Wednesday, September 30, 2009



Friday, September 25, 2009

"Ulysses Seen" One Cool Site!

Ulysses Seen is (you guessed it) all about the process of getting to know the 20th century's most dreaded and feared book!  There is a new illustrated version being created by Robert Barry.  And, it features a man's journey to read Ulysses for the first time.  Sound familiar??
See below for excerpt from the site Ulysses Seen:

New Comic Pages October 5th!


September 25th, 2009 Throwaway Horse, LLC will be presenting new, weekly installments of its comix adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses at our web site,,  beginning October 5, 2009 and running through December 7, 2009.  In addition to giving readers 40 new pages of the comic, Throwaway Horse will add new features and a new schedule of regular content.
The comic will now update on Mondays with four new pages.  The Reader’s Guide, our online annotation for solving some of the mysteries of the novel page-by-page, will follow with daily analysis Tuesday through Friday of each week.
In addition, Throwaway Horse is happy to introduce Michael Perridge as a regular contributor to the site.  Michael will be blogging about his experience as he reads Ulysses for the first time, wrestling with what many consider to be the most difficult, if ultimately rewarding, book ever written.  If all goes well this should be like watching a one-man Oprah book club suddenly finding itself on the set of Survivor.
“Ulysses Seen” garnered considerable notice and comment with its first installment on June 16, 2009, known as “Bloomsday” to Joyce fans the world over.  New Yorker magazine called “Ulysses ‘Seen’” “real fun,” and found Berry’s art work “lush and comical.”  No fewer than 16 online blogs and magazines reviewed and reported on the project, including Paste Magazine, all of which are collected in the site’s “Press” section.  The “Twittersphere” was abuzz with comment as well, with tweets coming from everyone from musician Mike Watt, to Random House, the original publishers of Joyce’s Ulysses, who called the project “V. interesting.”
Throwaway Horse LLC is a company dedicated to fostering understanding of public domain literary masterworks by joining the visual aid of the graphic novel with the explicatory aid of the internet.  “Ulysses ‘Seen’” is its inaugural project.  Comic book artist Berry and Joyce scholar Mike Barsanti conceived of the project as a forum for both the first time reader and the Joyce expert to discuss, explore, and debate a book considered to be both one of the most important books of the 20th century and one of the most difficult. Throwaway Horse LLC has posted the website as a kind of “alpha” web 2.0 project in which visitors can help shape content and direction of the site itself. The project is being presented in serialized form, like the original novel, with the hopes it can be completed in slightly less than the 10 years it took for Joyce to write the novel itself.


If you have a baby shower coming up, may I make a suggestion?  After all children do enjoy a good bedtime story by James Joyce.  My seven year old is a huge Ulysses fan and wants to be Joyce for Halloween.  Last year he was a pirate so we're just going to recycle the eye-patch.  

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Visiting Misfit Salon, a great site whose creator is actually reading Ulysses by James Joyce, I discovered another site Reading Ulysses For The First Time .  What I have noticed about these two blogs is that it takes a person with a good sense of humor to get through Ulysses. My husband claims that Ulysses is an exercise in conceit, but then being the thespian he is, he starts contemplating how it would have been a lot better if Joyce didn't base the story on The Odyssey, but Shakespeare plays instead.  After visiting Italy this summer and meeting his sister's father-in-law who is a psychiatrist and  Shakespeare lover, he has all new insights into the plays.  Then he started doing Richard III for me, with his new understanding of Shakespeare issues with his mother!  OMG!!  This psychiatrist has psychoanalyzed all the characters and has a book in the works.  Now, this does sound interesting to me, even though I am as literate in Shakespeare as I am The Odyssey. Anyway, my sincerest sympathies to those who are mired in Ulysses right now.  When you finish you will feel that you slayed the big, mean, drooling dragon and if you come away only missing a few limbs count yourself lucky.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The story of The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man is James Joyce’s story.
His grandfather and his father both married affluent wives (like Fitzgerald’s family). Depressingly though, Joyce’s father John was horrible with money and the drink. He had to declare bankruptcy and subsequently lost his job. Joyce goes from a life that is tinted with rose colored lenses to being plunged into all that is dark and dismal in life.

Joyce attended Clongowes Wood School when he was young but when the funds dried up his family was forced to give up their home and moved to Dublin. Where Joyce’s life and Stephen's seem to separate (because I cannot assume everything in the book is based on Joyce’s life, but more than likely he kept drawing off his own experiences) is when Stephen enters Belvedere College and embraces the monastic lifestyle of the Jesuits. This fervent religious awakening comes from Stephen’s attending a religious retreat where the fires of hell lick at his feet and his guilt at having frequented so many prostitutes consumes his every thought. He is quite sure he is beyond redemption but believes just maybe if he confesses, repents enough and lives an austere life, he might not be swallowed up in ever lasting darkness. Like Stephen, Joyce completely gives up Catholicism at sixteen.

In Chapter Three, there is a massive sermon delivered that describes hell in all its graphic gore. Now, you might be asking yourself as I did, who is visiting hell and coming back with the details? Supposedly, these details come from the visions of saints. I’m sure if I starved myself, wore a hair shirt, flogged myself daily, and was terrified of evil spirits, I could conjure up hallucinations of hell that would put St. Frances of Rome to shame (this happens if I don't have enough coffee!). I have heard of saints who lived in caves and others who sat on top of poles where everything had to be hoisted up to them. What is the purpose of this kind of behavior? I don’t recall in the Bible Jesus doing any of these shenanigans. He helped the poor, the sick, the weak and shared his message with thieves and prostitutes, nobody was beyond redemption. But, he did go into the desert for forty days and nights and was tempted by  satan, but why would someone want to relive that part of Christ‘s life? My husband has a friend who doesn’t go to church all year, can kill a thirty pack at one poker game and then gives it all up for lent. “My husband asked him, don’t you think God would rather you not imbibe in your vices all the rest of the year and then you can go hog wild for forty days?” He didn’t seem to understand what he was saying.

According to the sermon in Chapter Three, hell is so packed with people that one cannot move their arms to swat away a worm gnawing on their eyeball. It is perpetually black, not one drop of light. The damned are screaming and cursing themselves and everyone they ever knew. Their dirty deeds are relived in their minds constantly, but through God’s eyes so they truly know how vile and filthy they are. After, hearing about forty pages worth of this rant, all as dismal as the aforementioned description above, Stephen decides he better change his lustful whoring ways. He sits in the most uncomfortable positions, in the coldest parts of the room, curbs his diet to the most blandest of foods, deprives himself of all worldly joys and prays continuously for forgiveness, because he never knows if it is enough. Finally, after being observed by the leaders of the Jesuit school he is singled out and asked to consider a career in the church. Stephen ponders the idea of what that life would be like: walking the Jesuit walk, eating with the community, clothed in the same garb, getting up at the same hour every day for the rest of his life, assigned to the same room until he dies. Stephen tries out the title:
“The Reverend Stephen Dedalus, S.J.”
“His name in that new life leaped into characters before his eyes and to it there followed a mental sensation of an undefined face or colour of a face. The colour faded and became strong like a changing glow of pallid brick red: Was it the raw reddish glow he had so often seen on wintry mornings on the shaven gills of the priests? The face was eyeless and sour favored and devout, shot with pink tinges of suffocated anger.”

After the most depressing of thoughts of what that life would entail, Stephen basically says thanks but no thanks, and decides to go back to his heathen ways figuring he’d end up there sooner or later anyway. “The wisdom of the priest’s appeal did not touch him to the quick. He was destined to learn his own wisdom apart from others or to learn the wisdom of others himself wandering among the snares of the world.”


Ulysses (Urghhhh)
Anyone read this book? Can you tell me what it's about because I'm halfway through and I still have no clue. I believe, although I am not 100% sure, that it is in the English language.
The literature majorette in me vows to persevere since this has been touted as The Novel - the one that changed everything that came before it. I can see how it is different from not only what came before but anything that resembles or claims to be a book. To say Ulysses is nonlinear is an oversimplification of it's, and this is a legitimate literary term I learned in English Lit 101, What the F#$%&*@#%!k quality.
Ulysses makes The Sound and the Fury look like Mother Goose.
no discernible plot - check

stream of unconsciousness - check

multiple points of view switcheroos (even mid-paragraph) - check

unfollowable conversations - check (right, unfollowable is not a word but if Joyce can make up words willy nilly and be published AND be touted as a literary giant, so can I!)

obscure and random literary allusions - check

just plain random - check

For the first time in my life, I am considering consulting a Cliffs Notes.
But - here and there are more than lucid, actually quite breathtaking sentences, phrases even, which remind me that Joyce is not random. That he is in full possession of his keishter. That maybe I'm just a dumbass for not getting it.
In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within its loose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath bent over him with mute secret words, a faint odour of wetted ashes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Last chapter I read in The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man was like Dante's Inferno.  Talk about fire and brimstone!  Joyce recounts a religious retreat where a priest gives lectures on those unrepenting sinners who end up in hell and I have to say it is scary.  I'll get some good quotes to post tomorrow as I am currently not home.  I grew up in a very religious household "Bible Thumping Baptists" and can relate to the constant dread of "I hope I'm saved and it really counts this time, because I don't want to burn in hell."  And, I was thinking this when I was five!  Not good! 
My son had his first tackle in football today.  He's nine and bruised from head to toe.  They take this football business very serious here in Hawaii.  It was a great day, sun shining, breeze blowing and could see Maui across the Pacific.  Oh, life is rough!! 

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I’m about halfway through The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man , it is the prequel to Ulysses and I couldn’t suggest strongly enough to read it first!! I, lacking the intellectual capacity to fully enjoy Ulysses, would have benefited greatly from reading this book first. Now I look back on some of my interpretations of Ulysses as entirely wrong (I.e. the reason why Stephen wouldn’t kneel at his mother’s deathbed). It is also imperative to read Joyce’s biography before delving into The Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, the book follows his life story almost verbatim. The title has a literal meaning, the artist and the young man being Joyce.

At first it starts with the same mental gibberish that is throughout Ulysses. The thirty page introduction by Don Gifford was a bad omen when I first opened the book. “Good Grief!” I thought, this needs that much explanation, “please tell me I don’t have to buy another study guide.” The opening finds Stephen as a baby and describes the infantile wanderings of his developing brain (that was not a good sign either)! He eventually goes off to a boarding school and Joyce displays his insecurities and fears for the reader. It’s amazing how Joyce can remember how he felt at so many different intervals of his life. I would have liked to have counted the use of the words: queer, wet, cold, and damp. But, I’m lazy and didn’t want to go back and do the tally. He even writes, “the sunlight was queer and cold.” WHAT? Most of these chapters are in a narrative style with little dialogue which is difficult to follow. I had the same issues with Ulysses, Who is talking, what relation is this person to Stephen?

To my thankful delight, the book takes a 180 and becomes thoroughly enjoyable. Joyce as a young man is intriguing, brilliant, isolated and struggles with immorality. The other characters in the book are so tangible that you will think of them as being like several people you have met or know. So, clichéd I know, but you can’t judge a book by its cover or in this case the author.

Interestingly enough, Joyce while seeking treatment for his eye in Zurich brought along his daughter Lucia who suffered from schizophrenia. She was examined by Carl Jung who felt she and her father suffered from schizophrenia from reading Ulysses! Apparently, the book should have a medical disclaimer on the front of it. According to Jung, she and her father were two people heading to the bottom of a river, except that he was diving and she was falling.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Tender Is The Night was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 but was not published until 1934. This novel is the most reflective of Fitzgerald’s life. And, it is depressing in the sense that Fitzgerald relays the story like he is sitting by a fire recounting his life, knowing all the mistakes but being resigned that there is nothing to be done to change any of the circumstances. It is destiny. The French Riviera, Paris, Zurich, and Rome witness the opulence and the decline of these expatriates’ lives. Dick Diver is the main character, a doctor trained in psychology. He marries Nicole a woman from a wealthy Chicago family. They are stunning people who live on the French Riviera occasioning Paris when the mood dictates and always in extravagant style. Since money is no object, their lives consist of socializing with other affluent people and artists, artists being the only acceptable poor people the rich feel inclined to entertain. The bronzed, handsome couple have two children who wander in and out of the story just as in real life they are ushered in and out by nannies.

Soon the couple meet a young American actress named Rosemary on the Riviera. She becomes part of their circle and is in love with the Diver’s sophisticated cosmopolitan lifestyle. “The Divers represented externally the exact furthermost evolution of a class, so that most people seemed awkward beside them.” Rosemary is much like Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (but with a practical financial side having come from nothing) in the sense that she is whimsical and foolish acting much of the time. The first day she meets Dick she is madly in love and confesses her hopeless situation to her manager mother. Oddly enough, her mother encourages her to go for it without reservation. Rosemary is quite forward and throws herself at Dick when she is invited to a party at the Diver’s Villa. Dick pretends he doesn’t know what she’s getting at and tries to enforce that she is just a kid and he and Nicole would be happy to have her friendship. Everything seems perfect, two beautiful people, in beautiful surroundings, who are actually in love. The crack in the façade appears when one of the dinner guests, Mrs. McKisco, returns to the dinner table and announces that she has just seen Nicole in the powder room and something is definitely wrong. On the precipice of her revelation, she is figuratively slapped down by Barban, a blood lusting mercenary who frequents the Diver’s social scene. He holds Nicole Diver on a pedestal and will not see it tipped over. Mr. McKisco, (who is described earlier in the book as an author who wrote a guide to “Ulysses” of all things and then plans to write a new version but instead of the story taking place in one day, it takes place over 100 years in the mechanical age!! OMG!!) jumps to his wife’s defense and ends up in a real duel with Barbon. This is just one example of the little anecdotes that Fitzgerald throws out, leaving one wondering if these are true stories.

The book is divided into three sections. The first dealing with the most happy time in Dick Diver's life. I think Fitzgerald wanted to start out with the best memories of his own life and his relationship with his wife Zelda. Fitzgerald writes, “But to be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect.”

Part two describes how the Divers' came to find themselves together. Nicole was a patient in an institution in Zurich, suffering from schizophrenia (Zelda also suffered from schizophrenia). Placed in the hospital by her father, it is revealed that her emotional breakdown was precipitated by the death of her mother and the subsequent sexual molestation by her father. Dick is a doctor returning from World War II, an American who has decided to stay in Europe. Nicole is stunning, desirable and there is something in Dick that wants to save her. He is a mentally, intellectually, and emotionally strong man. And, for many years he can bear the weight of Nicole’s repeated breakdowns.

Part Three reveals the eventual degeneration of Dick Diver into alcoholism as he is wasted away by his wife’s needs as well as the resentment of being a kept man. In the novel Dick’s father was without means, but his mother did inherit  enough to make the family comfortable. This is an exact parallel to Fitzgerald’s life. When Dick married Nicole he gave up his aspirations to be a great psychologist and made his wife his career. When Fitzgerald ran out of money to pay for his wife’s reoccurring hospital bills, he was forced to forgo his writing to do screenplays in Hollywood. Nowadays this would akin to Robert Deniro having to do soap operas for money. Fitzgerald was the preeminent writer of his time. The resentment that builds in Dick Diver’s character turns him more and more to the bottle and he starts to rapidly deteriorate where he is spoken about as an embarrassment and a bore. Did Fitzgerald hear these kind of rumors about himself?

The book ends with Dick simply and quietly drifting away, the last fluttering sparks of an extraordinary firework. The reader is left not knowing what really becomes of him but assuming the worst.
The most interesting aspect of this novel to me is the intense examination of the downward spiral into alcoholism and all its tragic outcomes that only through experience can be retold. It is as though Fitzgerald’s fate was so intertwined with this book that he believed it could have no other ending. There would be no recovery, comeback or happy ending for Dick Diver. Fitzgerald and his wife were both, according to many sources, degenerate alcoholics and lived extremely destructive lives. There co-dependency probably kept them together regrettably to a unfortunate premature end.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The 1920's and Today....

In The Great Gatsby you could rent a summer house on Long Island Sound for around $12,000. This was for the “the season” which typically was understood as July and August. Now, in Vanity Fair’s July Issue (my favorite magazine/could not live without) you can rent a quaint little summer place from Vincent and Louise Camuto for $950,000. Or, you might want to contact the Noel’s and rent their vacation home for $350,000 for July and $375,000 for August. According to Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Jane Gill, “ I had one client who demanded $125,000 for August. An oceanfront house with pool. I got a customer who offered $90,000. The owner balked: ‘My husband says we can’t take less than $120,000.’ Finally, after a week, she said O.K.. By then the customer was irked. ‘My new offer is $69,000,’ he said. ‘Throw that at them.’ Now you may be asking yourself ‘how can we mere mortals get such spectacular deals?’ The economy, economy, economy! It is a predators market for those who have disposable means to swoop in and grab up elite properties at all time lows (let me get my checkbook).

Why are these ultra wealthy people not using their vacation homes this summer? They all have one thing (yes I said ‘thing’) in common, Bernie Madoff. If you don’t know about Madoff and his bogus Ponzi Scheme, that he somehow managed to pull off for years without being caught, you must check out the series of articles in the last few issues of Vanity Fair. It really is the epitome of corruption, avarice beyond description and sums up with the greatest efficiency the current banking/lending/investment nightmare.

“The crisis was triggered by the crash of US-based Lehman Brothers -- the 158-year-old firm that survived the American Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War and 9/11 but not the sub-prime mortgage bubble. Based on historical precedent that in America property markets had never ever declined by more than 5 per cent, the firm had thrown the dice.”
Essentially everyone was involved in lending money without the capital to back the loans (sub prime lending practices) and taking investment money without the capital to back payoffs. And, the government still has no laws as of yet to regulate this nightmare!!

Just as the rich prospered in the 1920’s before Black Tuesday, the rich of today partied until the end. Madoff actually knew his jig was up, and had his supposedly innocent wife withdraw millions in funds in the days before he was arrested. Then he threw a Christmas bash for his employees who would find out the next day that they had, along with thousands of others, been scammed by a major con-artist (MERRY CHRISTMAS!). Now, most of the public has no sympathy for these Madoff people because they are still affluent; hower, some lost their life savings. Comparatively people in the 1930’s wanted to crucify the Captains of Industry. Groups of employees protested outside of Woolworth’s while Barbara Hutton, who knew nothing of the business her grandfather created and hadn’t worked a day in her life, cried in her silk covered bed, “Why do these people hate me?”

Who is Charles Ponzi?:

June Issue Vanity Fair Letter to the Editor
I AM TIRED of listening to investors who supposedly “lost everything” with Bernie Madoff didn’t take and spend all their money; he paid most of it back to them in annual payouts at the rate of 10 to 12 percent a year. Some of his investors funded charities with their returns. Many lived extravagantly for years off these annual payouts, and many have recouped their original investment and become even richer. Now they demand a U.S. taxpayer bailout. They were blinded by greed and seduced by high returns, and want me to reimburse them for their lack of proper due diligence. Ask anyone who has invested in Citibank, G.M., Bear Sterns, or Lehman Brothers over the last couple of years how their investments are doing. I’ll take Bernie’s returns any day.
Timothy Corsini
London, England

A Post From Padfoot and Prongs/The List

Comment:  Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

What an excellent book!! And we love your site...this is a fantastic idea! Although...we prefer the reader's choice of 100 best novels...but the board's list is still great!

Response:  Thanks for commenting!  Yes, I looked at both lists and considered which to use.  I have read Ayn Rand books but felt that obviously readers (die hard Rand and Hubbard fans) voted numerous times to get their choices high on the list (kind of like calling in for your favorite on American Idol contestent numerous times).  I don't have anything against Rand or Hubbard but believe the books are more about philosophical beliefs and promoting those beliefs than literature.  I decided to go with the Random House List, even though I wanted to read some of my favs on the readers list, because it included books I have not read but believe to be some of the greatest books ever written.  So thanks for contributing...........

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fitzgerald's Characters........

Fitzgerald’s eloquence of writing is unsurpassed. His mastery of words on paper are equivalent to Renoir’s mastery of light on canvas. One can be engaged in foretelling the next scene and then it is laid bare in the most artful way. It could not exist or be written in any other way by any other person.

A Look at the Characters……..

Nick Carroway: A oddity in the sense that he is a man who reserves judgment and therefore can see more clearly into peoples motives, desires and insecurities. “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores.” He is from the mid-west. He is a sensible guy not prone to the fancies of the rich but is able to mingle in their presence without feeling inferior. Nick is well educated and is a bonds trader at a large firm in New York. He becomes a New York denizen for the excitement and vitality that life will bring. Nick dipsticks into the lives of Gatsby, Tom and Daisy by accompany them on journeys most would not I.e. traveling with Tom as he goes to visit his mistress. He hangs out all night with a ragtag crew passing a bottle, taking in the different personalities and situations until Tom’s mistress Myrtle gets her nose busted. Some of Nick’s best descriptions are of Tom Buchanan. “There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind.”

Tom Buchanan is described as a strapping dark and handsome man from a wealthy family. A man who can carry off a riding suit without looking ridiculous. He is well educated, cultured and worldly. He has the way of the wealthy, feeling comfortable to spout off details of this or that which having nothing to do with the conversation at hand. “Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ , by this man Goddard? Well, these books are all scientific. This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” Another time, he informatively tells his company that he has read that the earth is heating up; the sun is getting hotter (hmmm).
Tom has the means to indulge his whims. He has a mansion, an appropriate wife, his first child, a mistress and believes that all of these things are fitting of a man of his stature. He goes slumming with his mistress and then goes home to socialize with the upper echelon who wouldn’t even contemplate giving his mistress the dignity of a disgusted grunt. When he discovers his wife’s indiscretion with Gatsby, his world is momentarily cracked. “Things get out of order: Self control…I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out…Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white. Flushed with his impassioned gibberish, he saw himself standing alone on the last barrier of civilization.”
In the end, by sheer magnetism and the unequivocal belief that he is superior to Gatsby in every way possible he takes control of his indulgent childish wife.
Daisy is the epitome of the wealthy society woman of the 1920’s. She purposefully appears to be in a constant daydream and says ridiculous things only someone of her station could get away with. I can imagine a dust soaked Okie saying “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year then miss it?” She is described as intentionally speaking in a soft whisper so those around her would have to lean in. She knows of her husbands affair and talks about it like she’s retelling the details of an afternoon picnic. She has her brief affair with Gatsby and then the tragic accident. After, seemingly without regret, she scuttles back into her safe glided cocoon, needing Tom to take control and leaving the carnage behind for others.

Jay Gatsby, handsome and mysterious comes off in a lot of ways as a bore. Fitzgerald over emphasizes Gatsby’s careful self programming, his ardent self discipline to be someone he is not. Gatsby’s “I say Ol’ Chap” umpteen times, leaves one saying, “I’ll Ol’ Chap you in a minute!!” He seems to use it even more as his façade crumbles, desperately grabbing onto those so carefully learned expressions and affectations. He is almost robotic in his descriptions of his past as though he is reading the information off a mental cue card. Nick describes his stories as “threadbare”, again Fitzgerald precision. “I talked with him perhaps half a dozen times in the past month and found, to my disappointment, that he had little to say.” And, it continues that way throughout the book. Fitzgerald describes his past in a narrative style; it isn’t told by Gatsby himself. His obsession with Daisy is more about himself than of any real love for her. He is from a poor simple background. “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people-his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.”
It is suggested that his fortune came from scandalous business (possibly bootlegging). He has no real friends and maybe I’m way off but he seems to be a bit sociopathic in his interpretations of the world and his inability to connect with people in a genuine way. After the tragic accident, which is quite brutal, he is only concerned whether he gets his prize. He is at that point pathetic, sniveling, desperate and entirely delusional. He is a sad character and maybe embodies Fitzgerald’s rise and fall within high society in the form of a person, Jay Gatsby.

Monday, September 14, 2009


The Great Gatsby (a book I read as a freshmen in high school, which literally makes no sense contextually to a fifteen year old) is a book that can be read in an afternoon. It personifies the Jazz Era in which Fitzgerald belonged. And, if one is a lover of this era as I am, Fitzgerald makes tangible all the embodiments that made the time fabulous. Of course this was the time period when 2.3% of Americans held around 70% of the wealth and others toiled in sweatshops all day with neither health insurance nor labor rights. I recall my grandmother telling me the story of her father’s struggle to survive, both his parents died in the 1918 influenza outbreak. He was in his early teens and went to live in the woods preparing meals and being a general servant to all the lumberjacks who worked in the Maine woods sending huge logs down the rivers to paper mills. It was a harsher time for the disenfranchised and when he married my great-grandmother in the 1920’s and became ill with children to support he sought help with an Uncle who promptly told him to go “beg to the town or cry to church.” So, it wasn’t all “Yes, we have no bananas today!” for everyone. And that is something to be kept in mind as one is envisioning all the glory that was the “Roaring Twenties”.

People generally know this story, have read the book or saw the pitiful (1974)movie with Robert Redford playing Jay Gatsby (appropriate), Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan (talk about melodrama), Bruce Dern acting as an incongruent Seinfeld Kramer/Tom Buchanan. Who was the casting director??? Sam Waterston chosen to play Nick Carraway and joined Redford as the only other successfully cast actor. And, Karen (Crazy Eyes) Black as Tom’s mistress Myrtle Wilson. There were also two other versions produced in 1926 and 1949. The first thing I had to do was obliterate these faces (except Redford of course) as I began the book. It took a few chapters before they ceremoniously disappeared. That is always a problem when seeing a movie and then reading the book.

A quick review of the story line (because it is available everywhere, see link to the right) Jay Gatsby, man of mystery moves to West Egg on Long Island Sound. He purposefully has no friends, only acquaintances. No one knows how he became ultra wealthy and rumors swirl as to his background. Nick Carroway (the narrator) lives in a little dump next to Gatsby ostentatious mansion where weekly parties last for days on end. Nick’s second-cousin Daisy and her husband Tom (picture Clark Gable not Brue Dern) live in East Egg (the more fashionable side of Long Island Sound). Rich New Yorkers escape the heat of the city and travel to their estates to socialize with the crème de le crème of society. Gatsby, once the beau many years ago of Daisy, secretly pines away for her across the bay. Everything he does is to recreate the past and hopefully reunite with Daisy. The story involves affairs, murders, unrequited love, scandal, and abandonment.

The Great Gatsby was dedicated to Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda who suffered from schizophrenia, this combined with Fitzgerald’s alcoholism caused tragic ends. I think in commenting on this book over the next couple days the focus will be more on the parallels between Fitzgerald’s life and his books versus a rehashing of a very well known and well read book. Fitzgerald’s life is very present in his writings as someone who lived among the upper crust but often did not have the means to do so. He understood being the toast of the town and he knew when the party was over.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The end of Ulysses was like finishing that statistics class, the one holding you back from your degree. At times I thought "Hey, this stuff is kind of interesting" but most of the time I dreaded it! The characters in Ulysses, Stephen, Mr. Bloom, Bloom's wife, etc. were characters I definitely were interested in. I suppose if I was a literature professor at Harvard, I would gobble this up with a spoon. But Alas, I am but a lowly high school teacher, who has not read the Odyssey or other Joyce works leaving me eating my peas with one chop stick. It is telling that I could find only one guide for sale explaining Ulysses (that being the one by Gilbert last put out in the 50's). I'm afraid Ulysses will not be part of Oprah’s book club this year and you won't see Mr. James Joyce on her program anytime soon saying "I'm sorry I said the book was true; no I've never hallucinated about my mother's dead corpse while soliciting prostitutes.”

So far I have yet to find anyone I know who has read Ulysses. I'd brag but no-one would know what in the hell I was talking about. Does that say something about the company I keep? Hmmmm.

The religious component, the relationship between the characters and who they were interested me. Guessing the scene, the hour, the art, the symbol, the technique, exhausted me! Some of the inner dialogue droned on endlessly leaving me glassy eyed and needing a drink! (Ulysses Turns Woman Into Alcoholic! That might get me on Oprah) Honestly, it was just too hard sometimes to figure out what the (explicative) was happening. Maybe like trying to go to work while on LSD, not that I know anything about that (I really don't, feel free to share).

For example, the brothel scene has Mr. Bloom hallucinating (I don't know why he is hallucinating) that he is a woman who is now being violated and has a fetus??? Stephen is dancing around with a bunch of hookers while the dead stinking corpse of his mother flies around??? All this is suppose to represent something and have parallels galore but I couldn't tell you what nor care to find out.

The simplest description of the book would be the father and son relationship between Stephen ( Christian) and Mr. Bloom ( Jewish). In Judaism they await the return of the son of God while in Christianity the son returns to his father. Stephen rejects his real father and Mr. Bloom's son died young. Moreover, Mr. Bloom discovered his own father post suicide and Stephen is horrified by his mother's death.

All three characters, Stephen, Mr. Bloom and Mrs. Bloom dream about the far east and its exotic offerings maybe as a juxtaposition to life in Dublin or as a file in which they stow away all their fetishes and desires. Mr Bloom describes his wife as having Spanish, Jewish and Moorish descent, which encompasses a matrix of intertwined beliefs and symbolism.

In the end, Stephen and Mr. Bloom come to recognize their counter point in each other. I don't think the relationship lasts; It is a fleeting moment recognized by both as being a defining moment in their existences.

The End……

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I'm turning into an excuse mess.  Although I have kept up with reading and am done with Ulysses, circumstances have kept me from keeping up with my blog.  First, had to give notice at our current house because they are putting it back on the market.  We own a home in Maine but rent here in Hawaii.  However, we had already invited about 40 people for a huge bbq Friday night so continued with that with some friends spending the weekend.  Lastly, our landlords (who are very "particular" informed us that they want to go through the place with a fine tooth comb by tomorrow!!!!  ARGHHHH!  Usually, this is not the practice.  But there is no point in arguing or it will turn into a nasty battle.  We have kept the place immaculate, so hopefully it will go down without too much fanfare.  We;ll see.  I hate being subject to others rules and regs.  "I am a rock; I am an island."  Yeah, right! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting There.....

Okay, so not really doing what I should be with Ulysses.  I need to be done by tomorrow and I want to look at the religious component of the book and the relationship between the two main characters obviously, but then it's time to move on.  So hopefully I will having something more indepth to write tomorrow.  Today, my 9 year old was taking a shower in his room.  I walked into my bathroom with sewer pouring out from under the flush and the shower because the water was backing up.  The floor had about an inch of standing muck that smelled like the devil's bowels (honestly, it is the grossest thing I've ever encountered!!)  So I may have ecolli, and if not the gallon of bleach I had to use definitely burnt out half my brain cells.  The upside is if I don't die from ecolli and just have a semi nasty case of it, I might drop 20lbs.  Anything in the pursuit of weight loss!  Yes, I am shallow.  Or if I can't finish all 100 books, I can blame it on brain damage. A man (who has a stronger stomach than mine) came out and "SNAKED" it and now everything is back in working order.  He was also kind enough to tell me the things he finds in other peoples' septic systems.....Use your imagination!  All I could think of was  the movie Christmas Vacation, Randy Quade outside his RV in his  robe and underwear, when the yuppie neighbors come out horrified.  He's got that long tube from his septic tank going into the street.  "Don't mind me" he says, "Just emptying the shitter!" 
Oh, and the "SNAKE GUY" said only use Scott single ply T.P. 
Ever Onward.....