Here we are at the end of week 3 of the Jousting with Joyce readalong. If you’re following the reading schedule, you’ll have just finished Episode 9.
I haven’t. Finished Episode 9, that is. But I’ve started it! So I’m not that far behind. But I’m finding Episode 9 quite painful, especially since I was feeling like I was finally finding my rhythm with Episodes 7 and 8.
Let’s discuss what’s happening:
In my first update, I summarized Episodes 1-3, which focused on Stephen Dedalus. Today I’ll give a brief overview of 4-9.
Episode 4 (Calypso): We finally meet Leopold Bloom. And it’s a memorable meeting, as we learn the man loves his meat (there’s even a harangue against vegetarians in a later chapter).
“Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” p. 55
Oh gawd, gag me with a spoon. Or a kidney. That’s just nasty. And so it’s breakfast time in the Bloom household, and Leopold hies himself off to the butcher to pick up a kidney. Once he’s back at the ranch, he takes a breakfast tray and the mail up to his wife, Molly, who seems to be a pampered singer (seriously…does anyone else think this woman is unjustly spoiled?). She received a letter from her latest maybe lover, who goes by the astonishing name of Blazes Boylan. Molly downplays the letter to her husband (it’s just business, dear) and then stashes it under the pillow. Bloom runs off to rescue his burning kidney, and then spends some quality time in the outhouse (I’ve noticed Joyce is a bit obsessed with bodily functions), and then takes his leave.
Episode 5 (Lotus Eaters): Bloom stops at the post office to pick up a letter for Henry Flower (Flower, Bloom, get it?). I can’t quite figure out if he’s having his own clandestine affair, or what. After that, he buys some soap at the pharmacy, and then goes to the baths. Along the way, there are conversations and fantasies.
Episode 6 (Hades): Bloom attends the funeral of a friend, Paddy Dignam. So does Stephen Dedalus’s dad. For awhile I thought it was Stephen, which was confusing.
Episode 7 (Aeolus): Bloom sells ads for a newspaper, and in Episode 7 he stops in at work. I loved this episode because it’s told in the style of newspapers, with a headline and a short article. It did make it hard to follow (well, that and the fact that there were lots of people popping in and out), but it was clever.
Epsiode 8 (Lestrygonians): Bloom is back to walking the streets of Dublin, as he searched for a place to have lunch. His first stop turns out to be a bad choice, and the description of the smells in the restaurant is vivid enough to turn your stomach. Luckily, Bloom leaves and ends up at a pub, where he has a glass of red wine and a cheese sandwich.
Episode 9 (Scylla and Charybdis): And now the story turns back to Stephen, who is in the library debating with some fellow students. At which point I got bored and decided I’d had enough for the week.
Despite the song I posted last week, I’m not hating this as much as it would appear. Sure, some of the chapters are excruciating, but when I’m able to concentrate I can usually follow the story. I’ve found the chapters where Bloom is out walking the streets are much easier than the ones where there is dialogue…mostly because I can’t figure out what the heck they’re talking about.
One thing that has surprised me is all of the colloquialisms (if that’s even the right word) that I recognize. Of course, I can’t think of any off of the top of my head, but phrases similar to “the bee’s knees” pop up and I think “hey, my dad said that!”
And despite all of the other characters popping in and out, really this is just a look inside of a man’s head. A very unfiltered look. Think about all of the fractured thoughts and musings that pop into your head in the course of a day…as you eat, work, talk with friends and lovers, and yes, even use the toilet. Sometimes the thoughts are profound, sometimes they’re disjointed, and sometimes they’re profane. Joyce just happened to make a book out of that. As I said two weeks ago, the man was either a genius, or whacked.
Have you posted an update as to how you’re doing with Ulysses? If so, leave a link!