Saturday, 27 August 2016

Tuesday, 23 August 2016, Pages 796 - 806, Ithaca, Episode 17

We stopped at "... excluding vocabulary." (Penguin 806,16), (Gabler 17.744)

The four separating forces - name, age, race, creed - between Bloom and Stephen are being examined very minutely. After about 4.5 pages, we have just reached the end of the discourse on the differences caused by age. There is one way still open to Bloom to achieve the rejuvenation of the younger companion by following meticulously the methods that Eugen Sandow prescribes in his Physical strength and how to obtain it. (Pity that Bloom did not have access to this video!)

Neither of them openly allude to their racial differences. Joyce introduces here a beautiful sentence: He thought that he thought that he was a jew whereas he knew that he knew that he knew that he was not. One has to replace the "he"s with either Bloom or Stephen correctly to make sense of the sentence! A question arises at this point whether Bloom indeed is a jew. His mother, Ellen Higgins, was obviously not one. Hegarty, his maternal grandmother's name was a common Irish Catholic name. And according to contemporary Jewish tradition, a person can only be a jew by birth if the mother is one. In this sense Bloom is not one. He has even been baptized. Not once but thrice - the first time as a protestant, the second by laymen under a pump in the village of Swords, and the third time as a catholic when he married Molly. But the Dubliners in this novel regard him as a jew. He himself declares, at the end of Cyclops, episode 12, "Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me."

The two differ temperamentally too. One (Bloom) is scientific, the other (Stephen) is artistic. Joyce lists examples of important inventions/discoveries of late 19th century to show the scientific nature of Bloom. Apart from science, Bloom's thinking has also been stimulated by a couple of businesses he has known, by a fancy fair and waxwork exhibition, and by the modern art of advertisement. Now it is time to recollect various ads that Bloom has seen - some of which we have encountered earlier: Kino's 11 trousers (Lestrygonians, episode 8), House of Keys (Aeolus, episode 7), Plumtree's Potted Meat (Lestrygonians, episode 8) - including his own idea that was rejected by his the then employer, Hely.

Bloom's mentioning this idea of seated smart girls in a transparent show cart, results in Stephen constructing another scene that takes place in a solitary hotel in mountain pass. The name of the hotel, Queen's Hotel, triggers in Bloom the memory of his father, who had died on the evening of the 27 June 1886, in his own hotel, The Queen's Hotel, Ennis, county Clare, by taking (accidentally? deliberately?) an overdose of monkshood.

Monkshood aka aconite

Stephen narrates a second scene, the scene of A Pisgah sight of Palastine or the Parable of the Plums. These narrations induce Bloom to spin out various scenarios of writing which had certain possibilities of financial, social, personal and sexual success, such as the story, Matcham's Masterstroke, written by Philip Beaufoy he had read early that morning sitting asquat on the cuckstool! Such an occupation would suit the hours of the long evenings succeeding the summer solstice on Tuesday, 21 June 1904. His mind is also engaged with what to do with our wives.  Many a possible solution occur to him, including the curious one of the clandestine satisfaction of erotic irritation in masculine brothels, state inspected and medically controlled, though he himself is more in favor of courses of evening instruction. Molly is not really 'intelligent'. She pronounces metempsychosis as met him pike hoses, alias instead of Ananias. But our gentle Bloom has not given up, and has tried to educate Molly by leaving in a conspicuous place a certain book open at a certain page... Obviously with little lasting result.

Continuing their talk on race, they mention names of a couple of illustrious sons of the selected or rejected race. They also recite fragments of verses - Stephen reciting lines Suil, suil, suil arun from the Irish ballad, Shule Aroon (lyrics here; video here) and Bloom reciting Kifeloch, harmon rakatejch from the Song of Solomon 4.3. They then write down the alphabets - Stephen, Irish characters and Bloom, Hebrew characters - on the blank pages of the novel, Sweet of Sin, Bloom has been carrying in his pocket since 3 pm. Their knowledge but of these languages practically excluded vocabulary

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Tuesday, 16 August 2016, Pages 786 - 796, Ithaca, Episode 17

Stopped at "... her tissue papers." (Penguin 796.29), (Gabler 17.508)

The 'mathematical' catechism style of writing continues. Bloom has filled the kettle with water from the tap and has lit the gas. That, as a result, water starts to boil - being the concomitant phenomenon that takes place in the vessel of liquid by the agency of fire - is explained in mere 155 words!
It is not the steam coming out of the kettle which indicates that water is boiling but what proves that water is boiling is a double falciform ejection of water vapour from under the kettlelid at both sides simultaneously. And so it goes on...

The other topics of meditation -  (a) what else could Bloom have done with the hot water, (b) what are the advantages of shaving at that time of night instead of in the morning - are followed by a long list of things (including Plumtree's potted meat) kept on the shelfs of the kitchen dresser that is opened by Bloom. After all - (Penguin, p.91)
What is home without
Plumtree's potted meat?
With it an abode of bliss.

Four fragments of betting tickets, for that afternoon's Golden Cup Ascot race in which the dark horse Throwaway unexpectedly had won, catch Bloom's attention. These have been left lying on the dresser by Boylan. The sight of the tickets make Bloom trace in his memory all the occasions that day he had come in contact with the news of the horse race and of the throwaway he had got about Elijah. This retracing of the days happenings is related in a reverse order. All the while, Bloom is in a good mood because he had not risked (betting on a horse?), he did not expect, he had not been disappointed, he was satisfied. Was he satisfied because he had brought light to the gentiles (taken care of Stephen)?

Bloom prepares cocoa using Epp's soluble cocoa, hands over his personal cup (the moustache cup) to Stephan and drinks from the other. He would readily have done more like repairing a tear in Stephen's jacket or gifting him a handkerchief. But he refrains from doing so. Naturally, he does not know that that morning Buck Mulligan had borrowed Stephen's noserag.

Stephen has been silent while Bloom is occupied with preparing cocoa. In general, they do seem to talk little with each other. Bloom thinks that Stephen is occupied with literature, with Shakespeare, which thought brings to his mind his own efforts at writing poetry while he was a kid. Of course, there are differences between this odd couple, differences relating to name, age, race and creed. What follows is a detailed description of these four differences: anagrams Bloom had created using his name, their respective ages, the mathematical relationship between their ages, and the previous occasions on which Bloom had met Stephen earlier (once when Stephen was just 5 years of age, and once when he was 10). They also had a common link in Dante, Mrs. Riordan. Bloom had known her when both used to stay at the City Arms Hotel. Dante, Mrs. Riordan is dead eight years. Whereas Bloom thinks of her wealth, her deafness, Stephen thinks of her based on the things he associated with her in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: her statue of the Immaculate Conception, her lamp of colza oil before the statue, her two brushes - green and maroon - and her tissue papers. The Portrait says that Dante gave him (Stephen) a cachou every time he brought her a pice of tissue paper.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Tuesday, 9 August 2016, Pages 776 - 786, Ithaca, Episode 17

We have reached the penultimate episode of the novel! Only 157 pages more to go - according to the Penguin edition of 1960 -  till we read Trieste - Zürich - Paris, 1914 - 1921. We should be finished with our journey of Joyce's Ulysses by the end of this year :-(

Today we stopped at "... opposite power of abandonment and recuperation." (Penguin, 786.19), (Gabler 17.254)

Concerned about where Stephen will find a place to sleep that night, Bloom takes Stephen home.  It is thus The Homecoming episode. It is all about what Bloom and Stephen converse on the way to Bloom's house (No. 7, Eccles Street), and what happens once they reach the place.

(Eccles street. In 1909 Joyce had visited No 7 in which his friend John Francis Byrne was living. The house does not exist anymore.) 
This episode cannot be more different than the previous episode, Eumaeus. In fact, with each episode,  Joyce opens up new vistas of style. Joyce had written the following to Claud Sykes, a friend, that he was 'struggling with the acidities of Ithaca - a mathematico-astronomico-physico-mechanico-geometrico-chemico sublimation of Bloom and Stephen (devil take' em both) to prepare for the final amplitudinously curvilinear episode, Penelope.' (Ellman, James Joyce, p. 501). To his friend Frank Budgen he wrote: 'I am writing Ithaca in the form of a mathematical catechism....' (ibid) . A catechism - a series of fixed questions, answers or precepts used for instruction - it certainly is. Just look at how the episode starts: 'What parallel courses did Bloom and Stephen follow returning?'. This pattern is adhered to through out the episode.  Everything that is talked about, seen and felt is categorized, everything is in an ordered manner. These categories, this order, are presented in such a way though that all the topics look as if they are equally important.

Mathematical terms are indeed used (just in paragraph 1: parallel, chord, circle, arc). So are unusual, complex looking words chosen to talk about common, mundane things (for example 'matutinal' for 'morning' on page 780). Though sometimes the questions asked look very simple, the answers given are in no way straightforward (see for example, the answers to the questions, 'Did it flow?' and ' What in water did Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, returning to the range, admire?'). I, for one, do not feel comfortable with the description of the style here as being mathematical. After all, Mathematics is an extremely precise and concise language. Just think of Einstein's famous formula, E=mc^2

Getting back to the content on these pages: As said earlier, Bloom is taking Stephen home. It is 2 a.m. Both men are keyless - Stephen as he had to hand over the key to the tower to Mulligan that morning, Bloom, because ....

They talk of various things on the way, their views being equal and negative on some topics and divergent on others. Bloom had apparently discoursed on similar topics with others on previous occasions in 1884, 1885, 1886, 1888, 1892, 1893. Now, in 1904, he is carrying out such a discussion with Stephen. They reach home. No. 7, Eccles Street.

(Fritz Senn in front of the door of No 7, Eccles Street
that can be seen today at the James Joyce Center in Dublin)

At the housesteps of the 4th of the equidifferent uneven numbers, number 7 Eccles street, he (Bloom) inserted his hand mechanically into the back pocket of his trousers to obtain his latchkey.
(Page 779, Penguin)

(Plaque of Joyce, celebrating the sentence above in front of the house in Eccles Street)
So,  now we know why Bloom also had no key. He had changed his trousers that morning before going to Patty Dignam's funeral. The house key was in the trousers that he had worn the previous day.  The rest of these pages describe, in the manner of q & a, how Bloom, being keyless, climbs over the dwarf wall, jumps down without getting injured by concussion, gets inside the house through the kitchen that obviously was left unlocked, opens the ventcock of the coal gas, lights a candle, comes to the main door, opens it for Stephen, extinguishes the candle once back in the kitchen, draws two spoonseat deal chairs for Stephen and himself, takes a saucepan from the left hob of the kitchen range, goes to the sink, turns on the tap, collects some of the water that was supplied from Roundwood reservoir in county Wicklow, during which occupation he, Bloom, waterlover, drawer of water, watercarrier, thinks of the various characteristics of water that he admires -  and does not admire -, sets the halffilled kettle on the now burning coals, takes out a lemonflavoured soap bought thirteen hours previously for fourpence that was still unpaid for, asks Stephen to wash up too, an act that Stephen declines to follow!

The photographs above were all taken during our trip to Dublin in May 2015.
The essay of the Modernism Lab at Yale University deals with the style of Ithaca in greater detail. Read it here.)

Tuesday, 26 July 2016, Pages 767 - 776, Eumaeus, Episode 16

Today the end of Eumaeus, episode 16 was reached. The following links are about what happened on these last pages of Eumaeus:

Pages 762 - 771
Pages 771 - 776

Monday, 1 August 2016

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Please note that there will be no reading this Tuesday, 2 August. The Foundation remains closed for the week due to its annual workshop. The next reading will be on Tuesday, 9 August 2016.