Reading the Last Six Episodes of Ulysses

Previously on Claudia Reads Ulysses and It NEVER Ends:
Reading episodes 1-6
Taking a break to tell an anecdote
Reading episodes 6-12

This week I didn't have a lot of time for Ulysses. I had one last exam to pass and then I graduated, so woo-hoo. It will take some adjusting to - I used to be a jobless student and am now a jobless person with a diploma. The changes a week brings! But at least I'm free to return to my reading, so you can now blame me directly for the lack of updates. 

Now, back to Ulysses, last time I read this I was Joyce's fan for two episodes: Lestrygonians and Cyclops. There's half of this book left, and I really want to  be done with it and move on to some Victorian literature, but at the same time I'm enjoying it. So, here we go. 

Episode XIII: Nausicaa 

Not my favorite episode, but significantly easier to follow than many of the others. The first part is written as a pastiche of sentimental novels. We're supposed to get the first female perspective of this book, that of a young girl named Gerty, through this collection of romantic cliches. Gerty is out at the beach with two friends and their little brothers; she sees Bloom and casts him as her Tortured Romantic Hero. What's interesting here - and anticipates Molly's soliloquy in a way - is that Gerty is aware of her sexuality, though not entirely. On one hand, her dream of married life only includes Platonic hugs. But on the other, she understands sexual urges and masturbation, and wishes there were women priests to hear intimate confessions from girls. She's also aware that she's enticing Bloom, who masturbates watching her. I'm not quite sure why she doesn't consciously connect the two: her dream of domestic bliss and sex, but I suppose the romance novels of the day didn't either. 

As for Leopold, yeah, sorry, little sympathy from here. It's creepy to masturbate in public looking at teen girls, and that's that. What I found interesting is that the theme of Bloom as the foreigner continues from last chapter. Among the bigots at the pub, Bloom's foreignness was a fault. In this chapter, it was a quality. Gerty decides he must be a foreigner, judging by his looks, and she's fascinated by it. And Bloom remembers asking Molly, "Why me?", and she replying, "Because you were so foreign from the others."

Episode XIV: Oxen of the Sun 

Oh look, a bunch of men discussing contraception, abortion and related issues with no women present. Oh, and no one but Leopold gives a damn about the woman that's actually giving birth while they are having this conversation? Thank God (sp?) it's not 1904 anymore.

This was not easy to read. Remember this quote? This was it, the heavy language sand weighing down the prose. We go through the styles of different periods in the development of the English language, chronologically (I think?). Some of them are devilishly hard to follow (aren't you grateful Latin syntax went out of fashion?). I wish I could say I identified even half of these correctly, but I haven't, so I won't. The last two pages were unreadable. It know the brothel episode will be worse. Sigh. Onwards then.

Episode XV: Circe 

Nora Joyce once said, "I guess the man's a genius, but what a dirty mind he has." (Did that sound like the intro to Criminal Minds? It did to me.) She would know. But that's pretty much all I can say about this episode too. It was brilliant and dirty and farcical and a little heartbreaking at the end, when Leopold 'sees' his dead son. It was pretty wonderful in its insane way.

Episode XVI: Eumaeus 

Joyce writing like a stupid person. I think I prefer his usual style, whatever that is (that's one question to consider - I don't feel like I know Joyce's writing. I sometimes imagine him using all of these different styles and tricks the way a kidnapper would use letters cut out from newspapers to disguise their writing. That probably makes me a naive reader - what is a writer's real style anyway? - but it's a nice image). You'll catch on to my general opinion of Dickens if I tell you I thought for a second Joyce was parodying him again in this episode. The lack of sentimentality tipped me off. 

Bad writing or not, Leopold continued to be adorable, even when he was misguided or small minded. (He did spend a fair bit of this episode pondering how to make money off Stephen.)  It's just that all is a bit anti-climactic, like the book is winding down. 

Episode XVII: Ithaca 

What was Claudia's prevalent feeling reading this episode?  
Awww, Bloom. 
Who did she dislike and why? 
Stephen, because he is is a complete ass. Why would you sing an anti-Semitic song to the person who dragged your sorry ass out of the gutter? What sort of a person does that? Bloom might have gotten over it, but Stephen is still a shitty human being.
What would be a suitable punishment for Stephen? 
To rain on him on his way home! (He's a hydrophobe, which in his case is short for "I'm too much of an artist to wash. Woe is me. So is dirt.") Alternatively, he could trip and fall into a puddle.
Why was Bloom was awww-worthy?
It was pretty adorable to see his contradictory dreams of traveling the world (hi, Ulysses) and being king of the suburbs. It was sad to see him deal with Molly's adultery. And the content of his locked drawer is so him (who else would keep his daughter's childhood drawings together with pornographic photos and still be more awww-worthy than creepy doing so?)
Why is this written in a silly Q&A form?  
Because the episode is written like this (catechism style or something) and your here blogger is a silly person and couldn't help herself. 

Episode XVIII: Penelope 

Done. That last page was so beautiful. Molly is not a character I empathize with, but she is hilarious and it was good having her perspective. And that last page was so beautiful. 

1 comment:

  1. The last few episodes get progressively worse (in my opinion) but it ends on a high - the last episode rewards all your hard work!