Adventures in reading Ulysses

I’m two months into my third? fourth? attempt to read Joyce’s Ulysses, this time armed with companion book. I finally made it to the Oxen of the Sun episode, and spent about twenty minutes reading the first page. I re-cap the two sentences that I was most hung up on below. While I could find this passage online and simply cut/paste, I did not cheat, I transcribed. Chockablock full of delicious vocabulary like lutulent (muddy, turbid), omnipollent (omnipotent), semblables (resemblances), inverecund (immodest), traduce (shame by way of fraud)…

Universally that person’s acumen is esteemed very little perceptive concerning whatsoever matters are being held as most profitable by mortals with sapience endowed to be studied who is ignorant of that which the most in doctrine erudite and certainly by reason of that in them high mind’s ornament deserving of veneration constantly maintain when by general consent they affirm that other circumstances being equal by no exterior splendour is the prosperity of a nation more efficaciously asserted than by the measure of how far forward may have progressed the tribute of its solicitude for that proliferent continuance which of evils the original if it be absent when fortunately present constitutes the certain sign of omnipollent nature’s incorrupted benefaction. For who is there who anything of some significance has apprehended but is conscious that that exterior splendour may be the surface of a downwardtrending lutulent reality or on the contrary anyone so is there inilluminated as not to perceive that as no nature’s boon can contend against the bounty of increase so it behoves every most just citizen to become the exhortator and admonisher of his semblables and to tremble lest what had in the past been by the nation excellently commenced might be in the future not with similar excellence accomplished if an inverecund habit shall have gradually traduced the honourable by ancestors transmitted customs to that thither of profundity that that one was audacious excessively who would have the hardihood to rise affirming that no more odious offence can for anyone be than to oblivious neglect to consign that evangel simultaneously command and promise which on all mortals with prophecy of abundance or with diminution’s menace that exalted of reiteratedly procreating function ever irrevocably enjoined?

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Wish me luck. Splash!

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Frank Chambers drifts into a roadside cafe and gives up the traveling life for six months of bliss with Cora, the owner’s wife. They hatch a plan to kill the husband, Nick the Greek, which is foiled when a cat is electrocuted on the fuse box, shorting out the electricity and freaking Cora out. Once Nick recovers from his “fall in the shower”, he insists on having a baby with Cora, and she’s ready to kill again once Frank is back from a brief sojourn on the road. This time, Frank plots a complicated drunk driving accident that leaves Nick dead and both Cora & Frank locked up. A lawyer outfoxes the DA, getting them freedom. They head back to the cafe with a check for $10k insurance money, but loathe each other for ratting on the other. Cora goes home for a funeral and Frank picks up a lady at the train station, they head to Mexico. Cora comes back, a blackmail attempt by the friend of the lawyer who has Cora’s confession, Cora is pregnant, they marry and have a rejuvenating swim which resets their relationship, on the way home from the beach Frank crashes the car and kills Cora, is locked up for murder and writes this book in jail.
Similar to the film, but of course Hollywood edited out the sexy bits like Frank & Cora going at it near the car crash. And I don’t think the lady Frank picked up at the train station mentioned that she cared for jungle cats and pumas?

Kiss & Tell

Splashy pink cover and risque title hides Alain de Botton’s ingenious biography of an unknown woman. De Botton weaves philosophy, fiction, and humor while questioning the nature of biography. Why is it we are most interested in hearing the dreary dull mundane facts about famous people? Because ultimately, we are all searching for clues to our own identities.
Alain begins the work by admitting his last girlfriend accused him of being unable to empathize, which sets him on the task of biographer, intrigued by “the idea of understanding a human being as fully as one person could hope to understand another.” He decides to chronicle the life of the next stranger who enters his life, twenty-something Isabel, who also evolves into his girlfriend.
He questions the best way to biographize– a mere linear progression or how it streams from the subject’s mouth willy nilly? He wonders which bits of trivia to include or exclude– favorite foods, music, pathways around London.

What is it we reveal of ourselves with our choice of lover? In so far as we desire what we do not ourselves possess, our loves trace the evolution of our needs… But lovers are not chosen according to a perfect match between emotional void and amorous candidate – and in this sense are a complicated guide to our inner needs. We may be forced to identify our lovers from a cripplingly small pool of choices. In trying to explain the more inexplicable love stories, one may have to answer the question, ‘Why them?’ with the gloomy thought, ‘Did you see the others?’

This one got the raised eyebrow when I was getting my hair cut– “oh one of those books,” he said. Subversive covers are my new favorite thing.