ULYSSES Readalong week 3, ch. 5 & 6

Welcome back, fellow fearless Ulysses readers!

I was away for a long weekend at a yoga/writing/meditation retreat, so while I read 5 & 6 once, I don’t yet feel up to commenting much on them.

Book 5: The Lotus Eaters. Leopold Bloom wanders around, gets mail under an assumed name, Henry Flowers, and sits in a church.

Book 6: Hades. Bloom and Dedalus and others are in a coach on the way to Dignam’s funeral and Bloom muses about death and dying.

I’m off to read the notes before giving them a second read. Wilson Varga also suggested on Twitter checking out Joseph Campbell’s commentary in this: https://t.co/ZQ4NT5Bgnc.

What did everyone else think? I like spending time with Bloom, and think Joyce tried to scare us off with the esoterica of book 3.

Edited later to add:

After re-reading, I was struck particularly by the number of allusions to flowers in ‘The Lotus Eaters’. The first time I read the chapter I thought Bloom was having an affair of the flesh, but he’s only exchanging naughty letters. I also thought that the bath at the end of the chapter was taking place, not something he was thinking about. I am glad for the notes to set me straight on what is actually happening versus what is only being thought about.

Poor Bloom, who is figuratively cock-blocked by McCoy, first from reading his sexy letter and then from ogling the woman across the street.

In ‘Hades’ I was most struck by the whiplash point-of-view shifts. We go from Bloom interacting with this friends, to his stream of consciousness, to people talking about him, and in and out again. This echoes Odysseus’ trip to Hades, when he was swarmed by ghosts of the dead, and finally had to run away from the many, many voices clamoring to tell their story. I wondered: why does Martin Cunningham always get referred to both by first and last name?

I find the last sentence curious. Taken out of context it sounds positive:

Thank you. How grand we are this morning.

But since Bloom is repeating John Henry Menton’s snubbing words of him (leaving Bloom ‘chapfallen’ rather than crestfallen, wonderful wordplay), it’s a sad, bitter twist of sarcasm to a chapter that had some humor, but a great deal of sadness for Bloom: thinking of his father’s suicide, his father’s dog Athos (a mirror of Odysseus’ dog Argos), his dead son Rudy, his friend’s anti-Semitism and exclusion of him. Yet Bloom, unlike Stephen Dedalus (who is seen in passing from the carriage window by the men including his father Simon), who seems more weighted with depression, though with far less baggage than Bloom has. Bloom, to me, seems as if he was float, like his languid floating flower at the end of ‘The Lotus Eaters’ and his memory of the image of a person floating in the Dead Sea.

For the reading of Ulysses in general, this approach is still working for me:

1. read chapters quickly for big chunks of events.
2. skim the notes in Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated in order to get a sense of the bigger picture but not the tiny bits of Dublin street furniture like who really existed where, and what things were actually in the paper.
3. read the summary of the chapters at schmoop.com
4. re-read the chapters more slowly.

This is time consuming and multi-stepped, but the read->research->re-read has me feeling as if I’m sorta kinda getting it which is actually pretty exhilarating.

How is everyone else feeling? Exhilarated and floating, or weighed down? What is your reading pattern and is it working for you?

9 Responses to “ULYSSES Readalong week 3, ch. 5 & 6”

  1. Beth Says:

    META THOUGHT. Did you contemplate The Lotus Eaters while in lotus pose?

    I don’t have many thoughts on this section.

    I enjoyed the phrase: “Weak joy opened his lips.” (78)

    Section 6 felt rather morbid with all the rumination on death and dying. But what an interesting sentence to end the section on: “How grand we are this morning.” (115)

  2. Janet Says:

    Muddling along here! I keep reminding myself the story is in no hurry to be told and I should stop being in a hurry to figure it all out. I have to stay in the moment more and just read!

  3. crystal Says:

    Traveling through Bloom’s thoughts continue to entertain although I question my interpretation as sound.

    One very funny bit in 5 (p.80):

    Bloom is noticing the word play of Latin in communion and likening it to cannibalism.  Then in the next paragraph communion as a lollipop.

    Another great moment at the very end of 5 in the last sentence(p.86):

    “limp father of thousands, languid floating flower,” Bloom imagines his spent penis floating in the stream of life.

    In 6 I enjoyed the ride we are taken on in the carriage with each character’s search for levity in a musing or joke or rememberence of past deaths of people they once knew as they are currently in the wake if Dignam’s demise.  I am not certain that any of them were actually able to find that levity.

    I found myself guiltily entertained rather than sad for Dignam

  4. V Says:

    Here I found Ch. 5 easier than 6. I thought that Ch. 5 might veer into a “50 Shades of Bloom” with that letter he picked up. In 6, the one theme that resounded with me in 6 was how the concerns of so many other people seemed to matter more than the actual death and dead person. I did chuckle at the guy taking down names and the mistake of the mystery man’s name put down as Macintosh, when Bloom meant his coat. Thanks, “Penny Lane!”

  5. crystal Says:

    LOL! I was thinking back on the languid floating flower/spent penis, and think now he was simply thinking about masturbating in a warm tub. Not so metaphysical in thought as the stream of life -may have taken that a bit far. ;)

  6. Heidi Says:

    Still thoroughly enjoying traveling along through Dublin via Leopold Bloom’s thoughts and encounters.

    Episode 5, Lotus Eaters. When the Linati schema says “skin”, and the Gilbert “genitals” you maybe expect a bit of raciness. This, as Vince mentioned, was a bit of a tease. Do hope Poldy’s correspondent isn’t the early 20th cen. equivalent of those “hot girls standing by to take your call!” tho I suspect she might well be.

    Found a couple of Leopold’s musings interesting/funny. Re: weight “What is weight really when you say the weight? Thirty-two feet per second, per second. Law of falling bodies: per second, per second. They all fall to the ground. The earth. It’s the force of gravity of the earth is the weight.” (ML 1946, p. 71) And as Crystal did, Re: the Eucharist “Corpus. Body. Corpse. Rum idea; eating bits of a corpse why the cannibals cotton to it.” (p. 79). Also, how true is Bloom’s observation, “The first fellow that picked an herb to cure himself had a bit of pluck.” (p. 83)

    Episode 6, Hades. Totally nerded out on this chapter. Actually read it twice because Bloom/Joyce’s observations and thoughts on death are so rich. Tweeted my favorites out (#TCUlysses peeps!) so I won’t rehash them here. Additionally this episode made me even fonder of Poldy. He lost his father to suicide, intimates about a rather rough childhood, lost a child in infancy, and is constantly ridiculed as a Jew because of his heritage. Even though his father converted to Protestantism. Even though he’s never been a practicing Jew. Even though he himself converted to Catholicism in order to marry Molly. He’s always “other” and “outsider” in the way he’s treated.

    Closing observation: boy howdy all those men on their way to the funeral sure had a lot to gossip about. Interesting choice on Joyce’s part, no? Men. Gossip.

    Idiom to attempt to casually slip into 21st century conversation: “I’ll tickle his catastrophe, believe you me.”

  7. girldetective Says:

    I also loved “tickle his catastrophe” and will have to make sure to drop in “ye gods and little fishes” sometime soon!

  8. Heidi Raatz Says:

    “Ye gods and little fishes” seems the perfect oath to insert in place of any utterance of “ye gads!” “Oy vey!” Or “Uff-da!”

  9. David Says:

    I’ve been quiet, but I’ve been enjoying. Having grown up Catholic, I really liked the musings while sitting in church. INRI: Stand up, sit down, kneel, etc.
    I also enjoyed his musings on death and could really picture him roaming the cemetery has he did so.