Monday, August 3, 2015

Ulysses – Episodes 11 (Sirens) and 12 (Cyclops)

What a bunch of gibberish! Episode 11 is essentially an hour's worth of reading sentence fragments and nonsense sentences that must make the reader question whether Joyce is really just having a joke or had writer's block the day he wrote this section and decided to just write his own stream-of-conscience garbage on the theme of Homer's mermaids ("Wise Bloom eyed on the door a poster, a swaying mermaid smoking mid nice waves." P. 253) and music ("There's music everywhere." P. 270) while puppeting his characters, Bloom, Dedalus, et al. throughout. 

Case in point: 
"Can't see now. Remember write Greek ees. Bloom dipped, Bloo mur : dear sir. Dear Henry wrote : dear Mady. Got your lett and flow. Hell did I put? Some pock or oth. It is utterly impss. Underline imposs. To write today." This is Bloom writing, but is it also Joyce commenting on his own writing? I think so. And the joke's on us, the unwitting readers who bow our heads in reverence to the supposedly brilliant James Joyce, wordsmith, prankster. This episode ends with a fart. I mean, c'mon.

As for Episode 12, well, it's pretty much more of the same as the last two episodes, but this time takes place in a pub, and is from a first-person perspective of an unnamed narrator. There's a lot to do with Irish nationalism and other political and religious elements, which can all be found much better explained by Sparknotes here

On a scale of enjoyment with 1 being a root canal, and 10 being a birthday party with balloons and cake, I'd put reading this section of Ulysses at about a 3. However, I'm not going to quit reading this book because a) Joyce definitely had a sense of wit, which comes out a lot in this episode, and which I did find myself enjoying at times, and there are some lines that are pure poetry and almost make it worth the read, and b) I'm more than halfway through the book, and it's been on my bucket list for years, so I'll be damned if I don't read every frigging word in it. Next up is Episode 13 – Nausicaa. 

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