A really tricky reading month here but I'm not going to mess with the mountain or make excuses Team Ulysses because I think that's been more about me than the book. It's all been down to other books which I haven't wanted to set aside and trips away which play havoc with life in general and my reading in particular. I choose traveling reading which is most definitely not Ulysses, so I knew I was going to be very last minute, if I made it at all.
But I did and even managed some background reading from Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation - A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties & Thirties by Noel Riley Fitch.
The more I read the more I feel I want to know (it always happens, I can't stop myself) about this book's background and its genesis in the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. James Joyce declared by Leon Edel in the puffs on the book to be
'the most incredible literary leech of all time.'
But with relevance to the two sections I have read this time, Sirens and Cyclops just knowing those extra details about the friendship between Sylvia Beach and Joyce has added an extra level of enjoyment to this month's reading.
James Joyce described in a play by Tom Stoppard as
'an essentially private man who wishes his total indifference to public notice to be universally recognized'
The whole process of publication seems to have been akin to the twelve
labours of Hercules for the poor long-suffering Sylvia Beach who
admitted that Joyce's affairs were considerably more trouble to her
than many an ordinary author. This all compounded by her willingness to
allow Joyce the indefinite right to correct the proofs. Joyce made
copious additions and the proofs became legendary for containing more
handwriting than print.
' There were light moments of friendhsip and mutual excitement associated with the birth of Ulysses. Joyce would read aloud from Ulysses for her, often the Cyclops section. They would burst into peals of laughter at Joyce's rendering of the dog and joke about the growth of the novel. Joyce would tell her that Ulysses was no longer than many other novels, such as The Forsyte Saga, only instead of running into many volumes, his was packed into on hold-all.'
Sirens was a mystery read in a cloud of unknowing here, and but for footnotes I would have had little idea of the musical connotations that Joyce was aiming for. The deeper into Ulysses I wander the more aware I become of those parts which need to be read aloud and which I do in a sort of sotto voce mutter which would sound very odd if you overheard me. But I am also picking up the Odysseyian hints more frequently and given my scant knowledge of the sirens and their ability to lure the sailors onto the rocks, though I nearly ended up on the rocks again myself, I did see those analogies with the bar maids and the punters. I did emerge from that section, yet again, and to my ongoing complete and utter amazement, with some sense of what had happened, and of course laughing at Leopold's final Pprrpffrrppfff.
How long did it take James Joyce to work out how to spell flatulence I wonder?
With occasional mention of stars fading, that line from The Duchess of Malfi also kept flitting into my mind,
'Look you, the stars shine still'
Please don't think I have The Duchess of Malfi, at my fingertips because I don't, but that was quoted in a book I read last year, Molly Fox's Birthday by Irish author Deirdre Madden, and it's stuck in my mind.
However I was a bit pleased with myself and kept dashing to the footnotes thinking I'd been really clever to pick up a Joycean reference to something obscure, only to find that I seem to be on my own with that connection.
Heading on into Cyclops, feeling slightly one-eyed and mystified, how pleased I was to be able to say I've been there when the reading of the obituaries mentioned Barnfield Crescent in Exeter and I've probably been driven past 179 Clapham Road, Stockwell on many an occasion.
How odd that something like that draws you back into a book and much to laugh at alongside James Joyce and Sylvia Beach, especially the list of those Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity engraved on the seastone girdle 'which dangled at every movement of his portentous frame'...William Tell, Thomas Cook & Son and the Last of the Mohicans suddenly making an appearance and lest we forget, the Queen of Sheba, and Lady Godiva.
I'm also getting a sense of other people's unfavourable opinions about Leopold Bloom and also wondering when Stephen will really come to life, he seems like a minor and rather undeveloped character thus far.
I keep thinking back to Declan Kiberd's reference to his Dublin-born father's love of Ulysses, parts known by heart, parts glossed over and wondering which they were and for this month I'm trying yet another new schedule, the book is sitting on my desk and I will read a few pages each day.
Time for Joan's thermos of comfort soup now I think but don't miss Lisa's fantastic in-depth Team Ulysses thoughts over at ANZ Litlovers Litblog and please let's hear news of how you are all doing, the suspense is killing me....
Simon S is that you waving at us from the peak of Mount Garnet Vickers?
Ellinchador did you make a dent in it?
KevinfromCanada still with us?
Cheryl are you still have those trudging pages with moments of joy? I am!
Lisa have you sent the spouse away again?
Lauren, Curzon and Lesley Ann are you still there pitching the tents ahead of us and cooking up a feast?
Lesley have you got your breath back and stayed with us?
Erika, could you pass those chocolate biscuits around?
Novel Insights and Knitting Out Loud can you hear me...are you still there?
Caroline, have you given up your footnote tendency and has Declan Kiberd helped? Declan has been my best friend this month.
ss are you still doing the listening version and swimming gently rather than climbing strenuosly?
Sandpiper, did you ditch that bookmark?
Jean, any more unexpected crevasses to distract or are you bivouacked here at Camp Five already?
Do you all realise that by Camp Six we will have passed the halfway point?
How amazing is that?