19 July 2010

Bloom's fantasy--not quite half way

I'm still tackling Ulysses. Alas, I'm not even halfway through! The most recent episode took place on Sandymount strand, where Leopold Bloom sees a pretty girl--Gerty McDowell--who flirts with him from afar. Most of the scene is told from her perspective in the ornate and overheated style of 19th-century romance novels. She daydreams rhapsodically about love while sitting on the beach with her friends. When they are distracted, she contorts her body in order to reveal her legs and underthings to Bloom. He eyes her from behind a rock and masturbates as she becomes more emboldened. A fireworks show is in progress, and Bloom's climax occurs as they burst overhead. Here's a sample:
 And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely! O so soft, sweet, soft!
The rest of the section is told mostly via Bloom's stream-of-consciousness. He ruminates on his actions, thinking that he was a cad and behaved like a brute, but he also rationalizes, telling himself that she enjoyed his attention and that all women appreciate being reminded of their sexual hold over men. He also fantasizes about seeing her again:
O! Exhausted that female has me. Not so young now. Will she come here tomorrow? Wait for her somewhere for ever. Must come back. Murderers do. Will I?
It's a strange book, and a difficult one, but as I mentioned before I find it oddly compelling. I have a feeling that I'll be coming back to it--like a murderer to his crime scene--after I finally finish.

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