24 March 2010

Bloomsday afternoon

I've only read through page 181. Leopold Bloom managed to get some work done and eat a bit of lunch. He winds up in the National Museum and remembers the bar of soap he bought. I'm reminded of this Woody Allen joke:

I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.

Talking about the plot of Ulysses is pointless. Not a whole lot happens. But a whole hell of a lot is going on, even if you can't follow it. Mostly, it's mental. You spend a lot of time in Mr Bloom's head as his mind wanders. Here's a piece:

At Duke lane a ravenous terrier choked up a sick knuckly cud on the cobble stones and lapped it with new zest. Surfeit. Returned with thanks having fully digested the contents. First sweet then savoury. Mr Bloom coasted warily. Ruminants. His second course. Their upper jaw they move. Wonder if Tom Rochford will do anything with that invention of his. Wasting time explaining it to Flynn's mouth. Lean people long mouths. Ought to be a hall or a place where inventors could go in and invent free. Course then you'd have all the cranks pestering.

This is an easy passage, with, if not complete sentences, at least complete thoughts. It's quite a jump from dog puke to an inventors' hall, but we all know our minds can do that. You see? There's a lot going on even though nothing is happening. I'm enjoying the ride despite the fact that it is bumpy and meandering--you have to stop frequently and go back, too. Normally, that would drive me nuts. I'm not sure why Ulysses has a hold on me right now. Perhaps St. Patrick's Day put me in a Irish mood. I think, though, it might be the familarity of it. The world of Bloom's mind that Joyce crafted feels like my own. Maybe that's what the fuss is all about. You can't "record" your stream-of-consciousness, but you could create, with art, a reminder, or a facsimile, that seems like your own mind. We all know fiction doesn't have to actually be realistic--the reader just has to believe it is. I believe I'm in Bloom's mind when he's walking down the street, so I keep reading.

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