Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ulysses – Episodes 6 (Hades)

June 16, 1904
I missed Bloomsday! Dammit! June 16 slipped by me and I meant to update the blog even though I haven't read a word of Ulysses since my last post on May 17. Alas, I've been working crazy hours at my new job and completely forgot about the most important day of the year for Joyce fans.

Had to drop out of the Ulysses reading group last month because I was just swamped. I realize work is a lame excuse for not doing something, but reading Ulysses is not like reading just any other book – it requires careful close reading and analysis, and I really had neither the time nor the inclination at the end of many 12-hour work days. 

But I'm back at it now because the craziness of the job has died down, at least for the summer... I hope. Unfortunately I won't have the support of the reading club, since they're probably nearing the end of the book by now, and I've just finished reading episode six. But I aim to read and study one episode per week on my own now, and I think that will take me till about mid-September. But I will get there. If there's one thing I am good at it's stubborn persistence. I've read the Bible and run a marathon, and both take time and persistence, if nothing else, so I know I can make it though this challenge. 

I'm just going to be blunt: I did not enjoy episode six, the "funeral chapter." I may be an English major, which means I'm supposed to love gin and tonic and "difficult books" and author signings at bookstores but none of that is true in my case. I'm not loving Joyce at the moment. Or maybe I'm just sleepy and his writing is irritating when one is not wide awake. But I digress...

Here's my quick and dirty plot summary of episode six: Bloom gets in a carriage (a cab) with three other men and they make small talk on the way to Dignam's funeral, and then attend the funeral. That's it. Of course there's a whole lot of Bloom's thoughts, and there are many thematic elements of death and aging, and father-son relationships, and youth and life and all these grand themes that can be found in any "great novel," but there's also the continued Joycean mundane bits like Bloom's knee hurting as he kneels in the chapel, or his thought that tombstones should read not just a person's name and dates of birth and death, but who they were and what they did in life, (an idea which I am actually quite taken by,) but this was definitely not my favourite chapter in the book so far. It was a slog to get through. Either I don't "get" Joyce or Joycean fans are just faking it... or have a few screws loose. It felt like a bit of a waste of an hour on a sunny Sunday afternoon reading this particular episode. And it was depressing because it's about a funeral. With Bloom's thoughts of maggots and rats, chewing through corpses. Gross. Morbid and gross. 

Or maybe I'm just less inspired without the weekly group discussion at the coffee shop. Regardless, as noted, next week I will read/study episode 7, aka "Aeolus," and report on it here. 

Happy belated Bloomsday!

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