangeness.  The various animals mentioned here -boa, caterpillar, snake, octopus, corncrake, dove, dog, bull, lizard, eels, elvers, crayfish and sheep  - connect Joyce's Circe to Homer's Circe.

Bloom has entered Mrs Cohen's brothel. Lynch, Stephan are there along with - in Fritz Senn's words - three extremely non-erotic whores. Stephen has been at the pianola. Talking about the Italian composer, Benedetto Marcello, who put the first 50 psalms to music, Stephen says that it does not matter whether the melody was found in older melodies by Marcello or whether he created them himself. At this moment, he starts addressing Lynch's cap, which apart from saying 'bah!'- comes up with the profound statement, 'Jewgreek is greekjew. Extremes meet.' (Gifford 1.158: By 1900 Greek had become Bohemian slang for those who preached sensual-aesthetic liberation, and Jew for those who were antagonistic to aesthetic values...)

Apart from references to psalms, music, and wondering about which octave, there are quite a few echoes of the bible, particularly of the Book of Revelation: sea serpent, antichrist, Stephen's saying, 'A time, times, and half a time' that is taken right of out of Book of Revelation...

Reuben J, the moneylender, about whom the party going to the funeral had talked about earlier in the morning (episode 6, Hades) appears as antichrist. Meanwhile a gramophone is blaring out the song, The Holy City, Jerusalem, and modifies it to 'Whorusalaminyourhighhohhh' as Alexander Dowie, aka Elijah, is making a typical Southern American sermon. This sermon has reference to Benjamin Disraeli's comment regarding Darwin's theory of evolution ('Be on the side of angels'), to Jesus, Gautama Buddha, and Ingersoll. During the sermon, Dowie's appearance changes. He is black in the face, just like the actor Eugene Stratton (episode 10, Wandering rocks). As he appeals to Mr. President (not clear who this is) to save our sisters dear, the three whores start confessing their sins.

The following paragraphs become parodies of the Bible. Stephen's saying 'blessed be the eight beatitudes', brings forth eight beatitudes, the eight people whom Bloom had followed out of the Mater Misericordiae hospital a short while ago. More familiar people appear: Lyster (Librarian of the National Library Ireland, 1895-1922; Best (director of the National Library 1904 - 23), John Eglinton (assistant librarian at the National Library 1904- 1922) (Episode 9,  Scylla and Charybdis0). They are all fantastically dressed. Eglinton in his high pagoda hat appears like Diogenes, who carried a lighted lantern in broad daylight, ostensibly in search of an honest man (Gifford 15.2256). When 'this Diogenes' flashes a greencapped dark lantern, the bearded figure of Mananaan Maclir appears. It is George Russell disguised as Maclir, the Irish god of sea.

(The emblem of the Theosophical Society including the word Om (or Aum) in Sanskrit on top)
Russell was a theosophist, and what follows is a parody of Theosophy. It starts with Aum (the most sacred symbol of Hinduism), mentions five more symbols of the roots of human speech developed by Russell, white yoghin (should have been spelt yogin!), Punarjanam (punar janmam = rebirth),  Shiva with his consort Shakti, finally ending with 'I am the dreamery creamery butter', which is another parody of verse 16, chapter 9 of Bhagavad-Gita, the most popular philosophical work of India.

Much remains unclear till the end. Some of the characters - Zoe, Kitty, Florry, Lynch and Stephen - are real enough. Some of the characters are the obvious products of hallucination. These are Elijah, Reuben J, Lyster, Best, Eglinton, Mananaan Maclir and the eight beatitudes (the eight students of medicine/doctors). There is not even a whisper here of Bloom who dominated the previous pages. Is it Bloom who still hallucinates?

With such heavy going it is no wonder that the gasjet wails whistling, Pooah! Pfuiiiiiii! These pages are indeed clothed in nebulous obscurity!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Tuesday, 1 March 2016, Pages 613- 621, Circe, Episode 15

We stopped with "A heavy stye droops over her sleepy eyelid." (Penguin 621.32), (Gabler 15.2077)

These pages show that this episode, Circe, becomes more and more bizarre as we turn the pages. Bloom continues to hallucinate, apparitions of people we had met earlier appear in quick succession, earlier episodes are echoed at increased frequency, reality and hallucination are juxtaposed, etc. But all these things - even if most of them are unexpected  and are perhaps confusing at first instance - make reading this episode an unforgettable experience, and underscore the genius of Joyce as the creator of this Ulysses.

After Buck Mulligan pronounces Bloom to be 'virgo intacta', other doctors - Dr. Madden, Dr. Crotthers, Dr. Punch Costello- all the three, like Buck Mulligan still students of medicine -, Dr. Dixon  - doctor at The Mater Misericordiae Hospital - (we had met all of these in episode 14, Oxen of the Sun), appear and testify about the multiple illnesses of Bloom. Dr Dixon even announces: 'He is about to have a baby.'

Women faint. Naturally! As Bloom says, 'O, I so want to be a mother',  Mrs Thornton, the midwife who had assisted at Milly's birth (episode 4, Calypso), appears telling Bloom, 'Embrace me tight, dear. You'll be soon over it. Tight, dear.' Soon Bloom bears eight male yellow and white children. Why eight? Why yellow and white? We don't know the answer to the first question. But Gifford (1.2) says the following about the color yellow: "16 June is the feast day of St. John Francis Regis (1597-1640), a little known French saint much venerated in the south of France. Since it is the feast day of a confessor, the appropriate vestments for the Mass are white with gold optional. But the gold of liturgical vestments is not a yellow fabric but cloth of gold, a fabric woven wholly or in part with threads of gold. Liturgically, the color yellow has many negative connotations: 'Yellow is sometimes used to suggest infernal light, degradation, jealousy, treason, and deceit. Thus, the traitor Judas is frequently painted in a garment of dingy yellow. In the Middle Ages heretics were obliged to wear yellow.'" Joyce uses the color yellow often in Ulysses. For example, when Stately, plump Buck Mulligan appears in the first paragraph of the novel, he appears wearing a yellow dressing gown, ungirdled,... It should also be noted that the names of the eight male 'children' all contain the word gold or silver (yellow or white).
(Belshazzar's feast by Rembrandt at the National Gallery in London)
The following pages (Penguin 615 - 618) contain many echoes. There are obvious echoes from earlier episodes. Some of the other examples are the following.  'Bloom, are you the Messiah' echoes, the question Pilate ask Jesus: 'Art thou the King of the Jews?' Ichabudonosor, one of the names in Bloom's genealogy recited by Brini, Papal Nuncio, echoes the name of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. 'A deadhand: (Writes on the wall)' echoes Belshazzar's feast. The litany sung by the daughters of Erin (Kidney of Bloom, pray for us etc) echoes the recitation of the litany of Our Lady of Loreto that Bloom had heard earlier in the evening, while he was sitting on the Sandymount shore (Episode 13, Nausicaa). Even otherwise this litany itself is an echo. It consists of 12 lines,  each line echoing an earlier episode.

Bloom, who was earlier anointed and was hailed as the savior, is now denounced by one and all. Lieutenant Myers of the Dublin Fire Brigade by general request sets fire to Bloom. Bloom becomes mute, shrunken, carbonised. Suddenly, we are back in reality. Zoe is still there with Bloom, who is now dressed like an ordinary Irish peasant in an old shabby hat (caubeen) with a clay pipe stuck in the band. He talks like one too. Thus here even reality is not really like reality! Soon he is in babylinen and starts to lisp like a baby, 'One two tlee: tlee tlwo tlone.' Zoe leads him into the house, at the doorway of which two sister whores are seated. On the antlered rack of the hall hang a man's hat and waterproof. Bloom sees and recognizes them. Lynch and Stephen are inside. Stephen stands at the pianola on which sprawl his hat and ashplant. Two whores, Kitty Ricketts and Florry Talbot, are also there.  A heavy stye droops over her (Talbot's) sleepy eyelid