The Books: “Ulysses” – the Calypso episode (James Joyce)

Daily Book Excerpt: Adult fiction:

ulysses67.bmpUlysses- by James Joyce.

So here’s where we are at so far:

TELEMACHIA
Episode 1: The Telemachus Episode
Episode 2: The Nestor Episode
Episode 3: The Proteus episode

Those three episodes make up the “telemachia”, or Part 1 or Ulysses. It is our introduction to Stephen Dedalus, on June 16, 1904. It takes him from around 8 a.m. to around 11 a.m. on that fateful day.

Now we move into Part 2 of the book – which is the “odyssey” itself. And we now switch main characters. Now Leopold Bloom is our guide. Stephen Dedalus will disappear for chapters on end, seen only in glimpses at times, or overheard talking from behind a column … it is not until much later that these two actually meet.

The episode here, the Calypso episode, also takes place at 8 a.m. on that day – at the same moment that Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan chat in their round tower outside Dublin. The episode is beyond simple: Leopold Bloom has breakfast (which is now famous, and which is re-created by Joycean freaks every Bloomsday). He has a busy day ahead of him. After breakfast, he takes a dump. Which Joyce describes. Way to launch us right into the tale, Jimmy. But, naturally, that was what Joyce was after. The baseness of humanity – not to mention the fact that we ALL do that. Even Anna Karenina does that. It’s perhaps a very immature attitude (you know: “Does the Queen of England fart too?” “Napoleon had a crack in his ass too! tee hee”) But Joyce was pretty immature, when it came to bathroom humor – he was obsessed with it (read some of his sexy letters to his wife and you’ll know what I mean). But more than just shock value, Joyce is obviously up to something more here, when he takes us into Bloom’s bathroom with him. It’s an attention-getter, sure, but you get a couple of clues that more is going on here than meets the eye. He’s worried that Molly (his wife) is cheating on him. The thought torments him. He goes upstairs – and she’s lying in bed. We don’t quite meet her yet – she grunts from the bed – they have a brief exchange, but she is never fully revealed. It is not time for Molly yet. We won’t be ready for her until the end of the book. Bloom gets ready to go to a funeral of a friend. Molly is waiting for him to leave, basically, so that she can go meet up with her lover (whose name is, famously, Blazes Boylan. He’s a tenor.) This is a strange chapter – new characters, completely new prose style from the stream-of-conscious dream-prose of the chapter before. It’s pragmatic, gross, base, and it leaves nothing out. It’s all about the innards of things. What people eat, what people excrete … it’s body without any redeeming soul.

Here are some of the notes I wrote in the margins, I don’t know – I find them kind of interesting:

– Calypso (kidney, economics, orange, nymph, narrative)
– Contrast with Stephen’s metaphors. Bloom only sees what is there. Also sees he is not a tower (giant)
– Orange clues. Orange = Protestant. Home Rule for Ireland.
– metempsychosis = “met him pike hoses” (rendesvous with Blazes)
– Bloom may have Masonic connections (has an edge over other Jews in Ireland) – parallel for Athena’s protection of Ulysses.

Yeah. Whatever that means. But it also does bring a lot back. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, Joyce worked a system of symbols into the book which is there – but not there. As in, it’s not obvious – and if you DON’T pick up on it, much will be lost … it’s almost like you read certain sections squinting at them, as though the meaning is hidden on the actual page, and if you just looked hard enough, you could see it. You can FEEL the greatness of it all … but something eludes. I guess this is why people (ahem, me) become obsessed with the book. The system of symbols has been talked about ad nauseum and much of it really does help.

For example: every episode has a color woven through it. It may be so subtle at times that you would not even notice it. Joyce thought a lot about colors – they had much meaning for him (I imagine part of that had to do with his terrible eyesight … what did colors actually LOOK like to someone who really couldn’t see?) And so knowing Joyce’s “key”, so to speak, is quite helpful. You see brown? Even if it’s just a character’s raincoat? That’s death. NOTHING is accidental in this book. NOTHING. “Orange” is the color of the Calypso episode – which, of course, in Ireland, what with the flag, and the Orangemen in the North, and all kinds of things … has negative connotations. Violent. Political. It’s exclusionary. Leopold Bloom is a Jew in Ireland. Even the Irish feel, at times, outside of their own country … but Bloom is even more of an outsider.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt.

Notice the voice – which is a voice we have not heard. It’s not first-person, but it’s something even closer. We get the running stream of Bloom’s thoughts – but you’ll see, again, how distinct it sounds from the same type of thing in the Proteus episode. Bloom is not searching, striving, looking for beauty, he does not see the world in terms of aesthetics. He is worried. He feels he is losing his wife. He likes his cat. He likes his breakfast. He is troubled. We move with him through all of these shifts.


EXCERPT FROM Ulysses – by James Joyce – the Calypso Episode

He halted before Dlugacz’s window, staring at the hanks of sausages, polonies, black and white. Fifty multiplied by. The figures whitened in his mind unsolved: displeased, he let them fade. The shiny links packed with forcemeat fed his gaze and he breathed in tranquilly the lukewarm breath of cooked spicy pig’s blood.

A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last. He stood by the nextdoor girl at the counter. Would she buy it too, calling the items from a slip in her hand. Chapped: washing soda. And a pound and a half of Denny’s sausages. His eyes rested on her vigorous hips. Woods his name is. Wonder what he does. Wife is oldfish. New blood. No followers allowed. Strong pair of arms. Whacking a carpet on the clothesline. She does whack it, by George. The way her crooked skirt swings at each whack.

The ferreteyed porkbutcher folded the sausages he had snipped off with blotchy fingers, sausagepink. Sound meat there like a stallfed heifer.

He took up a page from the pile of cut sheets. The model farm at Kinnereth on the lakeshore of Tiberias. Can become ideal winter sanatorium. Moses Montefiore. I thought he was. Farmhouse, wall round it, blurred cattle cropping. He held the page from him: interesting: read it nearer, the blurred cropping cattle, the page rustling. A young white heifer. Those mornings in the cattlemarket the beasts lowing in their pens, branded sheep, flop and fall of dung, the breeders in hobnailed boots trudging through the litter, slapping a palm on a ripemeated hindquarter, there’s a prime one, unpeeled switches in their hands. He held the page aslant patiently, bending his senses and his will, his soft subject gaze at rest. The crooked skirt swinging whack by whack by whack.

The porkbutcher snapped two sheets from the pile, wrapped up her prime sausages and made a red grimace.

– Now, my miss, he said.

She tendered a coin, smiling boldly, holding her thick wrist out.

– Thank you, my miss. And one shilling threepence change. For you, please?

Mr Bloom pointed quickly. To catch up and walk behind her if she went slowly, behind her moving hams. Pleasant to see first thing in the morning. Hurry up, damn it. Make hay while the sun shines. She stood outside the shop in sunlight and sauntered lazily to the right. He sighed down his nose: they never understand. Sodachapped hands. Crusted toenails too. Brown scapulars in tatters, defending her both ways. The sting of disregard glowed to weak pleasure within his breast. For another a constable off duty cuddled her in Eccles Lane. They like them sizeable. Prime sausage. O please, Mr Policeman, I’m lost in the wood.

– Threepence, please.

His hand accepted the moist tender gland and slid it into a sidepocket. Then it fetched up three coins from his trousers’ pocket and laid them on the rubber prickles. They lay, were read quickly and quickly slid, disc by disc, into the till.

– Thank you, sir. Another time.

A speck of eager fire from foxeyes thanked him. He withdrew his gaze after an instant. No: better not: another time.

– Good morning, he said, moving away.

– Good morning, sir.

No sign. Gone. What matter?

He walked back along Dorset street, reading gravely. Agendath Netaim: planter’s company. To purchase vast sandy tracts from Turkish government and plant with eucalyptus trees. Excellent for shade, fuel and construction. Orangegroves and immense melonfields north of Jaffa. You pay eight marks and they plant a dunam of land for you with olives, oranges, almonds or citrons. Olives cheaper: oranges need artificial irrigation. Every year you get a sending of the crop. Your name entered for life as owner in the book of the union. Can pay ten down and the balance in yearly instalments. Bleibtreustrasse 34, Berlin, W. 15.

Nothing doing. Still an idea behind it.

He looked at the cattle, blurred in silver heat. Silvered powdered olivetrees. Quiet long days: pruning ripening. Olives are packed in jars, eh? I have a few left from Andrews. Molly spitting them out. Knows the taste of them now. Oranges in tissue paper packed in crates. Citrons too. Wonder is poor Citron still alive in Saint Kevin’s parade. And Mastiansky with the old cither. Pleasant evenings we had then. Molly in Citron’s basketchair. Nice to hold, cool waxen fruit, hold in the hand, lift it to the nostrils and smell the perfume. Like that, heavy, sweet, wild perfume. Always the same, year after year. They fetched high prices too Moisel told me. Arbutus place: Pleasants street: pleasant old times. Must be without a flaw, he said. Coming all that way: Spain, Gibraltar, Mediterranean, the Levant. Crates lined up on the quayside at Jaffa, chap ticking them off in a book, navvies handling them in soiled dungarees. There’s whatdoyoucallhim out of. How do you? Doesn’t see. Chap you know just to salute bit of a bore. His back is like that Norwegian captain’s. Wonder if I’ll meet him today. Watering cart. To provoke the rain. On earth as it is in heaven.

A cloud began to cover the sun wholly slowly wholly. Grey. Far.

No, not like that. A barren land, bare waste. Vulcanic lake, the dead sea: no fish, weedless, sunk deep in the earth. No wind would lift those waves, grey metal, poisonous foggy waters. Brimstone they called it raining down: the cities of the plain: Sodom, Gomorrah, Edom. All dead names. A dead sea in a dead land, grey and old. Old now. It bore the oldest, the first race. A bent hag crossed from Cassidy’s clutching a noggin bottle by the neck. The oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman’s: the grey sunken cunt of the world.

Desolation.

Grey horror seared his flesh. Folding the page into his pocket he turned into Eccles Street, hurrying homeward. Cold oils slid along his veins, chilling his blood: age crusting him with a salt cloak. Well, I am here now. Morning mouth bad images. Got up wrong side of the bed. Must begin again those Sandow’s exercises. On the hands down. Blotchy brown brick houses. Number eighty still unlet. Why is that? Valuation is only twenty-eight. Towers, Battersby, North, MacArthur: parlour windows plastered with bills. Plasters on a sore eye. To smell the gentle smoke of tea, fume of the pan, sizzling butter. Be near her ample bedwarmed flesh. Yes, yes.

Quick warm sunlight came running from Berkeley Road, swiftly, in slim sandals, along the brightening footpath. Runs, she runs to meet me, a girl with gold hair on the wind.

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