05 August 2010

"Just you try it on."

I know it is hard to believe, but I think I just finished the most bewildering section of Ulysses so far. The story seemed to be about a woman--Mina Purefoy--giving birth after a hard labor. But like all things in this bizarre and fascinating book, that's not what we read about. We read about Stephen Dedalus and his merry band of drinking chums. They party for a while in the hospital until the shocked staff finally kicks them out. Leopold Bloom tags along as well, as he had come to check on Mina. Lots of talk by the lads, lots of meanderings and ruminations and  . . . well, I'm not sure. The whole thing is like the charts of human evolution that used to be in the biology and anthropology textbooks of my youth. The ones that showed the four-footed apes, then the knuckle-draggers, then Cro-Magnon man, and finally Homo sapiens sapiens. The paragraphs are like the links in "the chain of evolution" of the English language. It's like Joyce wanted to trace out the phylogeny and ontogeny of the mother tongue, step-by-step. I noticed I used "like" and "seem" a lot. Can't help that. This book is very difficult to understand. But I'm still at it, and I've read 421 of the 768 pages, so there's no turning back now.