Excerpts of Early Optimism, Taking Notes on the First Chapters of Ulysses: March 2009

The "Proteus" chapter thus far (for me) can be sufficiently summed up by Joyce himself (p.32, line 52, Gabler ed.): "contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality".

Got through "Proteus" fairly unscathed.  The suggestion of the Jameson's does indeed help during Stephen's abstruse monologue. I really enjoyed particularly the page or so describing the dog, and once I got the feel for what Joyce was doing in this chapter about half way through, it really wasn't as hard to follow as I'd imagined it might be. I'm finding I'm relying less and less on the guides and staying focused on the text mostly (not sure why) but I'm enjoying the journey thus far immensely regardless. I think the "Proteus" chapter, in this amateur's eyes, is definitely worth a reread or threeread or four, as there's so much compacted dense layers of thought whizzing by like freeway traffic nonstop.  I know I missed a lot of meaning(s) and important details. How could I not?  But I'm not too concerned since I know I'll be stopping again at "Proteus" on my way back down the mountain {Ha! there would be no "on my way back down the mountain, let alone successful summiting of said mountain} with the guides and Ulysses Annotated in hand for a much longer look. But right now, onward and upward....

I know I've mentioned David Foster Wallace many times elsewhere hereabouts (got him on the mind after re-reading that sad sad poignant piece on him in the last issue of The New Yorker {an issue from early 2009 that featured a moving tribute and retrospective of Wallace's career}) but I was thinking about the word "metempsychosis" and what I'm wondering (okay, it's probably a stretch, but you never know) was DFW in Infinite Jest alluding to this "metempsychosis" by naming one of the significant characters in the beginning of the book, the alter ego / radio personality of Joelle van Dyne, "Madame Psychosis"? Am I reading in too much or may I be on to something? {There was/is a connection, I later found out, a pretty obvious one, but nevertheless "wowing" to me at the time.}....

When I read stuff like "The Bath of the Nymph over the bed" (p. 53, l. 369, Gabler ed.) and "Lips kissed....Full gluey woman's lips (p. 55, l. 450, Gabler ed.) and just a few lines down (l.460) "He felt heavy, full: then a gentle loosening of his bowels," I suddenly feel very manly! And I didn't even mention the line I almost forgot about I meant to mention earlier regarding the sausages (p.49, l.178-9): "They like them sizeable. Prime sausage. O please, Mr. Policeman, I'm lost in the wood". Lines like that, by Jove, can't help but elicit (for men, or at least this man) some sizable cerebral tumescence, amen?....

Halfway through the "Hades" chapter now (p. 80 in the Gabler ed.) and loving it. I don't know why specifically I had the preconception approaching Ulysses that it would mostly be extremely difficult mumbo jumbo way over my head, because, even without checking the helps and what the scholars have to say, the going is mostly not only understandable (even with the abrupt transitions from standard type conventional narrative to internal experimental monologue stuff), but incredibly lively and damn enjoyable. I truly thought Ulysses would be a chore, a have-to, like mowing the lawn every week. But it's not. It's poetic and profound and crass and earthy all at the same time -- just like real life, which (duh!!) that's partly what Joyce was going for right?  Dare I say Ulysses, so far, is one of the funnest reading experiences I've had? {It was for a time, for about 250 pages}....

From the "Lestrygonians" chapter, p. 127, l. 154, Gabler ed.:

"It was a nun they say invented barbed wire."

Ouch.  Joyce's sarcasm is so sharp I just cut myself on it. Need Band-Aid. 

Joyce is writing some of the finest poetic prose I've ever encountered; paragraphs here and there could easily be classified as epic prose poetry. Yeah, I know, probably not much of a newflash, but for a first-timer its jawdropping wowing. The paragraph in particular in the "Lestrygonians" chap. (p. 140, l.723-30, Gabler ed.), the paragraph with "Butcher's buckets wobbly lights," I read over and over, marvelling at the rhythm and alliteration and word play and whatnot. Countless paragraphs like that obviously, but for some reason that one really stands out to me. I'm a big William H. Gass fan and I can see where he got his inspiration from, especially in The Tunnel. How many near-rhymes end sentences and internal rhymes one right after the other invigorate as they infiltrate both writer's works. It's truly remarkable how they do that so consistently, unconsciously, I'm betting, since the flow and the rythym and the rhymes never sound contrived or forced. Just natural off-the-cuff riffs, like jazz or The Allman Brothers band live back in the day. Beautiful, inspiring stuff. Loving it....{until I began hating it}....


  1. Boy, you're sure a flip-flopper when it comes to the big U. If you ever run for office, I'm going to be harping on this flip-floperry.

  2. No no no no no. Merely the appearance of flip-floppery. I loved the book until I began hating it somewhere between pages 300 and 350. I got to a point where I felt dumb reading it. Stupid. In over my head. And perhaps it was those feelings the book dug out that I hated more than the book itself, but for a time, that first month in the book, I did greatly enjoy it. But when it turned on me, it turned!

  3. So the harpee does not flippantly flop?

    I'm convinced some books just shouldn't be read in one sitting, which is why I've never read that one through. Better to enjoy the random chapters than hate the whole book. Thus, I am half-read.

  4. a new logo header! nice. but i miss the old one. oh whatever your blog is cool no matter what!

  5. I'm sure that's an excellent philosophy to have with U., Sam, a wiser approach to long lasting appreciation. It's fun to be a foil too, though, and hate that little extra something special on U.

    Thanks, Marie. I miss the old one too of the interior of Shakespeare & Co., who knows, it could return. But do you like my picture of the Tranny Granny? Maybe I should spotlight the Tranny Granny instead of a bookstore interior you think?

  6. Oh yes, your new header, very nice! Of course it could always be improved with the Tranny Granny. But if you decide not to (or even if you do) how about a post dedicated to her? Maybe a mini-bio?

    BTW, have you heard any of the audio version of The Tunnel, read by Gass himself?

  7. I'm going to tell my Tranny Granny you said that, Bubba. Yes, I should write her memoirs. As well as The Naughty Hotties, Gluteus2theMaximus', behindthetomes', et cetera et. al., and perhaps I will someday.

    I would love to hear Gass reading the audio version of that beast. Do you have it?

  8. Not yet, but it's a definite must-have, for sure. Beast is right. I loved that book. Even though I've heard Gass refer to Kohler as "the monster," I gotta say, he is one my favorite characters.


Post a Comment