Subsidized Years of INFINITE JEST

July 3rd, 2015

Notice, that some are still abbreviated, as Greg Carlisle in Elegant Complexity (helpfully) doesn’t spoil what we don’t know yet by page 127. These are details mostly from end note #24, JOI’s filmography. (and perhaps the main reason for that long endnote.)

ijyears

INFINITE JEST readalong week 2 #InfiniTC

June 29th, 2015

afr

All right, who’s still with me?

This week, after page 63 in Infinite Jest is where the rubber hits the road. Shit hits the fan. Pick your metaphor and run with it. Or roll with it, like the Association de Fauteuil Rollents, the Canadian wheelchair assassins.

And it’s on page 64 that I’m convinced that many people give up on this book. They’ve muddled through the out of sequence stuff and the years with names not numbers, and that Wardine chapter, then BOOM. Page 64 with note 24, eight and a half pages of TEENY TINY type on the filmography of James O. Incandenza, Hal’s dead father.

And even if you make it past that challenge, say by skipping or skimming it (because while valuable, it’s OK to refer back to later when you’re feeling more situated in the book) then you get to the Marathe and Steeply passage, with a guy in a wheelchair up on a desert ledge joined by another guy in drag, and both are spies, and then you get to note 39 that has subnotes, and one of those says to go to note 304, which is seven and a half pages, also has sub notes, about a student plagiarizing a paper from DFW’s imaginary future online that is actually pretty close to how the internet turned out. And that’s where I think many other people throw in the towel. You know, the towels that are wrapped like kilts around the boys in the locker room after there late, exhausting practice.

But if you can manage to read note 304, and learn about the history of Canada’s wheelchair assassins, then it’s hard not to be amazed by the bat$hit crazy imagination of it all.

It is very important, I assure you, to keep reading. Don’t give up! Do not let these end notes freak you out. Skim them, skip them if you want. There’s gold in them there end notes but if you’re not feeling up for it, they’ll still be there later in the book. This book is fascinating, and fun, and true and sad, but you have to keep reading.

For now, let me be super reductive:

End note 24: James O. Incandenza made a lot of films, both technical and artistic. He worked with a lot of actors and other people who have been and will be mentioned. His films often had to do with his personal obsessions: teeth, spiders, tennis, fatherhood, and his wife’s infidelity, a callback to Bloom in Ulysses.

End note 304: In Canada’s poor mining towns, the young men play “The game of the next train,” a coordinated type of Chicken in which a group of boys tries to jump in front of a train and not be the first, and not die. Many do die, many lose limbs, and some lose legs and become members of the AFR, the Canadian wheelchair assassins.

Now, back to the pages of the actual book we read this week, chapters 8-11, which I only know because I’m also reading Elegant Complexity, which helpfully keeps track of all those little moons, or meniscuses, if you will. Meniscii? (Meniscus, or moon, is one of the names of JOI’s film companies.)

I did a summary and list of characters in the earlier post, here. I remember having a hard time on my first read of IJ with the Marathe and Steeply sections, with all the politics and intrigue of the future dystopian-ish society, in which Canada gets stuck with all the dead, contaminated territories, and there are feral hamsters and infants.

I’ll say again that my best advice is just to read. Don’t panic. I bet I can find that somewhere on the internet written in large, friendly letters…

dontpanic

Or, in the timeless words of REO Speedwagon, “Hold On Loosely”. There is so much going on, and it will all come together, but if you’re not getting it, or can’t remember Struck from Stice, it’s OK. Just read.

I was most enthralled by the sections about Kate Gompert and her marijuana use and desire for suicide. It is hard not to read that section and think on the future suicide of the author.

It’s not wanting to hurt myself, it’s wanting to not hurt. (78)

Thankfully, though, there’s plenty of things to laugh about, as well, like the use of Pledge as a sunscreen, one that later can be peeled off in strips.

There are also lots of references, especially to Hamlet. Both Poor Yorick and Infinite Jest, mentioned in note 24, are from that play. The section that switches without breaks among the elder students and their little buddies reminded me of the chapter(s?) of Ulysses where it jumped from mind to mind for the stream of consciousness.

DFW was trying to challenge the reader, just as Joyce was with Ulysses. He’s telling a tale out of order, not giving us years to count by, skipping in and back in time and in and out of people’s lives and thoughts. He is NOT going by a straight line.

I’ll stop here for now. What did everyone else think? You can also tweet comments and questions with the hashtag #InfiniTC.

The rest of the schedule:

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

#InfiniTC Summer-y week 2, INFINITE JEST 63-127

June 29th, 2015

Below are short summaries of each section, followed by a list of characters per section. Again, these are taken almost verbatim, from the original Infinite Summer-ers. Since I chose to do different page breaks at the chapters, I’m personalizing summer-ies to our pages.

AS OF YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: The history of ETA and its founder James Orin Incandenza (father to Hal, Orin, and Mario).

DENVER CO, 1 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Orin glides into Mile High Stadium in a Cardinals costume; Michael Pemulis talks to his “Little Buddies” at ETA about drugs; Hal relates a dream that he used to have nightly.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Kate Gompert is in the hospital, speaks about the depression her addiction to pot engenders.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Tiny Ewell travels to the Enfield Marine VA Hospital Complex via cab.

A list of people gathered in the living room of the medical attaché house watching the Entertainment.

30 APRIL — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Remy Marathe of the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (wheelchair assassins) and M. Hugh Steeply of the Office of Unspecified Services (OUS) converse on a bluff outside Tucson, AZ.

A herd of feral hamsters rampages in the Great Concavity (which used to be Vermont, and is now owned by Canada)

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Banter and exhaustion in the ETA lockeroom. Present: Hal Incandenza, John (N.R.) Wayne, Jim Troelsch, Michael Pemulis, Ted Schacht, Ortho Stice, Jim Struck, Keith Freer.

Marathe and Steeply continue their conversation through sunset.

3 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U.: Big Buddy meetings: first Hal (with Kent Blott, Idris Arslanian, Evan Ingersol), then Wayne, Troelsch, Struck, and Stice.

MARIO INCANDENZA’S FIRST AND ONLY EVEN REMOTELY ROMANTIC EXPERIENCE, THUS FAR: Millicent Kent tells Mario she has seen a tripod, confides in him, and tries to kiss him. Millicent, Mario, and Hal find the tripod on the way out of the woods.

30 APRIL — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT: Marathe and Steeply discuss the Entertainment, and possibility of an antidote (the anti-Entertainment).

***

Characters in bold appear to be major.

AS OF YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 63)

Dr. James Orin Incandenza (“Himself”): Husband of Avril, father to Orin, Mario, and Hal. Founder of ETA, filmmaker, inventor. Died in The Year of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar.

DENVER CO, 1 NOVEMBER YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 65)

Michael Pemulis: Member of the 18s B squad at ETA; friend to Hal and Mario.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 68)

Katherine “Kate” Ann Gompert: Pot addict, depressive. First seen in hospital.
Unnamed: Kate’s doctor.
Gerhardt Schtitt: Head Coach and Athletic Director at E.T.A. Old; borderline fascist; friends with Mario.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 85)

Tiny Ewell: Diminutive recovering alcoholic, being driven to the Enfield Marine VA Hospital Complex.

30 APRIL — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 87)

Remy Marathe: Member of the Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents (AFR); is working as a quadruple agent–that is, his superior, M. Fortier, thinks that Marthe is working as a triple agent (pretending to work with the Office of Unspecified Services, while in reality reporting back to AFR), but Marathe is actually collaborating with OUS to secure medical services for his wife.

M. Hugh Steeply: Agent the Office of Unspecified Services. Currently operating in disguise as a large woman; Marathe’s contact.

MARIO INCANDENZA’S FIRST AND ONLY EVEN REMOTELY ROMANTIC EXPERIENCE, THUS FAR (page 121)

U.S.S. Millicent Kent: Unkindly nicknamed Girls 16′s Singles player who attempts to seduce Mario Incandenza.

INFINITE JEST Readalong Week 1

June 23rd, 2015

keep-calm-and-finish-infinite-jest

Welcome to the Infinite Summer, and Infinite Jest readalong, Twin Cities 2015 version. Anyone can read along. We can discuss the book’s sections (no spoilers) in the comments, and on Twitter with the hashtag #InfiniTC. This week we read to page 63. I posted a summary and list of characters for week 1 here.

Infinite Jest pages 1-63.

The first time I read Infinite Jest, I approached it like a diligent student. I took notes, wrote each character and when they appeared, and approached it like a puzzle to be solved.

I wish I’d just read the damn thing. Having gotten to the end, I know that what seems overwhelming at first makes more and more sense as you go along. The internet can be used to remind you of character lists and what happened in which section if you want to go back.

This time, because I’m blogging and tweeting the book, I have to nerd out, at least a little. I’m reading a guide, Elegant Complexity by Greg Carlisle. I will share bits of it each week, trying not to overwhelm with minutiae.

For first-time readers, I think the main thing to know is Infinite Jest jumps around in time and point of view and plot. It starts off as many little bits, and will coalesce into a greater whole. If you’re confused, that’s not only normal, it’s probably what the author intended.

In a 1995 radio interview, Wallace said that the structure of the unedited first draft of Infinite Jest was based on a fractal object called a Sierpinski Gasket, generated geometrically by an iterative process of cutting smaller triangle-sized holes out of larger triangles…readers of IJ construct narrative interpretations “as much out of what’s missing as what’s there” (IJ p681) (Carlisle, p20)

figure18

Here are some things I noticed on this read, many of which are questions:

DFW’s terrific and funny sentences, like “My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it. (5) and “I do things like get in a taxi and say, ‘The library, and step on it.’ (12) Or “a fit of febrile thrushive pique”that the attache is told to pay no mind, “because it’s just the yeast talking” (35). Or “promoted” as a euphemism for stolen. I keep finding more: “The rhinovirally afflicted man, gagged with skill and quality materials (59)

I think Pemulis is pronounced “PEEM you liss”

Why does DFW use single quotes for dialogue? Is it merely the convention he chose, or is it mean to imply that all of the book is in full quotes, so all dialogue is embedded?

The first line of Hamlet is “Who’s there?” The first line of Infinite Jest (a phrase from Hamlet) is “I am.”

This seemingly throwaway sentence haunts me with its questions:

I think of John N.R Wayne, who would have won this year’s WhataBurger, standing watch in a mask as Donald Gately and I dig up my father’s head. (16-17)

Wayne would have won, if not for what? Why are they digging up the father’s head?

Masking is a theme that will repeat through the novel. Another theme is defecation, as it was in Ulysses. Carlisle notes that several scenes take place “in men’s rooms, locker rooms, and toilet stalls–places in which waste is produced.” (Carlisle, 29) On page 9, Hal is in a “defecatory posture.” Later, Tavis is “a truly unparalleled slinger of shit.”

I urge you to visit Brickjest.com, which features scenes from the book re-created with Legos.

I am rolled supine on the geometric floor. (13)

In Erdedy’s section we read about a drug dealer:

“he lived in a trailer and had a harelip and kept snakes” (18)

who shows up again in Bruce Green’s section:

“he and Mildred Bonk and tiny incontinent Harriet Bonk-Green lived just off he Allston Spur in a shiny housetrailer with another frightening couple and with Tommy Doocey, who kept several large snake in unclear uncovered aquaria, which smelled, which Tommy Doocey didn’t notice because his upper lip completely covered his nostrils and all he could smell was lip.” (39)

I’m not sure what makes me laugh more, the realization that tiny, incontinent refers to a baby, or “all he could smell was lip.”

Less amusing, though, is pondering how vivid the detail of Erdedy’s pot obsession was, which I surmise DFW knew from personal experience, just as the drug dealer was based on one in real life. This is a description from Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club(p76):

I knew a drug dealer once who collected them [snakes] in glass tanks all over his trailer. He had a harelip that somehow protected him from the stink, but the rest of us became, when dickering over pharmaceuticals with him, the noisiest and most adenoidal mouth breathers.

Karr and DFW were together for a time, which she writes about in her memoir Lit and talked about at Salon here:

He was in rehab and we’d met through friends; he was in rehab down the street and I lived in Belmont, Mass…. I was about a month clean; his sobriety date was about a month after mine. So we ran into each other a lot. He was in a halfway house where I did volunteer work.

Another question: Hal tries to communicate to the college people, then says ‘Call it something I ate’ before he relates a flashback to a scene of him eating mold as a child. Is there a connection between the mold and Hal’s inability to make himself understood?

EDITED TO ADD: DFW was a fanatic about usage, and one example is his repeated, correct but often misunderstood use of the word nauseous, which means causing nausea, not feeling it.

Also of delight, the term ‘howling fantods’ for extremes of creeped-out-ed-ness. Apparently the real DFW’s mom added “howling” to fantods (a real word) to coin the term, HT Brain Pickings.

Also, the site Howling Fantods is a wealth of DFW information.

I think that’s more than enough from me. What did everyone else think?

For next week Tuesday 6/30, read in books to page 127’s chapter break, marked with a shaded circle. E-readers, see text quotes on the schedule below.

The rest of the schedule:

circleInfinite Summer 2015

Tu 6-30 discuss and tweet to 127. Start at “AS OF Y.D.A.U. “The Enfield Tennis Academy has been in accredited…” Stop at: “An oiled guru sits in yogic full lotus”

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

Infinite Summer-y 1

June 23rd, 2015

Pun and info copied verbatim from the original Infinite Summer blog. I’ve adjusted for page number. There first page goal was the same as ours–63, yet the first summery goes beyond that. Gah. So much formatting! Let me know if this is helpful. I think the best approach will be to do a separate post of Analysis to chat over.

YEAR OF GLAD (p3) Hal interviews at the University of Arizona; in a flashback, Hal eats mold as a child.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (17) Erdedy awaits a delivery of pot.

1 APRIL — YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD (27) Hal speaks with a “professional conversationalist”.

9 MAY — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (32) Hal, sharing a room with his older brother Mario, receives a call from the eldest brother Orin.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (33) A medical attaché discovers that his wife is out, and so selects an unmarked entertainment cartridge to watch.

YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR (37) Clenette describes Wardine, Wardine’s mother, and Roy Tony; Bruce Green falls in love with and eventually woos Mildred Bonk.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (39) Hal and Mario reminisce about their father (Himself) and his death; medical attaché continues to watch cartridge.

OCTOBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (42) Orin kills roaches and wishes he could get rid of last night’s “Subject”.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (49) Hal smokes pot in the Pump Room.

AUTUMN — YEAR OF DAIRY PRODUCTS FROM THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND (55) Don Gately accidentally kills a man while robbing his home.

3 NOVEMBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (60) Jim Troelsch–a student at the Enfield Tennis Academy (ETA)–is sick; someone has a nightmare about a face in the floor (told in first-person).

New Characters (those in bold appear to be major):

YEAR OF GLAD (page 3)

Harold (Hal) James Incandenza: Protagonist. Student at the Enfield Tennis Academy; son of James Orin Incandenza and Avril Incandenza; younger brother to Orin Incandenza and Mario Incandenza.

Dr. Charles Tavis: Hal’s mother’s “adoptive brother”; accompanies Hal to University of Arizona interview.

Avril Mondragon Tavis Incandenza (“The Moms”): Wife to James Orin Incandenza, Mother to Orin, Mario, and Hal. Dean of Academic Affairs at ETA; grammarian supreme.

Aubrey F. deLint: ETA prorector.

Kirk White: University of Arizona Varsity Coach.

Mr. Sawyer: University of Arizona Dean of Academics.

Bill: University of Arizona Dean of Athletics.

Unnamed: Dean of Admissions, Dean of Composition.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 17)


Erdedy
– Pot addict, who swears that each pot binge will be his last.

Unnamed: Female who promised to deliver pot to Eldedy.

1 APRIL — YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD (page 27)

“Conversational Professional”: Possibly Himself in disguise.

9 MAY — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 32)

Mario Incandenza: Older brother to Hal; has some sort of deformity.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 33)

Unnamed: Medical attaché (first to watch the mysterious, unnamed cartridge)

Medical attaché’s wife.

YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR (page 37)

Clenette Henderson: Relates the story of Wardine.

Wardine: Clenette’s half-sister and friend who is beaten by Roy Tony.

Reginald: Wardine’s boyfriend.

Roy Tony: Dealer; Wardine’s mother’s “man”.

Delores Epps – Clenette’s friend.

Columbus Epps – Delores’ brother, killed by Roy Tony four years ago (over Clenette’s mother).

Unnamed: Wardine’s mother.

Bruce Green: Husband to Mildred L. Bonk; father to Harriet Bonk-Green.

Mildred L. Bonk: Wife to Bruce Green; mother to Harriet Bonk-Green.

Tommy Doocey: Harelipped pot-dealer (possibly the source of Erdedy’s pot).

Harriet Bonk-Green: Mildred and Bruce’s daughter

OCTOBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 42)

Orin Incandenza: Eldest Incandenza brother. Plays football, sleeps with “subjects”, hates roaches.

AUTUMN — YEAR OF DAIRY PRODUCTS FROM THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND (page 55)

Donald “Don” W. Gately: Enormous guy (over 6 ft., close to 300 lbs), thief, murderer (albeit by accident), and “active drug addict”.

Guillaume DuPlessis: Homeowner killed by Gately.

Trent ‘Quo Vadis’ Kite: Gately’s “associate”.

3 NOVEMBER — YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT (page 60)

Jim Troelsch: Ill member of the 18s B squad at ETA.

INFINITE JEST Readalong! #InfiniTC

June 17th, 2015

infinite_jest2

EDITED AGAIN! NEW SCHEDULE! Honestly, I cannot figure how the original InfSummers got their page breaks for the original InfSum schedule. I’m doing page breaks that make sense to me. Chapters in Infinite Jest are marked with little moon-lookin’ things. I’m almost always able to end a week’s reading at a chapter break. Where I can’t, I’ve at least done it at a section break. I can’t give you percentages or Location, though I do list text to search for. Kindle or E-reader people, let me know if you need more, or can offer help to others.

I just finished Ulysses, and now it’s on to the next book, which is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, yet another big book by a dead white male that many start but do not finish.

A few years ago, I read along with the group for the first Infinite Summer, and not only finished the book, but enjoyed the heck out of it, so I’m here to lead a round this summer. I highly recommend the group read, which is why I’m leading it here. I have a number of friends in the Twin Cities who say they’re up for the challenge, but everyone can read along. We’ll be tweeting with the hashtag #InfiniTC.

We start now, around the summer solstice and finish around the autumn equinox. Your assignment, should you choose to accept, is to start reading now and complete the first 63 pages by next Tuesday, when I’ll blog and tweet about them.

I cannot tell you how long I worked at trying to format a readable schedule, but me and tabs and this blog were not able to come to an agreement, so I hope the format below works for everyone. I really wanted to include the little moon-lookin’ thingies, but alas, it was not meant to be. I’ll include it as an image, instead.

circleInfinite Summer 2015

Tu 6-23 discuss and tweet to 63. Stop at: AS OF Y.D.A.U. “The Enfield Tennis Academy has been in accredited”

Tu 6-30 discuss and tweet to 127. Stop at: “An oiled guru sits in yogic full lotus”

Tu 7-7 discuss and tweet to 181. Stop at: LATE OCTOBER Y.D.A.U. “Open me anothowone”

Tu 7-14 discuss and tweet to 258. Stop at: 6 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “White halogen off the green”

Tu 7-21 discuss and tweet to 321. Stop at: 8 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. INTERDEPENDENCE DAY GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Tu 7-28 discuss and tweet to 398. Stop at: “FREAK STATUE OF LIBERTY ACCIDENT”

Tu 8-04 discuss and tweet to 489. Stop at: PRE-DAWN. 1 MAY Y.D.A.U. OUTCROPPING

Tu 8-11 discuss and tweet to 538. Stop at: “It is starting to get quietly around Ennet”

Tu 8-18 discuss and tweet to 619. Stop at: “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment: Interlace TelEntertainment, 932/1864”

Tu 8-25 discuss and tweet to 686. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “First thing after supper”

Tu 9-1 discuss and tweet to 755. Stop at: 11 NOVEMBER Y.D.A.U. “Part of Mario’s footage”

Tu 9-8 discuss and tweet to 808. Stop at: “The ceiling was breathing”

Tu 9-15 discuss and tweet to 896. Stop at: “I was going to go back up”

Tu 9-22 discuss and tweet to 981. THE END!

At the end of each specified day, you should be at or past the given page number or location. The schedule denotes the Spoiler Line for any given day. For instance, on July 7th please confine your discussion to only those events that transpire on page 181 of the novel and earlier. The Spoiler Line will hold both on the posts here and on Twitter. If you find yourself ahead of the pack and eager to chat with like-minded overachievers, or if you’re already read Infinite Jest and wish to talk about the novel in its entirety, please do so privately.

A note about the endnotes: The above schedule does not take the endnotes into account. And as some endnotes are long (like, 18 pages worth of long), that means the actual amount of weekly reading will vary. But, you know, it’s like agreeing to always divide the check up evenly when dining with friends: you may have to chip in a bit more occasionally, but it’s better than haggling over the math.

A note about editions: As it turns out, all (physical) edition of Infinite Jest have 981 pages: the one from 1996, the one from 2004, the paperback, the hardcover, etc. A big thank you to the men and women in the publishing industry who were kind and/or lazy enough to keep things consistent.

It looks like there is a group on Reddit reading as well, link here. There’s a group in Reno that has a Tumblr for Infinite Reno, and is on Twitter as well, @infinitereno.There’s a group at Infinite Summer 2015 who started before we did. We have a good excuse though. WE HAD TO FINISH ULYSSES.

ULYSSES Readalong: ch 18: Penelope

June 16th, 2015

penelope

“Molly Bloom (Caraid O’Brien),” by Louie Correia.

If you would like to listen to the last chapter of Ulysses, Penelope, read aloud, this link at LISTEN is a good one.

And, we’re done!

Chapter 18: Penelope, is Molly’s voice, and the last of the book. It’s interesting that we got 17 chapters of He Said, and that the 18th, She Said, is one of the most popular, with its famous last line

yes I said yes I will yes.

Though, since the foregoing chapter had no punctuation (Molly’s stream of consciousness is the most stream-y) this is technically the end of the one, long sentence.

Who finished? Who tried but didn’t?

ADDED LATER: Together, I think chapters 17 and 18, Ithaca and Penelope, were my favorites. I also think many things were revealed in them that might have had more impact for me if they hadn’t been foretold in the notes from earlier chapters. I’m not sure I could have read this entire book without notes, but I wish that the notes that exist weren’t so cavalier about the details just because this book has been around for over 100 years and others besides me have read it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Molly’s chapter, her voice, and her observations. That said, I think it’s important to remember that this is a chapter written by a man in a woman’s voice. It’s good, but I can’t say I stay up thinking about sex all the time and obsessing about how men view me, so while Joyce gets some of this right, I do think he sexualizes to an extreme that is more a male fantasy than an everywoman’s viewpoint.

Molly’s chapter is divided into eight “sentences” with no punctuation, so it can be hard to follow. The summary at Schmoop.com is helpful. I took this to mean that her stream of consciousness is the “streamiest” and more water-y and mothering than those of the other men in the book.

I will do a follow-up post on the whole book, but this wraps things up for now. Thanks for those who have come along for the journey.

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11
Week 9: book 12
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3
Week 14: book 15 part 3/3
Week 15: book 16
Week 16: book 17

ULYSSES Readalong ch 17: Ithaca

June 9th, 2015

narcissus

“What caused him consolation in his sitting posture?
The candour, nudity, pose, tranquility, youth, grace, sex, counsel of a statue erect in the centre of the table, an image of Narcissus purchased by auction from P.A. Wren, 9 Bachelor’s Walk.” (U17.1426) from Joyce Images

Oh, fellow #TCUlysses readalong-ers, how I have dragged my feet on writing this post! I actually finished not only chapter 17, Ithaca, but also 18, Penelope, and thus the whole megillah (Judaism reference!) last Friday, and was just basking in the feeling of finished-ness.

A few days ago I steeled my resolve and went back to the notes. I read the pages about Ulysses in Joseph Campbell’s Mythic Words, Modern Worlds. They were interesting, especially the comparison to Dante’s hell, and the descent and return. A few too many “of course” and “obviously”s. Then I read the chapters in Blamire’s New Bloomsday Book. As usual, they gave a good reading of what I’d just read, helping me to understand, even if I did not always agree with the interpretation. Also, some “of course”s. If you write, don’t include “of course” because whatever you’re talking about is either obvious or in dispute, and if you write “of course” then you sound like a pompous blowhard. Then, as per my usual, I went to Ulysses Annotated, and friends, I got lost. It was as if I’d descended to hell, and could not slog through those 60 pages.

I found it interesting that I read chapter 17 rather quickly, and found it very accessible, not just in comparison to some of the more abstruse chapters. But the 60 pages of detailing a 70 page chapter exhausted me, and left me not much more enlightened, and certainly with more ill-will toward the book. Then I read the summary and analysis at schmoop, and those were a walk in the park, though as usual not entirely accurate.

Now that I’ve written ad nauseum about my experience of reading 17 and about 17, let me talk a bit about the chapter itself.

In 17, Bloom and Stephen go to Bloom’s house. They’re locked out, Bloom sneaks in, let’s Stephen in, they talk and drink cocoa. They’re revealed again as both similar and different. Bloom offers Stephen a place to stay, and is declined. They go outside to micturate before Stephen leaves. Bloom goes upstairs and hits his head when he enters the room because the furniture has been moved around. This is a callback to when Ulysses gets a stool thrown at him by one of the suitors when he returns to his home, disguised as an old man. There is other evidence of Blazes Boylan, including a dent in the mattress and flakes of potted meat. Poldy thinks about revenge but in the end works his way through it to forgiveness and understanding, both of Molly and the men she’s loved. He crawls into bed with Molly, head to foot, (69 position, I thought), and the chapter ends with a big fat black dot.

What was your interpretation of that black dot? The ones I read suggested it was Poldy’s place in the world, or other things. I can’t help feeling that it illustrates the wet spot from the earlier sex that poor Poldy has to sleep in.

Would I have EVER thought such a thing about a book before reading THIS book? I don’t know.

The chapter is written as a series of questions and answers, in the catechism style of Catholicism, which Poldy converted to in order to marry Molly. There is a reference to something in Judaism itching at my brain, some particular work that is structured also in question and answer, just as in the Passover hagaddah book, e.g., “Why is this night not like all other nights?” I thought it might be the work of Moses Maimonides, who is mentioned in the chapter. He wrote a book with one of my favorite titles ever: Guide for the Perplexed, but did not find evidence of such. Is it the Talmud? The Mishnah? Some other resource I can’t remember that is commentary on the Torah or the Talmud? If anyone knows, please enlighten me.

This little paragraph, in the section about Poldy finding Molly intellectually deficient, provides a great segue to our next, final chapter, 18:

What compensated in the false balance of her intelligence for these and such deficiencies of judgment regarding persons, places and things?

The false apparent parallelism of all perpendicular arms of all balances, proved true by construction. The counterbalance of her proficiency of judgment regarding one person, proved true by experiment.

Basically, Molly knows Poldy, and he knows that she knows him.

Join us here next week for the last post from the #TCUlysses read.

There is no punctuation in the chapter so it can be hard to parse. If you’re struggling, take a look at part 1 and part 2 of this, recommended by Ulysses vet Wilson Varga and see if it helps.

6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18 and the whole thing!
6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11
Week 9: book 12
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3
Week 14: book 15 part 3/3
Weeks 15: book 16

Backyard Labyrinth

June 1st, 2015

In our thirties, my husband G and I moved into our house in 2004 with our then 1yo son Drake, who was joined by little brother Guppy a year and a half later. This is the first house either of us had owned. Prior to that we’d lived in condos or apartments, and had never been responsible for a yard or a home. We had a very kid-friendly backyard, with a playset and a treehouse the former owner, an architect, had built upon a giant stump.

We did not distinguish ourselves, however. Within the first year, weeds took over the play area in the backyard. We waited so long to attend to them that they went to seed. Every year after that was an ongoing, losing battle with the weeds, the most difficult of which was the Canadian thistle, joined a few years later by the stinging nettle. I tried vinegar, we tried digging up the whole playset area. G removed a huge number of thick, stubborn roots, but still, they came back.

Two years ago, I leaned against the huge stump, and it moved. The termites had bored through it, and the bunnies had tunneled under it so that the only thing holding it in place was the tree house, which immediately became off limits to the kids. We had a treehouse removal party, (kind of like a reverse of the barn raising scene in that Harrison Ford Amish film, Witness), and the treehouse went off and became a hen house. But the stump remained, a huge, heavy albatross in our backyard.

backyard_before

We had a stump destruction party, with axes and Sawzalls, but the stump was harder to dismantle, even rotten, than we’d hoped. We had to call in a professional, with professional tools. to chop it to bits.

Removing the tree house got us the momentum in our backyard we needed. We were also helped by the advancing age of our sons, who rarely helped, but at least stayed out of the way and could play on their own without supervision. We got their OK to dismantle the playset, which G had always been prejudiced against. Encouraged by this, he finally took down the ugly chain link fence he’d vowed to get rid of in 2004. Removing the fence and the playset was superficially easy; the hard part was digging out the sunken concrete bases, but he did that. Then, we bought some tarps. A LOT of tarps. And we covered over all the thistle-y and nettle-y areas. We’ve been told by yard experts that if we leave the tarps there from spring to fall of this year, that the summer sun will bake the weeds down to their roots.

Up till a few weeks ago, the tarps were weighted with chunks of trunk, as well as a mix of bricks and paving stones that had come with the house or been used in various ways, like a bumpy, weed-choked patio, that we’d rescued them from. About a week ago, it occurred to me that I could put a labyrinth atop the tarps, and that I had to materials. Walking a labyrinth was something I did prior to having kids. After kids, though, taking a jaunt to walk quietly slipped down, then off, the priority list.

I found patterns online, at Labyrinthos.net and The Labyrinth Society, measured my yard, and started to move the bricks, blocks, and trunk chunks around. This was more complicated than it looked for several reasons. One, a labyrinth is built off a base that is not in the exact center of the space to be used; it’s down and to the left. Two, once I had put in about four of the brick arcs I realized I should align it to weigh down the tarps, and had to start over.

The tarp surface isn’t ideal. The ground underneath is uneven from bunny tunnels and stump removal, plus hard and bumpy from numerous bits of wood. But, it’s not bad, plus, having a labyrinth would be way more attractive than having tarps covered with random stumpage.

It took almost a week to put it together, and I’m still tinkering with it. But we’re killing the thistles and nettles, plus I now have my very own labyrinth, that I can walk whenever I want, built from existing materials that I’ve been meaning to put to good use since 2004.

backyard_after

I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer, but I may finally be getting the hand of this “having a house” thing after all. It’s in no small part to my youngest being 9, though. I don’t think I would have had the energy any time before to do this.

Infinite Summer is Coming!

May 31st, 2015

I just finished Ulysses and am feeling v pleased w/self. Infinite Jest should be a walk in the park! Here’s the schedule for the Infinite Summer 2015 readalong, which starts around the summer solstice and finishes around the autumn equinox. It’s copied largely verbatim from the kind folks who did the original Infinite Summer in 2009, when I read IJ the first time. I highly recommend the group read, which is why I’m leading it here. I’m based in the Twin Cities, and many of the people who claim they’ll read along are here, too, but anyone can join in, either here on the blog in the comments or on Twitter, where we’ll be blogging at #TCInfiniteSummer.

Infinite Summer 2015 syllabus.

Date Page Percent Complete
Tue, Jun 23 63 6%
Tue, Jun 30 94 9%
Tue, Jul 07 168 17%
Tue, Jul 14 242 24%
Tue, Jul 21 316 32%
Tue, Jul 28 390 39%
Tue, Aug 04 464 47%
Tue, Aug 11 537 54%
Tue, Aug 18 611 62%
Tue, Aug 25 685 69%
Tue, Sep 01 759 77%
Tue, Sep 08 833 84%
Tue, Sep 15 907 92%
Tue, Sep 22 981 100%

At the end of each specified day, you should be at or past the given page number or location. The schedule denotes the Spoiler Line for any given day. For instance, on July 7th please confine your discussion to only those events that transpire on page 168 of the novel and earlier. The Spoiler Line will hold both on the posts here and on Twitter at #TCInfiniteSummer. If you find yourself ahead of the pack and eager to chat with like-minded overachievers, or if you’re already read Infinite Jest and wish to talk about the novel in its entirety, please do so privately.

A note about the endnotes: The above schedule does not take the endnotes into account. And as some endnotes are long (like, 14 pages worth of long), that means the actual amount of weekly reading will vary. But, you know, it’s like agreeing to always divide the check up evenly when dining with friends: you may have to chip in a bit more occasionally, but it’s better than haggling over the math.

A note about editions: As it turns out, all (physical) edition of Infinite Jest have 981 pages: the one from 1996, the one from 2004, the paperback, the hardcover, etc. A big thank you to the men and women in the publishing industry who were kind and/or lazy enough to keep things consistent.

TRUE GRIT by Charles Portis

May 30th, 2015

Many people told me the book True Grit by Charles Portis was at least as awesome as either of the films, maybe even better.

Many people were right.

True Grit is a gem. It’s a whole book narrated by 14-year-old Mattie Ross, and Mattie is a joy and a wonder to spend time with. She’s smart, sassy, and tough.

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.

Mattie hires Rooster Cogburn because she hears he has “true grit” but it’s Mattie that astonished me with her endless reserves of awesomeness as she goes up against all the many things (and men) she does.

Mattie is a heroine for the ages, and a terrific role model for everyone, not just girls.

FIVE CAUGHT IN A TREACHEROUS PLOT by Enid Blyton

May 29th, 2015

I saved Five Caught in a Treacherous Plot by Enid Blyton from my childhood. I remembered loving it, and wanted to read it to my boys.

It was a fun read aloud, and enjoyable to translate some of the archaic English bits for my boys, but ultimately it was rather a lame mystery, simplistic, with stereotypical gender roles. I actually think my boys, at 9 and 11 years old, were too old for it.

It’s a bummer when I revisit something I remember loving, and find the Suck Fairy got into it.

“Clutter Free with Kids”

May 29th, 2015

I checked Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker out from the library, hoping to get some insight into decluttering in an American family home, since one of my new favorite books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, is written more for single people.

But Becker’s book is long on platitudes, and short on strategy, plus his strategies tend to be more in the kind that Kondo helpfully debunks, like doing a little bit, or one little thing, at a time.

Skip the Becker. Buy the Kondo.

“Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life” by Emily Nagoski

May 29th, 2015

comeasyouare

I will be very clear. I think everyone should read Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski. This is a great book about female sexuality, and even if you have a good sex life, this book can and probably will make it better. It did for me.

The subtitle makes me abashed to admit reading this, because things were good in that department of the marriage. BUT, now they’re even better.

This book is a myth-busting extravaganza about all the dumb, wrong things we think about human sexuality, especially women’s sexuality. As Nagoski emphasizes, we all have the same parts, just differently organized. This book is like talking to a super smart funny friend who knows all about sex. I thought I knew about sex. Then I read this book and was embarrassed to find out all the things I thought that were wrong, or that I just hadn’t considered before.

I found out about it because my husband G. Grod read about it online. He read it first, then said I should. I started it, then went out and bought it, both so I could have our own copy (there are worksheets inside) and so the next person in the library queue could get it faster.

Four Graphic Novels, None of Which I Loved

May 29th, 2015

Thus, I might as well smush them into one post.

First, Wonder Woman: Flesh, which is volume five in the recent reboot written by Brian Azarello and illustrated awesomely by Cliff Chiang. Alas, Chiang was notably absent from most of the issues in this story, and without him it wasn’t as good. Also, one of the great things about Wonder Woman has been her feminist amazingness, which has been somewhat undermined in this storyline by making her just another of Zeus’ children.

Next, Fables: Happily Ever After, volume 21 and the penultimate one in this series. I feel at this point that it’s repeating itself, and has gone longer than it should have. Further, two of the short stories ended with characters’ fantasies of skinny hot women serving them. That’s just unacceptable, sexist, and wrong. If not for the basassery of Snow White, I would have ditched this series long ago. I will go through to the end, though, with fingers crossed for a strong finish.

Speaking of undermined basassery, I am very sad for the changes in character Jessica Jones as shone in the Marvel collection Jessica Jones: The Pulse. Jessica was a fierce heroine in her own series, Alias, but now she’s pregnant and Luke Cage’s girlfriend, and these seem to be her defining and limiting traits. The art in the first story arc was so bad I alternately wanted to laugh and cry. It improved for the final story, with them getting the original Alias band back together, but overall, this was a miss.

And finally, Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Gillen/McKelvie, which I picked up because I was enjoying their current series, The Wicked and the Divine. My appreciation of the latter has waned though. I find the art too static, and the story too reliant on magic and not enough on character development. That was true for Phonogram, and I liked it even less because rather than focusing on a pantheon of gods, as WicDiv does, it was about 90’s Britpop, which I don’t much care for. So, another miss, and a good reminder that I should probably check graphic novels out of the library rather than buying them.

So, four disappointing graphic novels in a row. I’m hoping for better things from the final collection of The Unwritten, which is on my bedside table.

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

May 29th, 2015

I read The Martian by Andy Weir for one of my book groups, the Twin Cities’ Books and Bars. It was on a lost of best-of lists last year, but I’d heard some grumblings from other people who’d read it that it was more math and science than an actual sci-fi book. I found it a thumping good read, with one big caveat.

I found the science in this book of fiction to be a big strength. Many sci-fi books are vague on details. Weir is obviously a giant geek, and he loads them on, going into such detail that I was convinced of his science bona fides, and unsurprised to learn he was a programmer prodigy as well as a space nerd. That said, I actually skimmed many of the detailed science sections–I trusted him to get the details, while I just read ahead to see if and how his protagonist, the immature but mostly winning smart-ass protagonist Mark Watney, would survive when he was left for dead on the surface of Mars.

My one concern with the book was a blithe disregard (ignorance?) about race and sex. The character uses the word “rape” casually, and another time insults people by saying their mothers and sisters are prostitutes.

“Lighten up,” some people at the book discussion tweeted at me when I brought this up. But no, I will not. Rape is not a casual word, and joking about prostitutes is not OK. Further, Watney is CLEARLY a Mary-Sue character, meaning a projection of the author himself, so I can’t help but read this as Weir’s own take. It perpetuates bad attitudes in the same way that Jeremy Renner’s jokes about Black Widow being a whore do. These cheap jokes marred an otherwise good book. Rape and prostitutes are not joking matters. Period. The end.

ULYSSES readalong Ch 16: Eumaeus

May 25th, 2015

eumaeus

Welcome back, Ulysses friends; we’re in the home stretch! And we’re rewarded this week with a relatively straightforward chapter mostly about Bloom and Stephen hanging out in the wake of the bizarre events, real and imagined, of chapter 15, Circe.

Any thoughts on what this chapter’s song should be?

Bloom picks up Stephen, who says he’s thirsty, and they go to a cabman’s shelter since the bars are closed; it’s 1 a.m.

In the Odyssey, Eumaeus is the faithful swineherd of Odysseus’, and Odysseus and Telemachus meet up in this tent. Their loose analogs are Bloom and Stephen and there is no direct analog to the swineherd.

The style of the writing is loose and loopy–think of a student staying up too late to write a paper. It’s not the crisp intellectual prose of chapter 1.

Bloom, on how the stories are always about the husband coming home, never the wife on a journey:

Never about the runaway wife coming back, however much devoted to the absentee. The face at the window! (Vintageg 624)

Stephen, in a rare moment of empathy, and in one of his several points of departure from Bloom, who is nagging him about prostitutes:

Fear not them that sell the body but have not power to buy the soul. She is a bad merchant. She buys dear and sells cheap.

The Irish hero Parnell is mentioned throughout. His political career was wrecked after his affair with a married woman was made public. The questions of who is a hero and cuckoldry continue.

I enjoyed many of the sentences in this chapter, like this one about bad coffee:

Over his untasteable apology for a cup of coffee…

followed by:

Stephen…shoved aside his mug of coffee, or whatever you like to call it.

The chapter ends with Bloom inviting Stephen to his home. He’s thought variously of exploiting Stephen, first for his writing, and at the end for his good tenor singing voice. This is one of their points of disagreement. Bloom is thinking like an agent, Stephen like an artist. Still, though, they have more in common than not, and walk off looking like a married couple, sharing stories.

What did everyone else think of Eumaeus?

We only have two chapters, but 3 weeks to go! I propose we take next Monday off, and “meet” up again in two weeks to discuss 17, Ithaca, in full. That will give those who are behind time to catch up.

Schedule and past posts:

6/1/15 week off to catch up and read section 17
6/8/15 read then discuss and tweet section 17
6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18 and the whole thing!
6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11
Week 9: book 12
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3
Week 14: book 15 part 3/3

BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT by Rob Buyea

May 20th, 2015

I read Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea for a parent/kid book group I attend. My 5th grader had already read the book in class, but enjoyed hearing it again. My boys enjoyed it more than I did. There are several students who narrate the book, about a school year with a new, enthusiastic, and sometimes unorthodox teacher. We know a tragedy happens, and the book circles around it for a long time before we find out what happened. I didn’t feel a drive to find out though, and I was very much bothered by the book’s implication that tragedies happen for a reason we don’t understand, but that if good things come out of them, then that’s why they happened.

Ahem. Bad things happen. Good things happen. Roll with the former. Celebrate the latter.

The different kids’ voices, stories and personalities were the book’s strength. Mr. Terupt himself, though, was left a deliberate cipher, with no family and little background. Apparently the follow up book/s explain this, but it was a significant, weird void in the first book that made me speculate that he’s in witness protection and the FBI got tired of him interrupting them, so they made his new name Terupt. But I don’t care enough to read the sequel, or even read reviews of them to find out what the deal is. Not my cuppa.

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA by Kimberly McCreight

May 20th, 2015

After reading Citizen, and alongside reading Ulysses, I needed something enjoyable, and so finally got around to picking up Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. A friend lent it to me some time ago, and I was reminded of it during my recent adventures in KonMari clearing. So I read the book, enjoyed it, and returned it to my friend. Voila, one fewer thing in my house. Yay!

This is a murder mystery where a teen girl dies, apparently of suicide, but probably not, since that’s the mystery. It’s told in alternating bits that switch time between the single lawyer mom, and the dead Amelia. This was a fast entertaining read. I thought early on that it was obvious what would happen, and I was very wrong, so the book did surprise me. What I liked best was the complex and creepy subculture of mean rich kids in NYC. What I liked least was the mother going on about her guilt over working in a career she clearly loved and was good at. This was a fast, engaging read with little to no subtext but well plotted and strongly finished.

ULYSSES readalong ch 15: Circe 3/3

May 17th, 2015

circe_stephen

Stephen, prone, breathes to the stars. (Vintage 607)

The above illustration is by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa, who read Ulysses last year and started a project to illustrate it.

Welcome back, fellow friends and masochists, who continue to blaze and slog through Ulysses. Congratulations on making it this far! In my Vintage edition, we are over 3/4 of the way through, and this chapter, 15, Circe, was nearly a quarter of the book, pages-wise at least.

The song for this week is “Start Me Up”, by the Rolling Stones, which has a lyric that matches a passage I’ll quote below.

After the full-on masochistic fantasy of last week, I thought I’d reached my limit of being shocked by this book. But no, Joyce had further provocations in mind, as he brings us back to the erection of a hanged man, earlier referred to in the Cyclops chapter:

—There’s one thing it hasn’t a deterrent effect on, says Alf.

—What’s that? says Joe.

—The poor bugger’s tool that’s being hanged, says Alf.

—That so? says Joe.

—God’s truth, says Alf. I heard that from the head warder that was in

Kilmainham when they hanged Joe Brady, the invincible. He told me when they cut him down after the drop it was standing up in their faces like a poker.

—Ruling passion strong in death, says Joe, as someone said.

—That can be explained by science, says Bloom. It’s only a natural phenomenon, don’t you see, because on account of the…

And then he starts with his jawbreakers about phenomenon and science and this phenomenon and the other phenomenon. (Vintage, 304)

Lo and behold, in the final third of the very long chapter 15, Circe, look what pops up again when The Croppy Boy is hanged. Forgive me for the naughty pun, but I don’t think Joyce would disapprove. Also, if I didn’t do it, reader Vince probably would.

He gives up the ghost. A violent erection of the hanged sends gouts
of sperm spouting through his deathclothes on to the cobblestones.
Mrs Bellingham, Mrs Yelverton Barry and the Honourable Mrs
Mervyn Talboys rush forward with their handkerchiefs to sop it
up.)

I must say, that’s an image I’d prefer to not have encountered.

And the other eyebrow-r

aising passage for me was:

Bloom, holding [Stephen’s} hat and ashplant, stands erect. A dog barks in the
distance. Bloom tightens and loosens his grip on the ashplant. (Vintage 609)

If you, as I am, read Stephen’s ashplant as an extension of his phallus, then that is pretty explicit, and not necessarily the kind, fatherly figure of the rest of the passage.

As for the rest, we zip in and out of Bloom’s and Stephen’s brains. Stephen has an encounter with his dead mother, reminding me of the ghost scene in Gertrude’s closet from Hamlet.

The reality of this last segment was clearer to me, though, than in the earlier parts of the chapter, as Bloom pays for and looks out for Stephen, who ends the chapter drunk and passed out, but not beaten or in jail or robbed. The paternal care is emphasized by the appearance of Leopold’s dead son Rudy, as he might’ve looked if he’d lived.

What did everyone else think?

Join us next Monday 5/25 (yes, I know, it’s Memorial Day) for chapter 16, Eumaeus (the poor but loyal pig keeper of the Odyssey.) Just over 4 weeks till Bloomsday!

Past and future:

Schedule and past posts:

5/25/15 discuss and tweet section 16
(extra week to read the longer section 17)
6/8/15 read then discuss and tweet section 17
6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18
6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Past posts:

Week 1: books 1 and 2
Week 2: books 3 and 4
Week 3: books 5, 6
Week 4: book 7
Week 5: book 8
Week 6: book 9
Week 7: book 10
Week 8: book 11
Week 9: book 12
Week 10: book 13
Week 11: book 14
Week 12: book 15 part 1/3
Week 13: book 15 part 2/3