Sunday, August 30, 2009


Tonight I'm going to think about the connections Joyce was making between belief systems and the backgrounds of each. For instance, Stephen was a Jesuit, considered extremely devout. He wouldn't kneel down at his dying mother's bedside because of the belief Exodus 20:3 "Do not have any other gods before me." His beliefs would seem incongruent to most. Stephen is a Shakespearian and travels off into eastern religions and relates to Grecian myths. And, I am aware coming right up, he and Mr. Bloom find themselves in a brothel, sooooo. I'll put my thoughts together. It would be nice to have a chit chat with a Ulysses Expert, but I'm sure they're a rare breed!

Speaking of Grecian myths, I remember from childhood liking the hideous beasts i.e. midesa (a gargon/Clash of the Titans) with her snake hair and the ability to turn men into stone (I think she was hotty at one time and something happened. I can't quite remember the details). The cyclops (Nice Eye!) , the sirens (beauty has led a lot of men to do stupid things), cerberus (not a good city dog, twice the food, twice the clean up), Hydra (with nine heads, a creature to avoid taking out to dinner, go for an all you can eat buffet) and a bunch of giants and half horse, goat, things.

But nothing compares to the beast I found in my bathroom this morning. A Hawaiian centipede!! CENTIPEDUS with two sharp and poisonous heads. Yes, if you cut it in half, you have two for the price of one (imagine if people were like that). It was only about 8-9 inches long. I went and got an iron skillet. You have to have something flat, big surface, where there is NO wiggle room. Pan + ceramic tile, push down, snappy, crunchy NO' MO' CENTIPEDUS! This is no smacking it with a flip flop deal!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I'm already nervous.  Obviously the idea is to enjoy the books, not just speed read through them or what would be the point.  If I read two books a week (I realize they are different lengths and commitment levels) then I would accomplish my goal. Maybe reading Ulysses first is better because everything will be easier after this.  Nice thought, but Joyce is on the list two more times.  And, my one and only follower has warned me on D.H. Lawrence.  #2 Is the Great Gatsby, which will be a reread for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time.  It will be a reprieve after Ulysses, but I do not regret the time I have put into it.  Off I go to ingest more. 

Friday, August 28, 2009


Woke up this morning to my son holding a dead, dried up lizard in my face.  "Look Mom!  It has yellow stuff in it!  His name is Scarface."  I looked at it and then really looked at it.  It's side was torn open.  Who's to say what happened.  The cat looked guilty, maybe Konan got him.  He was avoiding eye contact at breakfast.    He has been known to eat lizards and cockroaches and then barf up the whole boulibase like mess on the floor. 
Nice!! "Put that thing outside, it's got all kinds of diseases and then go wash your hands!" That is life I guess.  Here one moment, dried up lizard the next.
 I'm not sure about this transmigration theme in Ulysses (reincarnation) but if it is true, was the lizard on his way to being  human, or was  he a human who was on his way to being a lizard?  Is it forward and backward or both? I can see this reptilian conversation:
"Hey, I'm Gill but I used to be Mao.  Maybe you heard of me; I was kinda  a big deal."
The other, "Really, I just want to eat flies.  I have no idea what your talking about!"
 What would Hitler and Stalin warrant, something less like a mosquito, a fly, a gnat?  All fitting, but I don't want to insult any of the aforementioned. 
I'm sorry to say, there was no glamorous send off for the crusty lizard.  I think my son threw him into a bush, kind of depressing, like being put in a paupers grave. 

A focus in Ulysses is the funeral for Dignam, a friend of Mr. Bloom.  Attending this funeral are several other people including Stephan Dedalus' father (although Bloom and Stephen have yet to meet).  This is the same funeral that the irritating M'Coy wants Bloom to put his name on the registrar so he doesn't have to bother attending.  Humans are beastly sometimes, and some more than others.  Mr. Bloom's mind roams all over the place as the eulogy is delivered, as all our minds do at such an event. 
"The gravediggers took up their spades and flung heavy clods of clay in on the coffin.  Mr. Bloom turned his face. "And if he (Dignam) was alive all the time?  Whew!  By Jingo, that would be awful!  No, no:  he is dead, of course.  Of course he is dead.  Monday he died.  They ought to have some law to peirce the heart and make sure or an electric clock or a telephone in the coffin and some kind of a canvas airhole.  Flag of Distress.  Three days.  Rather long to keep them in summer."
And then he moves onto thinking about saving space by burying people upright.  Lastly, he thinks of his father's suicide.  "Thought he was asleep at first.  Then saw yellow streaks on his face.  Had slipped down to the foot of the bed....Pull the pillow away and finish it off on the floor since he's doomed." 
How can we be thinking of what's for lunch at a funeral, or anything else but grief and the dear departed.  I thought back to funerals I've attended.  My grandparents whom I loved dearly.  Thinking, who is going to speak?  Who will break down?  Who won't?  Who is worried about the will?  It seems absurd, but we all do it.  It is worse if you really don't know the person that well.    In example, being at a distant relation's funeral, who was quite substantial especially in the hind quarters,  and thinking does this cost more, like the airlines. I guess he won't be around to file a discrimination suit.   How does a conversation  like this go down?  Imagine having to deliver that news.
"Mr. and Mrs. McDonald,  I realize this is an emotional time for you both.  However, your father was a substantial man of the heart and in other ways as well."
I guess these distractions are our way of not thinking about death.  Or to remove ourselves from the inevitable?  "We are but a dried up lizard tossed in a bush."     

Thursday, August 27, 2009

JUNE 16 1904

Everything in Ulysses happens in the span of a day in Dublin, Ireland, the home of James Joyce. After three chapters spent with Stephen Dedalus, who is destined to meet his kismet/spiritual father Mr. Bloom, the book introduces us to Bloom and his wife. His wife is a famous opera singer and a Spanish beauty. Her father is Spanish and her mother is Jewish as is Mr. Bloom. Mr. Bloom seems a very affable fellow as he goes about his morning business of feeding the cat, taking care of Mrs. Bloom, and visiting the outhouse. Typical examples of Joyce's writing: (this is the cat thinking..."Wants to go out. Wait before a door sometime it will open. Let her wait. Has the fidgets. Electric. Thunder in the air. Was washing at her ear with her back to the fire too."

Another Joyce example, this time Mr. Bloom after he eats his breakfast: "He felt heavy, full: then a gentle loosening of his bowels. He stood up, undoing the waistband of his trousers. The cat mewed to him." He finds a magazine and makes his way to the outhouse. "Quietly he read, restraining himself, the first column and, yielding but resisting, began the second. Midway, this last resistance yielding, he allowed his bowels to ease themselves quietly as he read, reading still patiently that slight constipation of yesterday quite gone."

After waiting on his wife, which is a typical occurrence every morning, and uncomfortably pondering her affair with a man named Boylan, he saunters (on his odyssey) down the street. He needs to get ads published for his clients. He picks up a letter from his mistress. He runs into an asshole M'Coy who brags about himself and his wife and asks Mr. Bloom if he is going to a mutual acquaintance's funeral. The man then makes up some lame excuse as to why he cannot go and tells Mr. Bloom to write his name down on the attendees book. Adding insult to injury, M'Coy is blocking Mr. Bloom's view of a women pulling up her stockings (the NERVE). Mr. Bloom has thoughts about eastern religion and life (a reoccurring theme with Stephen and Mr. Bloom). There is a lot of book time devoted to eastern religious beliefs and transmigration (reincarnation). Episode Calypso ends (Calypso is personified in Mrs. Bloom... a nymph) and episode the Lotus Eaters begins. Mr. Bloom goes to a pharmacy to have lotion made for his wife and ends up grabbing some lemon soap for himself. Back out on the street, his mind wonders from the chemist at the pharmacy, drugs, opium in the east and the reasons why people use drugs or numb themselves with other things such as religion (anything that people follow blindly without any self examination).

"The chemist turned his back page after page. Sandy shriveled smell he seems to have. Shrunken skull. And old. ... Drugs age you after mental excitement. Lethargy then. Why? Reaction. A lifetime in a night. Gradually changes you character."

Focus/Comments: Joyce's understanding of examined and unexamined lives is obvious and a major point throughout his writings. And, the predisposition for people to be  lemmings straight into the grave. I used to wonder how people became addicted to a drug like heroin. Who would grab a needle and shove it into their arm. Insanity. Then a sibling of mine developed an opiate addiction. It was horrible, devastating, there is no way to describe it in words. It's worse than death because the person is still walking around like a ghost, an empty shell. In hindsight, I see that she wanted to get away from an unhappy life, but she felt so powerless that she couldn't do it on her own. Of course it does not start with the hard stuff, or being an intravenous drug user. It is insidious. It starts tiny, like any parasite, and then mushrooms into a bloodsucking beast, hollow eyes, walking dead. I didn't even know her anymore. It is still shocking to think this started from an individual's inability to take control of life, to leave, to chart a new path alone. That it was preferred to become numb and avoidant, until you're dead inside. It's been along road back.

Not well today.

Have had headache for 3 days....maybe it's Ulysses. Did manage to read 4 more chapters and will get on early tomorrow Hawaii time...
I wouldn't suggest anyone starting this endeavor with Ulysses! Save it for a grand finale. It's a full time job!
I thought reading was fun! :(
Thanks to my first follower. I really love your blog and thanks for responding.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Tuesday, overcast and I'm grumpy and not in the mood for Ulysses or anything else! So, I made my 7 year old read it for me. He looked at it, tried to read a few sentences and told me it was giving him a headache. I swear I have had a migraine for two straight days!!
Getting through episodes 1-3 involving the young man Stephen I think are the most difficult. He is frequently going off in his mind to all kinds of destinations, metaphysical, mythological, theological, Shakespearean, you name it. Joyce was so well versed, that I think this book was the embodiment of his brilliance. His references to all of history is unfathomable.

Stephen has a turbulent relationship with his father. You can see that in his inner thoughts (he plays out scenes and conversations where his father is essentially mocking him.) His father does not value Stephen's lifestyle or his brand of intellect. This gives me a hint into his insecurities. He recalls his mother's unpleasant death from sickness.

However, I choose to only tackle one issue tonight. That of the conversation with Mr. Deasey. The proprietor of the school where Stephen works. I think I was wrong in saying that Stephen was mocking him. I think he was more just observing Mr. Deasey and his personality, objectively studying him. Mr. Deasey calls Stephen in his office to give him his pay. Mr. Deasey goes off on a tangent about Jews taking over England and pretty soon the whole culture and economy will be lost. The idea of prejudice was quite different at the turn of the century but Joyce seems to already have a modern view and understanding of it. Deasey makes comments in regards to their stinginess, their money lending, and the fact that they have no homeland so therefore permeate and contaminate other cultures. Stephen seems to listen without much reaction. Mr. Deasey states: "They sinned against the light. And you can see the darkness in their eyes. And that is why they are wanderers on the earth till this day."
Stephen replies: "Who has not? History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
The end of this episode describes how Deasey is shoving his money into a box that is divided for different coins, bills etc. And then he gives Stephen advice on basically hoarding money (an obvious parallel to his description of Jewish people.) I want to come back to Stephen's comment briefly tomorrow.
I'm not sure what Joyce's purpose was in creating this character Deasey and his antisemitic personality, unless it was just to represent that this is how some people are.
I recall not too long ago seeing this HBO documentary on the election. The interviewer (a woman) went to the Daytona 500, to where the people set up their RVs. She interviewed a bunch of "southern good ol' boys". As they got drunker and drunker, one big galoot actually started crying. He said something like.... "This country just aint ready for a black president. If this happens I'll move from this country. I don't even think women should be voting." And then he actually broke down crying!!! It was quite moving in a -Wow this can't be for real way-! The fear on his face was tangible. It was obvious he felt extremely disenfranchised (but he didn't know why he was so "scart"). Some people are really terrified of change. Having a black president I doubt was going to change anything for this man in the literal sense; it was what it was doing to his myopic view of the world. It was as though, Darwin, Gloria Steinhem, Malcolm X, Karl Marx, Harvey Milk and maybe Hanoi Jane had him surrounded on the battle field. He was ready to pull a hari kari!
I frequently hear people say, "The world is going to hell in a hand basket." "It is worse off now then it ever has been." I think the world has always been the same. There have always been bigots, pedophiles, rapists, murderers they just didn't have the range they have today with television, media, the web. Additionally, people just didn't talk about issues like rape or being molested even 30 years ago. One just pushed it down and went on...that is how these predators kept victimizing people. Now, it has more exposure and this scares people. The issue of prejudice isn't tolerated anymore, it is a negative subject (with guilt attached to it) and it is unpleasant for some white people to hear about it. Or, the acceptance of people who are homosexual, same thing, it makes people who survive in a comfy bubble upset. They cannot reconcile it with their belief system. They have one of two choices, changing their mind, which is doubtful let's face it! Or, pretending it doesn't exist, what an existence experiencing your whole life with blinders on..................and then you die).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some Clarity........

Good Morning Hawaii. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping.
I spent all evening going over Ulysses and then turned to the study guide I bought at the used book store. It was fortuitous. It is by Stuart Gilbert and the last time this particular version was published was in 1958. After being 8 episodes deep in Uylsses cross eyed and having drool dripping on my bib, I thought, somethings gotta give. I have a tendency to be lazy (admitting it is half the battle) but always am proud when I put in the effort to understand something to the best of my abilities. Of course, I am under a time restraint. If I read 2 books a week, I will achieve my goal of a 100 books in 365 days (I am having trouble with the countdown clock, I'm working on it.) Ulysses is a commitment of longer devotion; whereas some books will take less devotion. I would like to also pick up a copy of The Odyssey. So, I would say so far one would need a study guide, The Odyssey and the book to have a somewhat cohesive experience with Ulysses. We'll see.
After reading and then going to the study guide, it was like seeing the dawn. I also went to wikipedia and checked out a site summarizing The Odyssy (not Odysseus, that is the main character). It was beneficial to have an overview. Ulysses is a latinized version of the name Odysseus. Ulysses is also the sequel (kind of) of the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen Dedalus is the main character of this story (which is on the list #3). Mr. Bloom is the main character of Ulysses (he is Ulysses or Odysseus). It is his odyssey.
I realized that the book is divided into the same episodes as the Odyssey, so it will be easier to draw the parallels. The inner monologues and silent monologues apparently are what set this book apart at the time of its release. Even though this is the hardest part to follow, I feel a renewed optimism to retackle the narrative pieces. I started reading the guide right at page 1, reading it beforehand did nothing for me because it had no contextual meaning.
I'll end with an excerpt from Gilbert (who by the way interviewed Joyce) that really hit home.

"It is possible to read Ulysses as most of us read the book of life, uncritically, forgetfully, following the line of least resistance; and, though a greater vigilance would afford a richer pleasure in perusal, the casual reader will reap a reward proportionate to his effort....... But the bliss of ignorance is a short and sorry affair beside the subtle delectation of the connoisseur. The slow ascent of the tree of knowledge is not labour lost; it is from the topmost branches, unseen by followers of the beaten track, that its choices fruits depend."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Started Ulysses

Started Ulysses and I think I have the countdown set. I'll see next time I log in. Problem... Since I'm the only one on here I guess I won't worry about it too much....but my service went down and won't be fixed for 4 days. Not a good way to start a daily blog, but that is the way it is. I'm at Borders using the service. Of course they want a daily fee to use their service. I tell ya, they get ya coming and going!

In regard to Ulysses ummm, yeah! So I went to the used book store, tons of James Joyce, but only one binding that said Ulysses so I grabbed it and went on my merry way. When I got home I noticed it was the study guide which made no sense to me at all. Then I came to Borders and spent $22. on a new copy of Ulysses. My husband said, "How much was that?" To which I told him "$22.". "$22. the guy died like 70 something years ago, what the hell?" As if because the book was written along time ago, it should be like buying a VHS recorder at a yardsale!

Anyway, the guide was so confusing I couldn't imagine what the book would be like. Apparently it follows Homer's Odyssius (spelling???) which I have never read. I took Greek mythology years ago, so I'm not completely inept, but almost. I know the basic premise of the story but not sure it's helping at all. Especially with the inner thoughts of the main character Stephen Deladus. Wow! Chapter 3.... holy horrors. A person, who will remain nameless, who also read the book years ago (I'm sure one can figure out who said person is) thinks that Ulysses is one of those books written for intellectuals so they feel they have to understand it and rate it as the #1 book because they're snobs, but for the common person it is ridiculous and wouldn't even be on any list, unless it was the "I will only read this book if Assigned and hate every minute of it List" . I don't know, I do like the characters and the dialogue. The narratives jump around so much it is hard to follow much of the time. It is like listening to a conversation through a door (not that I would ever do this), you're catching bits and pieces and kind of get the gist of it, but have to make a lot of assumptions.
I don't have the book with me, didn't want to bring it back into Borders and be accused of jacking it (at this point probably no-one would believe anybody would want to jack Ulysses), so I can't really comment on it too much.
The main characters are : Stephen, Mulligan, (some English guy, I'll get back to him), Mr. Bloom and Mrs. Bloom. The book is quite graphic in some spots, which is no biggie today, but I can imagine the scandal in the 20's. Anyway, I'll read it until Wednesday and then log back on, unless I drag myself over here in the mean time.
All for now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My first post

Okay, getting started. I'm going to start my first post after I read Ulysses. Not sure how this going to work, but this is a work in progress. Maybe I should just comment as I go, I'll think about it tonight. So
a) I have to finish a book and then start commenting (which I probably would forget certain items of interest) and while commenting on the previous book be reading the second (if that makes sense) or
b)just comment as I go
I think b is going to prevail and I'll change the directions page.
It is overcast in Hawaii but of course warm. I'll be going to our used book store later. It is an awesome place. If you ever visit Kona Hawaii, it is a must. That is where I found my 1920's 30's Vanity Fair Calvacade by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee. My favorite magazine. Wow, those Madoff articles (won't go there).
Ulysses is my first book, so I'm going to go and find it! Wish me Luck.