Ulysses, further continued

2022-05-16 @Literature

The Ulysses read has demanded severe focus, such that I’ve hardly the willingness to channel energy towards any other reading effort, short of occasional snippets of Eliot and more recently, Ezra Pound, which I’m still in the process of reconciling. But that’s fairly moot. It’s really all about Ulysses. I struggle to even skim a casual blog entry I might otherwise read with greater interest from my humble list of Newsboat RSS feeds.

I’ve never found myself rereading fragments this many times in succession. And boy is it worth it: the awe-inspiring detail with which Joyce transmits the minutiae transpiring within each micro interval, the seemingly encyclopedic body of allusions mostly over my head, the extravagant catalogues, the constant metamorphosis evinced not merely in each successive chapter, but the successive paragraph, the linguistic humour, the painstaking care exercised to paint the said events surrounding that one day of June 16th, 1904.

I’m currently proceeding through the long chapter written as a play consuming nearly a quarter of the book: a play of immaculately devised staging directions, an inexhaustible, constantly mutating, humanoid and allegorical cast list, a continuous appeal to hallucination, much transpiring within the protagonists' subconscious, none of which is designed to be critiqued literally but as a parody, a satire, a hyperbole. That’s it. In fact, much of the book I could arguably classify an outrageous, extravagant hyperbole. And it works out so well.

The same chapter reminds me of the spirit (merely the spirit) of such sections as Satan’s Ball of Master and Margarita or the Masquerade of Goethe’s Faust.

The chapter preceding may sound a trivial forty-page ordeal in comparison, but I devoted roughly two weeks consuming those forty pages, not exploring obscure references, not consulting supplementary material, but purely parsing the content to the best of my ability. That’s the chapter set in the maternity hospital showcasing a constant transformation of literary styles at seemingly every paragraph, and it’s not the first of the sort. It begins in the cadence of old Anglo-Saxon alliterative poetry and culminates with the crude stream-of-consciousness characteristic of much of Ulysses.

And the chapter before that, captured in a form of indirect speech practiced by Jane Austen (among many), initiated in the style of an elegant romance 19th-century prose and midway transfused abruptly into the contemporary, fragmentary, nearly pornographic stream transpiring within Bloom’s mind. And so on and so forth.

I’m not writing within the pages of my edition. Not sure why. I probably should be ambitiously circling, underlining and annotating every other sentence.

Instead I’ve continued the practice of delineating on separate scraps of paper the start of every remarkable phrase or passage that I later procure from the electronic version in its entirety for my digital notes. That and just noting the brief impressions, many of which serve as inspiration for this style of divulgation.

Stay tuned.

Questions, comments? Connect.