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The first time I visited New York City in 1986, I stayed in the Milford Plaza on Eighth Avenue at (I think) 45th street, and in the evenings I ate and drank in the small cafes and bars that littered the area. I never felt all that uptight, no more so than I did in much more salubrious areas. It was only after I returned to Britain that I read in a guide book that the most dangerous part of midtown was "Eighth Avenue, north of Times Square." Now, I have no way of knowing whether thatr advice was accurate or not, but the point is that once I read it, panic set in. The conclusion I drew was that places and things are only dangerous when somebody tells you they are.

Why are people scared of Ulysses? I don't doubt it's because they have heard it said over and over again that it is difficult, and therefore scary. And probably dangerous. Nobody's going to pretend it's easy going, for sure. In one or two places the language comes close to impenetrable, but those sections are not long ones. Most of Ulysses is written in perfectly orthodox prose. It's not a cosy story and it doesn't give up its secrets easily. Even after my second reading I'm pretty sure I've done little more than scratch the surface of its complexity and I know I missed a lot. Does it matter? No, not at all. Like another Modernist piece published in the same year, The Waste Land, it is full of complex and often obscure detail and many, many puzzles. But you don't have to grasp the meaning of The Waste Land to feel a thrill at reading

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Well, I do anyway. And then you have a whole lifetime to explore it and discover new things. So it is with Ulysses. You don't have to know everything about it to find it funny, sexy, disturbing, revealing, and compellingly readable, which it is, provided you don't take on too much at once and get verbal indigestion. Is it, as some charge, a piece of clever-dick showing off? A work of intellectual masturbation by a man who looks down on the common hordes? Far from it. The really difficult stuff is what Joyce places in the head of Stephen Dedalus. Stephen represents the young James Joyce, and it's a far from flattering portrait. Middle-aged Joyce knew damned well what a pain in the arse he was when he was younger. What's more refreshing is the celebration of the ordinary Dubliner in a city both cosmopolitan and parochial, people portrayed with affection for all their lack of heroism; the lack of heroics in a book with a heroic title is of course a heavy irony. Leopold Bloom has many human failings, but ultimately he is likeable, and there one really magical moment, when Bloom stands up to the bullying Citizen. Bloom isn't Jewish in the strict sense, but when taken to task he doesn't deny it; he stands withe the oppressed people.

Anyway, before I get carried away and produce a third-class offering to the Ulysses exegesis industry, I'll just say that I enjoyed reading it again, I found lots of new stuff in there, I'm glad I was challeneged, I shall read it again one day (but not soon), and that it towered above any other book I read in 2007.
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18. Penelope

Penelope: wife of Odysseus, mother of Telemachus, faithful to Odysseus throughout his twenty years away at the Trojan War and elsewhere despite the attentions of many suitors.

"... O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower if the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Molly Bloom lies awake in the small hours of the morning, beside the feet of her sleeping husband, astonished that he has not only broken the ten-year drought in their sex life but also asserted himself by demanding that she bring him breakfast in bed in the morning. Her thoughts wander around her fling with Blazes Boylan (not altogether satisfactory) and about her girlhood, in Gibraltar as daughter of a military family, sexual encounters past lovers and suitors, about how Leopold Bloom courted and caught her, about his strange ways and habits, about how she knew he was in love with her, about how she accepted his marriage proposal. And with an explosive self-induced orgasm, she accepts that her Poldy isn't such a bad old stick after all.

I had intended to finish this on Christmas Day, but in the end I deferred it for a couple of days because I know from past that one needs to take a good long run at this forty-odd page breathless single sentence and take it all in one go. It sounds horrendous but actually it's no more impenetrable, in fact a good deal less so, than the ramblings of those denizens of the Internet who feel that rules of spelling and grammar are beneath them (but who fall sadly short of Joyce's mastery of language). Molly is far from stupid but she is also a straightforwardly sensual soul - musician to the core - who loves easily and who loves to be loved. Why does Joyce do it this weay? Well, it tells is a great deal about Molly and how she ticks. Until this last tour de force we've heard Molly referred to by others many times but have seen nothing of how she sees the world. It's also a passage that falls only just short of outright pornography. The sensuousness is exacerbated and it never falls into the trap of tackiness, as a straighforward narrative is bound to do. By obfuscating it might also put of would-be censors for a while, especially tjose who condemn without trying to understand. Ultimately, though, it's all terribly affirming and it ends as it should, on a climax. One never forgets Ulysses. And so we come to


and also the


So, I got there, and it wasn't so terrible! I'm going to put together some afterthoughts for a concluding journal entry, but meanwhile if just one reader of these commentaries, who has previously been put off this extraordinary and utterly unique novel by its fearsome reputation, discovers its delights then I will feel vindicated.
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17. Ithaca

Ithaca: a city in upstate New York, seat of Cornell University. Also, an island in the Ionian Sea, home of Odysseus, where his wife Penelope remained faithful for the twenty years Odysseus was away despite being surrounded by suitors.

"What suddenly arrested his ingress?
The right temporal lobe of the hollow sphere of his cranium came into contact with a solid timber angle where, an infinitesimal but sensible fraction of a second later, a painful sensation was located in consequence of antecedent sensations transmitted and registered."

Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus arrive at last at Bloom's house at 7 Eccles Street. This is the moment that Bloom pats his pocket and realises that he never did get his latchkey from his other trousers in the morning. He has to effect a break-in via the basement. Inside, he takes Stephen to the kitchen. They drink cocoa, and talk. Stephen declines the offer of a bed for the night. They urinate together in the garden, then Stephen leaves. Inside once more, Bloom bangs his head on an unexpectedly rearranged sideboard. All the furniture has been rearranged. The books on the bookshelf have been rearranged. Bloom reflects that they are no longer a safe place to keep secrets. The place is full of evidence of Blazes Boylan's visit. Bloom broods in depression. He contemplates escape to the country, perhaps he contemplates suicide. At length he goes to bed, moves his pillow to the bottom of the bed, and wakes Molly by kissing her buttocks. The experience is arousing; he hasn't been aroused in the marital bed since the death of his son nearly eleven years later. The episode ends with a big black dot. How shall we interpret that?

The episode is written in a long series of questions and responses using formal language. Does it work? Yes, most definitely, and I'm damned if I don't sense that James Joyce really enjoyed writing it. Or maybe it was that after all these years of work he could finally see the end in sight. For all the faceciously high-flown wordiness it races by and yet it's packed with pathos. This is a master of words in action who knows exactly what he is doing. The effect is to detach the reader from the scene unfolding, and it's right that it should be so, because this is a moment of intimacy. To be right in there, first with Bloom and Stephen building their male bond, to be consummated by taking a piss side-by-side in the yard, and then with Bloom in his misery, would be just too intrusive. Bloom's introspection may be just what he needed, however. Having plumbed the depths of despair, he recalls the strength he found during the day. Maybe it's a new beginning?
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PART THREE: THE NOSTOS (It's Greek for 'homecoming', apparently)

16. Eumaeus

Eumaeus: a servant of Odysseus's in his home in Ithaca, and the first person Odysseus meets on his return home. Eumaeus does not recognise his master but gives him food and shelter all the same. He also receives Telemachus on his return and Telemachus, too, does not recognise his father.

"-- At what o'clock did you dine? he questioned of the slim form and tired though unwrinkled face.
-- Sometime yesterday, Stephen said.
-- Yesterday, exclaimed Bloom till he remembered it was already tomorrow, Friday. Ah, you mean it's after twelve!
-- The day before yesterday, Stephen said, improving on himself."

Stephen is still groggy from his assault by the squaddies and very, very drunk. In the interval between episodes, he seems also to have had a major falling out with Buck Mulligan. Bloom is concerned to get him home but first he takes him to the cabman's shelter at Butts Bridge to sober up with coffee and something to eat. On the way Stephen encounters 'Lord John Conley', a deadbeat, and to Bloom's irritation gives him half a crown. In the shelter Bloom attempts to get Stephen to drink some seriously bad coffee and eat a brick-like roll. They meet a drunken sailor along with other nocturnal types. They talk. Bloom tries to persuade Stephen of the need to get a job. Deciding that getting Stephen back to Sandymount is out of the question, he invites him home with him.

You can tell that we're winding down now. It's the small hours of the morning and apart from the whores, only the bottom-feeders of Dublin are abroad. It's quiet and creepy and it shows. Not much happening, lots of atmosphere. Nice little cameos of Dublin low-life, and a bond is formed between the father who has found a son, and the son who has found a father. As we shall see, this is the last stretch of conventional narrative in the novel.
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15. Circe

Circe: A sorceress, daughter of the sun god. She invited Odysseus's men to a feast and fed them magical herbs and potions that transformed them into pigs. Odysseus himself was forewarned. He and Circe became lovers, and Circe helped him to return to Ithaca

"THE HONOURABLE MRS MERVYN TALBOYS: (Unbuttoing her gauntlet violently) I'll do no such thing. Pig dog and always was ever since he was pupped! To dare address me! I'll flog him black and blue in the public streets. I'll dig my spurs in him up to the rowel. He is a wellknown cuckold. (She swishes her huntingcrop savagely in the air) Take down his trousers without loss of time. Come here, sir! Quick! Ready?
BLOOM: (Trembling, beginning to obey) The weather has been so warm."

Leopold Bloom, now concerned for the well-being of his friend's son, follows Stephen and his friends to the red-light district. In a surreal sequence, he buys a pig's kidney and a lamb's trotter from a pork butcher just as it closes, suffers an abdominal cramp, and ends up feeding the offal to a shape-shifting dog. He is apprehended by the watch and subjected to a form of trial by a series of apparitions, in which he is charged by a number of respectable women with writing them letters of a masochistic nature, and he is confronted with numerous sexual . This may be a reference to the letter he has lately written to the anonymous Martha Clifford. Other apparitions confront him with his sexual infidelities. He finds Stephen in Bella Cohen's brothel, where the hallucinations continue. Bella subjects him to ritual humiliation involving cross-dressing and role-reversal. Stephen, who is very drunk indeed, confronts an apparition of his dead mother. Unable to cope, he breaks a chandelier with his walking stick. Uproar ensues: Bloom gets Stephen out of the way while he confronts Bella, and suddenly the passive-submissive Bloom is assertive and roles are reversed. Out in the street Stephen is attacked by two English squaddies. Bloom intervenes, and assumes full reponsibility for getting Stephen home safely. He is rewarded with an apparation of his dead baby son, Rudy, aged eleven as if he had lived.

And so we come to the great climax of the novel, in which Leopold Bloom is confronted with his life and his weaknesses, but also his virtues, and rediscovers his inner strength (which we've had a glimpse of once before. In terms of the number of pages, Circe is easily the longest episode of the novel, running in at a tad over 100 pages in my edition. On the other hand, its unusual style (it's written in the form of a play script, with copious stage directions) means it's a lot less dense than some of the passages that have gone before and it fairly rattles along. Not that it should be raced through; Joyce leaves plenty of little details in to make sure you are paying attention. Watch that stray dog, it's a different breed every time it's mentioned. In fact, this applies to the whole novel, but this section in particular is the place where lots of small and apparently inconsequential details dropped earlier on. A good example being the mysterious potato. When Bloom is putting his breakfast together and preparing to go out to buy a kidney, he pats his pockets and says enigmatically to himself, "potato I have." If you like me, you think 'how weird' but then forget about it. But now, 400 pages later, we discover that Bloom really does carry a potato in his trouser pocket; an old, hard, shrivelled one that his mother once carried as a talisman and which he now carries in her memory. He's quite distressed, in his quietly unfussy way, when Zoe Higgins the Yorkshire whore tries to take it off him. Ulysses is like that, full of tiny details that appear to be insignificant at first but later help to build up this rich tapestry of life. As long as you've been paying attention before, this episode is funny, moving, horrific, disturbing, uplifting and utterly readable. And it also brings us to the

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14. The Oxen of the Sun

Oxen of the Sun: the cattle of the sun-god Helios, which neither breed nor reduce in numbers. Odysseus is warned to leave them unharmed if he wishes to return safely to Ithaca, otherwise his ships and his crew will be destroyed. His crew disobeyed his order while he slept.

"And sir Leopold sat with them for he bore fast friendship to sir Simon and to this his son young Stephen and for that his langour becalmed him there after longest wanderings insomuch as they feasted him for that time in the honourablest manner. Ruth red him, love led on with will to wander, loth to leave."

Let us go to Holles Street, thricely and in a strange mixture of Gaelic and Latin. There, at numbers 29, 30 and 31, we find ( and can still find) the National Maternity Hospital. Leopold Bloom drops in for news of Mina Purefoy who, Bloom has learned from his old flame Josie Breen earlier in the day, has been in labour for two days with her ninth child. At last he meets Stephen Dedalus who is drinking with Buck Mulligan and other medical students. They are all squiffy, and none is more so than Stephen. Bloom feels the need to take his friend's wayward son under his wing. The baby - a boy, Mortimer Edward Purefoy - is finally delivered safely. The students and Stephen, with Bloom in tow, adjourn to a nearby pub where all but Bloom get ratarsed.

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGH! After the fireworks (both literal and sexually figurative) of the previous episode, Joyce now treats us to the most spectacular display of verbal pyrotechnics of the novel so far. And what a show! It's hard going, mind, at least at the beginning and end. In the middle some parts at least aren't so bad. We kick off with an enigmatic mantra: Deshil Holles eamus, repeated three times. What the fuck? Well, I did Latin at school so I recognise eamus as 'let us go'. Holles is the name of a street; it's been mentioned before as the birthplace of Leopold's lost son Rudy. Deshil? Digging around suggests that Deshil is Gaelic, meaning either 'street' or 'to the south' or 'to the right' depending on which reference you find. Anyway, it's not as erudite as is seems. From there, while nothing much happens on the ground and the wanderer is resting from his travels, we are taken on a tour through the history of literature through a series of parodies. Parodies of what is a matter for deeper study, but we start with something that looks like plainchant, moves on through alliterative poetry in the Anglo-Saxon style - the language of Beowulf - through mediaeval Romance, a bit of King James Bible, something that might be Fielding or Defoe (or both), eighteenth-century political satire, something erudite like the proceedings of a learned society, until the baby is finally born in the comfortable style of a Victorian novel. Everything is opaque and formless at the beginning of the sequence, but gradually recognisable elements emerge from the chaos and coalesce into more and more familar forms until the baby is born with great clarity. There's a parallel, then, with the development of the foetus into a real baby. I couldn't help thinking, too, of the possible cinematic counterpart of this episode, the psychedelic sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and of whether this was Stanley Kubrick's inspiration. After the baby is born and the party stagger on to te pub, the language fragments and degenerates again, turning into something that might be, in part at least, the street slang of Edwardian Dublin filtered through the addled thought processes of a bunch of students now as pissed as parrots. It all hangs together in the end but it's bloody hard work.
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13. Nausicaa

Nausicaa: a princess, daughter of King Alcinous. Odysseus admires her greatly and her father offers to let him marry her, but nothing comes of this. Alcinous provides Odysseus with the ships that finally take him home to Ithaca.

"And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely! O so soft, sweet, soft!"

We're back on the beach at Sandymount, where Stephen Dedalus passed the time lost in thought in the morning, but now it's getting towards sunset. (Maybe we're taken aback that the sun is setting before nine in Dublin in June, but then we recall that in 1904 there was no daylight saving time.) Three young women are whiling away the time. Edy Boardman has a baby in a pram with her, and Cissy Caffrey has charge of her boisterous four-year-old twin brothers. The third, the beautiful Gerty McDowell, who we have seen fleetingly before, has evidently been jilted by one Reggie Wylie and now dreams of meeting her ideal man but for some reason doesn't think this can happen. At the same time, Mass is being said in a nearby church. Gerty notices a man sitting on a rock - maybe the same rock that Stephen pissed on in the morning, though the tide has been and gone since - who is watching her. She flirts with him at a distance. She drops hints to her friends that it's getting late. She would like to be left alone. Gerty sends Cissy to ask the man the time. The man takes his hands from his pockets (but doesn't take his eyes off Gerty) to look at his watch but it has stopped. Darkness falls. Mass comes to an end. The flirting continues. A display of fireworks begins. Cissy, Edy and the children get up to move on to a better view. Gerty stays where she is, flirting ever more outrageously, leaning backwards ostensibly to see the fireworks and flashing first her legs and then her knickers at the man, whose hand is firmly in his pocket. A Roman candle rises and bursts in the air in a blatant mutual orgasm for Gerty and the man. Gerty gets up and limps after her friends. That's her problem, she's lame. Leopold Bloom (for it is he, and yes, I believe this is indeed where Private Eye got the phrase from), reflects on life, sex, how his watch stopped at the time Molly would have been unfaithful with Blazes Boylan, and whether he will see Gerty again. He starts to write a message for her in the sand but gets no further than I AM before thinking better of it. A cuckoo clock in the priest's house announces the time: nine o'clock. Bloom is a cuckoo, perhaps, and even a cuckold, it's the same word, really.

Well, here we are. This is the notorious bit; the one that stopped Ulysses's original serialisation in its tracks, the chapter that launched a thousand obscenity trials. The first description of cyber sex in literature. Whatever will the servants think? Not only sex, but self-abuse. And a floozy who's no better than she ought to be. With Mass being said within earshot too. Tut! No wonder God punished her by making her lame. It's sordid, or it's just the most gloriously explosive sex scene. Take it as you will. The pair of them, outsiders both, are fully aware of what's going on and I don't feel any sense of exploitation on either side. The erotic charge beats anything in Lady Chatterley anyway. But also, you sense that after a rotten day for both of them, things are about to take a turn for the better. For Bloom in particular, there seems to be a new optimism.
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12. Cyclops

Cyclops: a one-eyed monster living in cave visited by Odysseus and his crew. Odysseus attempts to befriend the monster but is trapped instead. By giving the cyclops wine and making it dead drunk, he effects their escape.

"-- And I belong to a race too, says Bloom, that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment. This very instant.
Gob, he near burnt his fingers with the butt of his old cigar.
-- Robbed, says he. Plundered. Insulted. Persecuted. Taking what belongs to us by right. At this very moment, says he, putting up his fist, sold by auction off in Morocco like slaves or cattle.
-- Are you talking about the new Jerusalem? says the citizen
-- I'm talking about injustice, says Bloom"

In a switch of point of view, we are in the mind and first-person narrative of an unnamed Dubliner who enters Barney Kiernan's spit-and-sawdust pub with Joe Hynes. Inside they meet Alf Bergan, Bob Doran, and a third man who is identified only as 'the citizen' (although if we note that the citizen has an Irish setter called Garryowen with him, we'll discover his name before long). The citizen is an outspoken Irish nationalist and xenophobe, with an especial hatred of the English and the jews. Rounds are bought, Irish politics and hurling discussed. The discussions are interspersed with passage of cod-Hansard, cod-legalese, cod-national epic, and lists of probably and improbable names. We learn that Lenehan's tip Sceptre has failed to win the Ascot Gold Cup, which was won by an outsider, Throwaway (it really was, in 1904, check if you like) at 20/1. Throwaway is actually the tip Bloom inadvertently gave to Bantam Lyons early in the morning, and rumours of this have been circulating around the city. It seems Lenehan succeeded in dissuading Lyons from actually backing Throwaway, but the citizen is convinced that Bloom has made a killing on the race. Funnily enough, Leopold Bloom now enters Barney Kiernan's looking for Martin Cunningham, with whom he wants to discuss financial arrangements for Paddy Dignam's widow. He joins in the discussion, which the citizen is making unpleasant with his increasingly provocative and anti-semitic stance. Bloom stands up to the citizen, showing a surprising amount of courage, and narrowly escapes physical assault.

The theme of Irish nationalism, which has never been far away, comes to the fore. It's not presented very favourably, associated with bigotry, xenophobia and bombast by the citizen. Bloom shows a side of himself we haven't seen much of before, with a display of real courage as he quietly asserts his pride in his Irishness while acknowledging his Jewishness with dignity in the face of drunken provocation. The unpleasantness of the subject matter is tempered with a lot of humour; the cod-epics that punctuate the narrative (and help to prick the citizen's bubble) are worthy precursors of Monty Python.
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11. The Sirens

Sirens: bird-women inhabiting a Mediterranean island. Their hypnotic singing lured sailors to be wrecked on the rocks. Odysseus asked his crew to plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast to avoid temptation.

"On the smooth jutting beerpull laid Lydia hand lightly, plumply, leave it to my hands. All lost in pity for croppy. Fro, to: to, fro: over the polished knob (she knows his eyes, my eyes, her eyes) her thumb and finger passed in pity: passed, repassed and, gently touching,.then slid so smoothly, slowly down, a cool firm white enamel baton protruding through their sliding ring."

It's four in the afternoon and Simon Dedalus and friends are gathered at the bar of the Ormond Hotel. They flirt with and are flirted at in return by the barmaids, Miss Lydia Douce and Miss Mina Kennedy, whose sensuous toing and froing sets the tone for the episode. Lenehan the racing man arrives and asks if anybody has seen Blazes Boylan. Boylan arrives for his meeting with Lenehan. Leopold Bloom arrives for dinner with the solicitor Richie Goulding, who is Stephen Dedalus's uncle. He sees Boylan's car and watches from a distance. Boylan buys a round, leaves. In the dining room, Bloom orders liver and bacon, Goulding steak and kidney pie, so we get a lot of food imagery. Simon Dedalus and friends, including a noted singer Ben Dollard, sing Bellini and Irish folk songs so we get a lot of musical imagery too. Bloom listens to the singing and ogles the barmaids from a distance. He calls for pen and ink, writes a reply (as Henry Flower) to Martha Clifford, inwardly reflects on life, love, the loss of his infant son and his alienation from his wife. Meanwhile, Blazes Boylan makes his way to Eccles Street for his assignation with Molly Bloom. Bloom leaves the hotel. feeling a little squiffy by now, and farts loudly and satisfyingly in the street.

Another rev of the engine, another shifting of the gears. The episode begins with a shower of short sentences and fragments of sentences that seem to make no sense. Two pages of them. Then things get more conventional, but then you begin realise that the fragments at the start reappear in context and make more sense (for some values of 'sense') Some overarching themes are thrown into sharper focus, mainly Bloom's position as an outsider, the wandering jew (although in fact he is not Jewish, as his mother was not.) The singers reflect a thread of Irish nationalism, which has appeared now and then. Both of these themes will doubtless be elaborated on before long. We learn a little more of Bloom's troubled love life, The narrative keeps being interrupted by brief flashes to Blazes Boylan's progress towards cuckolding Bloom, and it seems that Bloom knows this and also knows he is helpless to do anything about it. Lots of food, music and sex. The two barmaids, no doubt the Sirens of the section heading, are very memorable and feed Bloom's masturbatory fantasies with innuendoes that would make Humph blush. This is where we begin to see why Ulysses had such a controversial publishing history. Bloom's interior monologue gets more addled as the drink kicks in (although let's not forget that Bloom is a careful drinker, and we've seen how convoluted Stephen Dedalus's though processes are when he's sober, and heaven only knows what he's been doing all afternoon with his flamboyant friends and his pay packet. No doubt we shall find out soon enough.)
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10. The Wandering Rocks

The Wandering Rocks: otherwise the Symplegades; a pair of rocks in the Bosphorus that clash together randomly, destroys ships that try to pass. Though spoken of in the Odyssey, they do not actually appear as they belong to another epic voyage, that of Jason and the Argo.

In a series of short segments, a number of individuals are seen goiing about their business on a Dublin afternoon, starting at five to three with the passage of Father John Conmee SJ to Artane school, where he is attempting to get Paddy Dignam's son admitted free, and ending with the procession of the viceroy, William Humble, Earl of Dudley, in cavalcade through the streets. The individual characters are major ones, like Stephen Dedalus who meets his singing teacher, and Leopold Bloom, seen browsing a bookstall for a new book for Molly, and minor ones, some we have met, some we have yet to meet, some we may not meet again at all. We get a glimpse of Stephen's sisters, Katey, Boody, Maggy and Dilly, their home circumstances of dire poverty and Dilly's ambition - she cadges a shilling from her father and buys French primer. Blazes Boylan gawps down a shopgirl's blouse. His secretary confirms his meeting with Lenehan the racing tipster at the Ormond Hotel. Paddy Dignam's son buys porksteaks and dawdles on the way home to avoid the funereal atmosphere. The Hely's sandwich men with the hats pass by. Al the characters encounter the viceroy's procession, except Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Several characters make reference to a real-life disaster in New York the day before, the fire and explosion on the General Slocum in the East River, in which over 1,000 people died mainly as a result of negligence and greed in a catastrophe of a similar order of magnitude to 11 September 2001.

This segment is a wonderful evocation of a city and its people going about its business. The individual segments interconnect, each referring to to the motifs of other segments, and there are periodic brief and disconcerting shifts to what's going on elsewhere, drawing everything together in time. The whole episode races along very agreeably. Somewhere along the line I was struck by the sheer musicality of it. It's like a Bach fugue; deceptively pleasing to the ear but with an intricacy that might take a lifetime, or at least many readings, to comprehend fully. And then, at the end, I reflect that that's ten out of eighteen episodes done, and yet my bookmark is barely more than a third of the way in. It feels like a bridge; so far we've met a lot of characters and their intrigues but not much has happened. Our two main protagonists haven't actually met yet, although in the intimate world of Dublin they've all but trodden on each others' toes at least three times. Now it's the interval: time for a drink; time to take stock; time to gird up our loins for the tought territory ahead, and the unravelling of all these lives. I'm not bored yet - are you?
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9. Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla and Charybdis: two sea-monsters guarding a narrow channel, often thought to be the Straits of Messina. The sailor avoiding either comes dangerously close to the other.

"-- The wandering jew, Buck Mulligan whispered with clown's awe. Did you see his eye? He looked upon you to lust after you. I fear thee, ancient mariner. O, Kinch, thou art in peril. Get thee a breechpad."

Stephen Dedalus is in the National Library, expounding to an audience of scholars including Buck Mulligan on his theory that Shakepeare's writing are rooted in experiences from his own life; in particular that Hamlet was based on the infidelity of his wife Ann Hathaway with his brother Richard. Ann Hathaway, abandoned in Stratford by Shakespeare, is compared to the faithful Penelope in the Odyssey. As the discussion progresses, Leopold Bloom arrives to consult the files of the Kilkenny People and is led silently into the archive. Only Mulligan notices, and attempts to draw Stephen's attention to the 'sheeny' (Jew) who knows his old man. The scholars want to press on with the Shakespeare discussion. As they leave the library, they encounter Bloom again. The anti-semitic attempts to ward Stephen that Bllom has sexual designs on him.

No, I haven't forgotten, and I haven't given up. I just took a week off, that's all, and now I'm back! For some reason I thought this episode might be tough going; as it turned out I found it slipped down very nicely. The verbal play between Stephen, Buck Mulligan and the scholars John Eglinton, Richard Best and Lyster the Quaker Librarian is entertaining, spilling over to a riot of playful punning on names in the non-dialogue text. Also, I found Stephen's biographical theories about Shakespeare rather fascinating.

This episode may possibly be the first appearance in literature of the words pogue mahone ("kiss my arse") - so perhaps we can thanlk for one of the finest bands there ever was!
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8. The Lestrygonians

Lestrygonians: A tribe of giants who laid waste to Odysseus's fleet by hurling rocks at the ships and ate the crew members. Only Odysseus's own ship and crew survived

"Smells of me. His gorge rose. Spaton sawdust, sweetish warmish cigarette smoke, reek of plug, spilt beer, men's beery piss, the stale of ferment.
Couldn't eat a morsel here."

Leopold Bloom lingers on the O'Connell Bridge, watching the gulls. He buys a cake to throw to them. Five men pass by in procession, their matchig hats advertising Hely's department store. He meets Mrs Breen; they echange news about their families and of Mina Purefoy, who is in the lying-in hospital giving birth. Finally he goes looking for lunch. He enters the Burton restaurant but is put off by the rumbustious atmosphere and leaves. He goes to Davy Byrne's pub where he enjoys a glass of burgundy and a gorgonzola sandwich and makes small talk with Davy himself and Nosey Flynn. He goes to the yard to urinate. Byrne and Flynn talki about him in his absence. Three men arrive: Paddy Leonard, Tom Rochford, and that Bantam Lyons to whom Bloom has earlier given an unwitting racing tip. They talk about racing. Bloom returns from the yard, says his farewells and leaves the pub. He looks in shop windows as he walks to the National Library.

This is the episode that gets into all the Dublin tourist guides. Not least because Davy Byrne's pub still exists and milks its reputation for all it's worth. You can still get a glass of burgundy and a gorgonzola sandwich, but supposedly it becomes a bit of a zoo every year on 16 June when all the Bloomsday pilgrims pile in. Anyway - if food has figured prominently in the novel so far, this section is a positive feast. Some of it makes your mouth water; some, like the grotequely ungenteel Burtons, is repellent; it conjures up (for me at any rate) school dinners. Leopold Bloom becomes more solid and believeable by the line; we're in his intimate thoughts, we see his interaction with Mrs Bren through his own eyes and ears, and we se him through the eyes of the pub regulars.

This is the first episode I haven't read at a sitting in this reading. Not because it is a particularly hard episode to read; it isn't, though neither does it want to be rushed. I found I really wanted to turn over every phrase and savour it. Also, I've been restricted this week to reading a little late at night, after I've gone to bed. Not only am I tired, but I'm distracted by Truffle, who has adopted that space as her own quality time with me. She's adopted the late, much missed, Alice's little habit of climbing over the book to be attended to.
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This is really day 8 but I didn't get to write up yesterday.

7. Aeolus

Aeolus: Keeper of the Winds, who gives Odysseus all the unhelpful winds in a bag to speed his passage to Ithaca. His crew, who think the bag contains treasure, steal it and let out the winds so that Odysseus's return home is delayed.

Mouth, south. Is the mouth south someway? Or the south a mouth? Must be some. South, pout, out, shout, drouth. Rhymes: two men dressed the same, looking the same, two by two"

Leopold Bloom is going about his day job as an advertising canvasser. He visits the offices of the Evening Telegraph in order to place an ad on behalf of Mr Keyes. The printing presses are noisy; the editor's office is full of hacks, including Lenehan the racing tipster with a high-flown idea of his verbal skills, preoccupied with their own affairs and also noisy in their own way with linguistic swordplay. Bloom needs the artwork for the ad (no fax in 1904); tries to phone Mr Keyes from the editor's office; has to slip out to catch Keyes at the auction rooms. While he's gone, Stephen Dedalus arrives with Mr Deasy's letter. Dedalus leaves; Bloom returns; they fail to meet.

Here's the first sign of something out of the ordinary. Convential narrative is left behind and the episode, as befits one set in a newspaper office, is presented as a series of fragments each given a newspaper-like (at least, like a 1904 newspaper) headline. Because of this, and despite the verbal fireworks, the narrative pace cracks on at a fair old rate. To continue the Pennine Way analogy, it's now like walking on the dry, springy turf of the limestone country. In our voyage through the senses, it's hearing that gets its turn. The episode is full of sounds and rhythms: first the clanking of trams in O'Connell Street, then the regular clatter of the printing presses, in the offbeats of which Bloom must insert his words in counterpoint to be heard. There's a positive torrent of words, and it's noise in the sense of distraction too. Bloom comes and goes and comes again almost unnoticed, so does Dedalus, while the flamboyant Lenehan holds the stage. So many words, in fact, that although this is not a difficult episode to read, there's so much going on, and so much that is easily missed in the hubbub, that it's worth a second read. It's also rather funny, and reminds me of the rapid fire humour of a Cary Grant comedy - especially one of my absolute favourite films, in fact, His Girl Friday, which has its own chorus of hard-bitten and cynical hacks. There's no hurry to move on to the next bit, so nothing to be lost by looking again. That's an important point: you don't read Ulysses, you wallow in it.
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6. Hades

Hades: The world of the dead; also its supervisory deity.

"Mr Bloom glanced from his [Simon Dedalus's] angry moustace to Mr Power's mild face and Martin Cunningham's eyes and beard, gravely shaking. Noisy selfwilled man. Full of his son. He is right. Something to hand on. If little Rudy had lived. See him grow up. Hear his voice in the house. Walking beside Molly in an Eton suit. My son. Me in his eyes. Strange feeling that would be."

We find Leopold Bloom about to enter a funeral carriage with three other men: Martin Cunningham, who seems to lack a title; Mr Power, who seems to lack a Christian name; Mr Simon Dedalus. Dedalus, hmm? Things begin to connect. As the carriage clatters over the cobbles the four men make conversation. They pass Stephen Dedalus, and it becomes clear that Simon Dedalus is alienated from his son, who he feels has fallen into a bad crowd, led by Buck Mulligan. Nevertheless, he is fiercely proud of Stephen. We learn that Bloom has had his own tragedy in the past; the death of his infant son Rudy. The men talk about death. They pass a theatre where they see and are acknowledged by a theatrical promotyer, Blazes Boylan, the author of Molly Bloom's letter. The men talk of manners of death, including suicide, and Simon Dedlaus suggests that a suicide is a coward. We learn from Bloom's unspoken thoughts that he has a further tragedy in his life, the suicide of his own father. They arrive at the funeral, and leave it with the coffin. Bloom spots a mysterious man wearing a mackintosh.

Things are starting to come together, then. There's a link between Stephen Dedalus, the central figure in the first three episodes, and Leopold Bloom, central figure of the next three. We also learn a lot more about Bloom. We know that the parallels with the Odyssey are ironic. Bloom is no Homeric hero, and his wife Molly falls well short of Penelope's faithfulness, but we already know that in his bumbling way he is kind-hearted, and now we know that he has sadness in his life; the death of a son in infancy and the death of his father in a socially disgraceful manner. It's not surprising that he's a man who lives out his life in his head. For all his very human failings he's a likeable sort fo chap. And in this episode, something else is established: a son has lost a father; a father has lost a son. A situation asking for a resolution. And just who is the mystery man in the mackintosh?

That's six of the eighteen episodes completed, fairly agreeably, although the bookmark doesn't seem to be anything like a third of the way in (it's at page 118 of 704 in this - Penguin, 1969 - edition) It feels like the end of a distinct phase. If this were a walk along the Pennine Way, which doesn't seem to be a bad metaphor at all, as it's over mixed and sometimes difficult terrain and classically in eighteen parts, we'd have crossed the gritstone moors and waded through the bogs of Kinder Scout and Black Hill, and now we're dropping to the lush lowlands of the Aire Gap. So far we've travelled inside the heads of two very different characters - although the stream of consciousness writing is grammatically unconventional, Bloom's interior monologue is much easier to fololow than the high-flown musings of Dedalus. But now the landscape is about to change dramatically.
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5. The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters: A race of people inhabiting a Mediterranean island who subsist on the lotus, a plant which induces a state of euphoria. Odysseus's crew, fed the lotus plant on the island, lose their will to return home.

"By lorries along sir john Rogerson's Quay Mr Bloom walked soberly, past Windmill lane, Leask's the linseed crusher's, the postal telegraph office. Could have given that address too. And past the sailor's home."

Leopold Bloom walks through Dublin. He's on his way to the funeral of Paddy Dignam, but he's going by a roundabout route and not in any hurry. Why might he have given the address of the telegraph office, and to whom? Molly has a secret - can Leopold have one too? He has a card hidden in his hatband too. Ah yes, he's using the card to collect post left at the post office. A letter addressed to 'Henry Flower'. Hmmm. Before he can do anything with the letter, he meets somebody he'd rather avoid, an acquaintance called CP M'Coy; they chat. As they chat, Bloom sees an attractive woman outside the Gloucester Hotel. His hopes of a glimpse of silk stocking as she gets into a cab are frustrated by a passing tram. Bloom walks on. He hums a fragment of Don Giovanni and reads the letter, it's from somebody called 'Martha', who promises disciplinary delights to the naughty boy and wants to know what kind of perfume his wife wears. Bad Leo! He pockets the letter and flower, tears up the envelope and disposes of it in an alley under a railway bridge. He enters All Hallows church by the back door. Mass is being served. He stays until it is over, then returns to the street through the main door. Has a lotion made up at Sweny's, of sweet almond oil, benzoin, orangeflower water, oh the fragrances, mingles with the other scents of the chemist's shop. He meets another acquaintance, Bantam Lyons, they talk about racing and Bloom inadvertently gives Lyons a tip. Bloom ends the episode dreaming of having a Turkish bath.

The disjointed, fragmentary language of this episode, expressed entirely in Bloom's thoughts, is disconcerting, but it plods along comfortably enough, just like Leopold Bloom's plodding and wayward progress through Dublin. For the first time, we get a hint of an enigma, things going on that bear some resemblance to a plot. Why is Bloom being so furtive? Why does he want to give forwarding addresses? We suspect already that he is being cockolded, but he doesn't seem to be the sort who has a bit on the side, does he? Ah, but he does, and a whole new identity: Henry Flower. No wonder the last thing he wants is to see a talkative acquaintance, and no wonder he's covering his tracks. He's into S&M too, it seems, and his answer to a dominatrix's ad has been rewarded. Still, he purges his guilt, returning to the mainstream of Dublin life via a church, spectating on Mass and reflecting on its meaning. Lots more homework to exercise the senses; mainly the sense of smell this time.
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4. Calypso

Calypso: Not a Trinidadian folk-song but a sea-nymph, or Nereid, who delayed Odysseus's return to Ithaca by keeping him as a sex slave for seven years.

"Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls."

With what would have been one of the great opening sentences in all literature if it weren't fifty-seven pages in, the clock turns back several hours so we are back to when Stephen Dedalus and his house mates are having breakfast in Sandycove. Now we are in a different part of Dublin, and inside the thoughts of a new character. Leopold Bloom, a bumbling and harmless if somewhat unsavoury type, is pottering about his kitchen preparing breakfast for himself and his wife, Molly (Mrs Marion Bloom, singer). He makes a fuss of the cat and dreams of a special treat for himself - a pig's kidney to be fried in butter. We see the busy morning streets of urban Dublin filtered through his wandering thoughts; simpler and earthier than the high-flown thoughts of Dedalus. He exchanges small talk with local traders and visits Dlugasz's pork butchers where he entertains sexual fantasies about the customer in front of him. He aims to follow her when he has bought his kidney. He returns home, collects the post from the mat, finishes cooking breakfast. He takes Molly her breakfast and her two letters one of which, he notes, she secretes under her pillow. So we can guess she is having an affair. While he's talking he smells burning; the kidney. He rushes downstairs to rescue his breakfat; eats it while reading his own letter from his daughter Milly. He visits the outdoor loo in the yard for a crap.

This episode is actually a very enjoyable read. It's full of sensuality. The sounds and smells are captured so evocatively that you are right there in Edwardian Dublin. What's most striking, however, is the constant lingering over food. We've wallowed in food before, but here the descriptions are almost pornographic. It's no accident that I'm having pig's kidneys for my tea tonight! That is the joy of Ulysses, what makes it so unforgettable. Not that it's a racy story - it isn't. It's that it is so very alive, that it takes you right into its very heart, and that heart is a real place, not a romanticised ideal. The nearest thing I can think of in the non-literary world was when I went to a preview of the Jorvik museum in York, before it became a tourist trap, and when the little train took you past the latrines of the Viking village you could smell them. And how!
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3. Proteus

Proteus: A sea god, one who has the power to foretell the future but only if he is captured. To avoid capture he constantly changes shape.

"In long lassoes from the Cock lake the water flowed full, covering greengoldly lagoons of sand, rising, flowing."

Stephen Dedalus kills time between his work at the school and his rendezvous with Mulligan and Haines at the Ship. He spends it walking aimlessly on the beach - something this reader can identify with strongly - while his mind ranges erratically over a variety of ideas, some philosophical, some poetic, some practical, few coherent, all mingled together. He watches a couple with a dog passing by, makes some notes of his thoughts, and has a furtive piss behind a rock.

After warming us up with a couple of gentle episodes, Joyce shifts up a couple of gears, revs the engine and gives us a taste of the verbal gymnastics to come. It's a difficult chapter to read, although quite short, and it's even harder to get a grip on everything that is going on. A full understanding is probably for a lifetime's scholarly study; however that isn't necessary on this reading. What the chapter does is get us right inside the head of Stephen Dedalus who, it's reasonable to assume, is a projection of James Joyce himself. We are aware that the confusion we feel as readers is a reflection of the cerebral Stephen's own experience as he grapples with ideas and tries to pin them down. The language is like a flock of waders on the beach: taking off as one, weaving patterns in the ear as the flock constantly changes shape, and then touches the ground again to deal with practicalities. When the chapter does touch ground it captures perfectly the scenst, sounds and textures of a slightly down-at-heel beach (there's a dead dog amongst the seaweed). The contrasting sensations of walking on sand, on shells, along the 'lacefringed' - perfect word - of the edge of the water. Even the act of pissing on a rock is lovingly and imaginatively recorded. Still, nothing much has happened as we come to

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2. Nestor

Nestor: King of Pylos and retired Argonaut. In the Odyssey, Telemachus visits him in search of news of his father. Nestor entertains him lavishly, bores him with tales of former deeds, and is unable to give him any useful information.

-- History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Stephen Dedalus is teaching history to a class of boys at a private school. The subject is the victory of King Pyrrhus at the Battle of Asculum, the original pyrrhic victory. Neither Stephen nor the boys have any enthusiasm for the subject and Stephen's grasp of class discipline is tenuous. One of the body furtively eats a fig biscuit - more food, sensuously decribed, we'll be getting a lot of that. Stephen switches to a class reading of Milton's Lycidas (Ulysses is chocka with literary references, many of which sail way over my head, so I'm only remarking on those I recognise!) with no more success. He tries to lighten things by asking a riddle, but it falls flat. At ten sharp the boys leave for a games lesson. One boy stays behind for help with an arithmetic problem. Afterwards, Stephen has a meeting with Mr Deasy the headmaster, an Orangeman, to collect his pay. Mr Deasy regales him with tales of the Protestant history of Ireland, and how the Jews are strangling Old England (with, I was delighted to recognise, a quote from Blake's Auguries of Innocence) He advises Stephen that he is not a natural teacher, and gives him a letter to take to the newspaper office for printing.

All very comfortable so far. The allusions are flying but not unmanagebly if you don't let yourself be distracted. It's beautifully atmospheric, too. One gets right inside Stephen's skin and feel his inner turmoil, and we've all met the pompous and slightly seedy Mr Deasy, who has power over us but who makes us feel queasy. Have no fear, though, things are about to change.
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1. Telemachus

Telemachus: the son of Odysseus and Penelope. The opening books of the Odyssey are concerned with Telemachus's travels in search of his father.

"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing-gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
-- Introibo ad altare Dei"

The day begins for three young men who share the Martello tower at Sandycove on Dublin Bay. Malachi 'Buck' Mulligan, a medical student, is brash, irreverent, tactless and overbearing. Stephen Dedalus, writer and one-time candidate for the priesthood, broods about his dead mother and is irritated by Mulligan's unrelenting banter and the disturbed sleep of Haines, a rather bland Englishman with a romantic idea of Irishness. Mulligan shaves, they share a full fried breakfast, with the milk being delivered in time. Mulligan, having pleaded poverty and attempted to cadge from Dedalus, is forced into finding two shillings to pay for the milk. They leave the tower. Mulligan goes for a swim; Haines heads for the library, and Dedalus decides that he can't live with Mulligan and can't return to the tower that evening.

Well, that wasn't so bad, was it? The language is dense but not inaccessible. The characters are well-drawn and believeable, and remarkably undated. and the reader is there with them at breakfast; all the senses are brought into play so you can smell the bacon and taste the rich, fresh milk. To be sure, not much has happened but a situation has been set up. This is not far removed from the evocative stories in Dubliners.


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