Welcome to Ulysses Wednesday, where I track my progress reading James Joyce’s tale of a day in the life of Leopold Bloom.
Status: on page 225 of 783
This week’s reading was much more interesting than what I slogged through last week. There is a fine discussion in the library about Shakespeare and how autobiographical his plays may or may not have been; and in the midst of this talk turns for a minute to an anticipated gathering of “young poets’ verses” and what I thought to be an interesting statement:
Our national epic has yet to be written.
Could Joyce have believed that it was up to him to write such an epic?
In this section we also see Leopold Bloom go into Davy Byrne’s pub for lunch. The descriptions of the meat and other foodstuffs eaten by other patrons is rather off-putting, so I can see why Bloom decides to order a (gorgonzola) cheese sandwich. After lunch he goes to the library – the location of the above mentioned Shakespeare discussion – to look up something for an advertisement he is trying to sell.
You know, I thought Ulysses was all about Bloom and nothing but Bloom, but I was wrong. In my reading thus far he appears for a chapter here and there and then sets off to let others participate in the action. I knew there were other characters, of course, but I didn’t realize that they had as much of a role in this novel as Bloom.
What I also found interesting was Joyce’s use of the word Holocaust:
All those women and children excursion beanfeast burned and drowned in New York. Holocaust. Karma they call that transmigration for sins you did in a past life the reincarnation met him pikehoses. Dear, dear, dear. Pity of course: but somehow you can’t cotton on to them someway.
and then later on a reference to a dreadful catastrophe in New York, which was an actual event – a passenger ship disaster on June 15, 1904, the day before the events described in Ulysses. Even though his use of holocaust in this instance is accurate, it is certainly not a context in which I am familiar in seeing that term used.
So am I getting it yet? Probably not entirely, but I do have glimmers of understanding here and there. It is definitely not a book to be read casually though.