ULYSSES readalong week 4: Book 7 Aeolus


Welcome back to the Ulysses readalong! Just one long book this week rather than two short ones, and I enjoyed having only one style to manage, though this week’s style was a head turner. Remember, you can comment here or on Twitter with the hashtag #TCUlysses.

Book 7 is called Aeolus, a reference to the king in The Odyssey who gives Odysseus a bag of wind that gets him within spitting sight of Ithaca, at which point he takes one of a couple inconvenient naps. His men speculate on what’s in the bag, decide it’s treasure, and it blows them backwards to Aeolus’ place, who will no longer help them because they’re obviously cursed (or, stupid. Take your pick.)

In Ulysses, the bag(s) of wind are in the newspaper room, and can refer either to the shifting winds of news, or to the back and forth of the men who work there. This is a visually arresting chapter, interspersed with headlines taken from the men’s discussion rather than Bloom’s imagination. The book begins and ends with Nelson’s monument.

Bloomian aside: I may get myself a little bar of lemon soap and keep it in my purse to be periodically surprised by how lovely it smells.

Stephen, with new boots (the ones from Mulligan at the bottom of his pants?) comes into the office where he’s doted upon and puts forth Deasy’s foot and mouth letter, which the paper will publish. Not so the Keyes ad that Bloom is trying to get in. Once again, we see Bloom on the edge of a group, the excluded observer.

I was delighted many times by the words this week. A few of my favorites (pages from Vintage edition):

McHugh murmured softly, biscuitfully to the dusty windowpane. (123)

Hush, Lenehan said. I hear feetstoops. (128)

The loose flesh of his neck shook like a cock’s wattles. An illstarched dicky jutted up and with a rude gesture he thrust it back into his waistcoat. (136-7)

His mouth continued to twitch unspeaking in nervous curls of disdain. (138)

I have often thought since on looking back over that strange time that it was that small act, trivial in itself, that striking of that match, that determined the whole aftercourse of both our lives. (140)

The former is from Stephen’s inner monologue, not Bloom’s and is overdramatic in the style of Dickens and others (and not true).

Stephen, his blood wooed by grace of language and gesture, blushed. (140)

The book finishes with a long anecdote, “the parable of the plums” about two virgins climbing Nelson’s monument, eating plums and throwing down the pits. This, like much of the book, seems to be about how much English occupation of Ireland sucks. Stephen refers to Nelson as “the onehandled adulterer” which amuses the others.

I don’t quite get how people would climb this. Inside, like Statue of Liberty? Or, it’s a parable and didn’t really happen and important because it’s an English statue in the middle of Dublin, which would so upset people that the IRA would later blow it up?


Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated says that the epithet is because Lord Nelson lost an arm in an unsuccessful battle and later had an affair.

My favorite note from Gifford this week was on Antisthenes, from the amusingly titled section “SOPHIST WALLOPS HAUGHTY HELEN SQUARE ON PROBOSCIS. SPARTANS GNASH MOLARS. ITHACANS VOW PEN IS CHAMP.”

McHugh comments that Stephen reminds him of Antisthenes, who

wrote a book in which he took away the palm of beauty from Argive Helen and handed it to poor Penelope. (148-149)

According to Gifford, Antisthenes apparently argued (the work has been lost) that

Penelope’s virtue made her more beauitiful than Helen , whose virtue was somewhat less solidly demonstrated.


And that’s all I have for book 7. Sorry for the delay in posting. Had a little detour this morning to Urgent Care after 11yo Drake slipped and fell on ice that looked like a puddle, and earned the dubious distinction of the first broken bone in the family. He is doing well now, though, and insists that it sounds worse than it is. He hasn’t tried to sleep or remove his shirt, though. We’ll see how tonight goes.

Reminder: we meet back here, same bat time, same bat channel, on Monday 3/16/15 to discuss Book 8 Laestrygonians. For all you who didn’t read The Odyssey, the Laestrygonians are the giant cannibals, so it will probably not be boring, and starts off with these delicious words:

Pineapple rock, lemon platt, butter scotch. (151)

The schedule for the rest (never too late to join–we’re only at page 150!)

3/16/15 discuss and tweet section 8
3/23/15 discuss and tweet section 9
3/30/15 discuss and tweet section 10
4/6/15 discuss and tweet section 11
4/13/15 discuss and tweet section 12
4/20/15 discuss and tweet section 13
4/27/15 discuss and tweet section 14
(3 weeks to read the very long section 15 which we’ll spit into three chunks)
5/18/15 read, then discuss and tweet section 15
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!

For reference, here are the past posts:

Ulysses readalong week 1, books 1 and 2
Ulysses readalong week 2, books 3 and 4
Ulysses readalong week 3, books 5 and 6

10 Responses to “ULYSSES readalong week 4: Book 7 Aeolus”

  1. Beth Says:

    Vocab lesson of the week: A guttersnipe (page 129) is a scruffy and badly behaved child who spends most of their time on the street.

    Favorite quote—well, headline—of this section: “DIMINISHED DIGITS PROVE TOO TITILLATING FOR FRISKY FRUMPS.” (150)

    Tangents aside, I really enjoyed the newspaper headline + lecture-like organization of this section.

  2. David Says:

    By the looks of the Twitter posts this week, everybody seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed this episode. I on the other hand, had a hard time getting into it. The headlines really broke up the narrative for me and left me confused. I also finished the section thinking that not much had happened and that I must have missed something. Upon reading a summarization, I found that I got most of it, it’s just that not much did happen (the lack of direct plot may drive me crazy eventually).
    Despite that scathing look at the episode, I am still very interested and excited to continue with the rest of Ulysses.

  3. girldetective Says:

    Dave, “I must have missed something” accurately describes the ongoing feeling I have of reading this book, but I’m forging ahead anyway. Given how wildly experimental this book is in form, I think plot is taking a back seat. Or, as in 70’s station wagons, the way, way back.

  4. crystal Says:

    My interpretationof 7 using some of Joyce’s words found in quotes.

    Wearing my “fustian shawl” I view the “sack of windy Troy” as “a child bit by a bellows.” :

    “Bladderbags;” “Weathercocks,” speaking divine flatulence. May be time to put my “wine jug… Most grateful in Ye ancient hostelry;” weapon of words put back in its holster.

    It’s a “Sack of windy Troy;” virgins of knowledge traveling up the phallic statue eating fruits of knowledge. Discarding pits that don’t befit. They debating religion -moon ‘em all. “Clamn dever.” “K.M.A.”

  5. Heidi Says:

    Not super much to add this week. I’m relieved we had only the one episode; it means I’m keeping pace. I enjoyed the structure of this episode w/ the SHOUTY ALL CAPS HEADLINES and felt it all very fitting in that Aeolus = ruler of the winds, and what is the press really if not a bag of winds (fair and foul).

    I like that Poldy would feel right at home in MINNESOTA, what w/ his indirect hinting at a debt unpaid: “Three bob I lent him in Meagher’s. Three weeks. Third hint.” (ML 1946, p.118), and the background soundscape of both press and “dullthudding Guinness’s barrels”, and Joyce’s perfect evocation of the sound of paper thru machinery “sllt” — “almost human the way it sllt to call attention.”

    I cannot end this comment w/out calling attention to the uttered oaths of Dedalus père. “Agonizing Christ!” “Shite and onions!” (not to mention the previous episode’s “I’ll tickle his catastrophe!”). Though, there’s also Myles Crawfird’s K. M. A. and K. M. R. I. A. “Any time he likes, tell him.”

  6. Janet Says:

    Usually my reading mantra is “don’t get hung up on plot”, so you’d think this would be the perfect book for me! A little more structure might be nice, but knowing it isn’t going to happen helps me finish the sections. I’d never seen the word “biscuitfully” before. I like it.

  7. girldetective Says:

    Janet, I think there are a lot of words in Ulysses that haven’t been seen before or even since. Given my love of biscuits (cookies), this one was especially beloved to me.

  8. George Says:

    The wikipedia entry on the Pillar:

    Includes video (!) of the tower from the ground, so you can see the people at the top on the viewing platform.

  9. Heidi Says:

    Lemon soap suggestion for your pocket Kristin: http://www.fresh.com/US/sugar/sugar-lemon-soap/H00001223.html#start=1&cgid=sugarsoap

  10. girldetective Says:

    Heidi, that _is_ a good lemon soap. Back in my DINK days working in marketing when I bought and wore cosmetics and went on periodic benders during Neiman Marcus gift weeks, I bought a bottle of the Fresh lemon body lotion that I wore as my scent for a while.