Bloomswake

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From Calcutta (purchased 1989) to Martello Tower, Sandycove (2004)

Ulysses is no more about Dublin than Moby Dick is about a whale - although no less.  -Bernard Benstock ("Ulysses Without Dublin")

Too much familiarity with Joyce's Dublin might indeed be dangerous in attempting a balanced reading of Ulysses. (Reference to Mary's Abbey). - Ian Gunn et al ("James Joyce's Dublin")

A knowledge of Dublin's topography and of its train and tramway system is essential to an understanding of the implications of the early and midmorning journeys undertaken by Stephen and Bloom. - Ian Gunn et al ("James Joyce's Dublin")

Why is it important to retrace a fictional character's walk through a city a hundred years after its occurrence in the imagination of one man? There is Joyce's much quoted intention to provide a blueprint for the recreation of Dublin were it to be subject to a catastrophic destruction. More importantly, Joyce's prose style pays as much importance to the location as to the characters and this makes a deep impression on the reader's subconscious. Other authors have made use of real and imaginary locations to great effect, but it is rare to come across someone who obsesses as much about geographical detail as Joyce does. It is reported that he wrote the pivotal Wandering Rocks episode with a stopwatch, so he can construct an entire hour with multiple characters as they walk through Dublin. In each episode, he inserts a sentence from another episode to help the reader "synchronize" the action with the others. Most readers would (rightly) not have the time to deal with such gimmicks, but Joyceans delight in such games and play along enthusiastically.

And how much of 1904 Dublin is still retained in 2004 over the crossing 100 years of the most eventful century history has ever known in terms of its power to change? As it turns out, quite a bit, that even a total stranger to the city senses familiarity purely on the basis of reading Ulysses. On one occasion, the Bund President of Bavaria surprised a Dubliner by pointing out the location of the Childs murder case without ever having been in Dublin before.

Mr Power pointed.

-- That is where Childs was murdered, he said. The last house.

-- So it is, Mr Dedalus said. A gruesome case. Seymour Bushe got him off. Murdered his brother. Or so they said.

Coupled with this is my own obsession with locations be it in books or the films, mostly the latter. I take particular delight in paying close attention to film locations and relish in personally visiting those locations. Some of my favorites include Bullitt, Vertigo and What's up, Doc with their significant coverage of San Francisco.

The Bloomsday centenary visit, to me, is not only about the celebrations and camaraderie with other Joyceans, but more importantly a significant step in the continuous and perpetual unraveling of Ulysses and the understanding of Joyce's methods.

My walks through Dublin in June 2004 turned out to be two journeys. To experience first hand the city that Bloom experienced on a June day a hundred years before and to experience, unintentionally, the journey that Dublin itself had undertaken from 1904 to 2004. God is a shout in the street intones Stephen cryptically in the Nestor episode of Ulysses (and history, a nightmare from which I am trying to awake). These walks were to witness the work of Stephen's God (Joyce, as in his creator or the sounds of the streets themselves).


Ulysses is proof that it was mistake to establish a separate university for the aborigines of this island, for the cornerboys who spit into the Liffey - JP Mahaffy

My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest, stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness - DH Lawrence

That bloody Joyce whom I kept in my youth has written a book you can read on all the lavatory walls of Dublin - Oliver St. John Gogarty

So Joyce had his share of critics. What do modern day Dubliners feel about the attention bestowed on their city by strangers from all over on June 16th every year? It is not easy to sum it up in a sentence. I could detect an undercurrent of resentment that Joyce himself abandoned the city for good and never returned after 1912, even preferring Switzerland when WWII broke out, despite Ireland being as safe. While the event generates a lot of media interest, the numbers are quite modest as one would expect (we are talking of Joyce, not U2). There are many in Dublin who are as mystified by the book as there are outside and Dubliners' reaction is less than enthusiastic to the annual charade of people dressing up in straw boaters and stripy jackets and pince-nez glasses to act out a past that never was.

Extracts from The Dubliner, June 2004 (Bloomsday Centenary Issue) Edition

Re-enacting a book that only seven people have been able to finish in the last 100 years smacks of intellectual snobbery on a grand scale. But if these people want to take their large brains on a walk once a year, fair enough. Right? That depends on whether you plan to skip town.

Ulysses is a really difficult book, and all the more enjoyable for that. But I don't understand how anyone outside Ireland can understand it - Colm Toibin, Novelist.

It may seem strange, almost a kind of betrayal that I am taking the opportunity of the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday to bid farewell to one of my constant companions, the writer James Joyce. I remember the sense of disappointment and shock I felt myself some years ago when at the end of a brilliant lecture on Joyce the great American critic Leslie Fiedler announced that he also was parting company with the artist and moving on to fresh pastures
- (Irish) Senator David Norris.

I still have a way to go, my Joycean journey of more than a decade being all too brief in comparison. Brief and solitary. I may have encountered a Joycean at Strand Book Stall in Bombay in 1988, but my interaction with him was limited to grabbing the sole copy of The Portable James Joyce before he could. Not exactly designed to promote fellow feeling. So this trip for me was not about following a cult but something that I had to do at least once in my life and why not during the Bloomsday centenary? After all, anniversaries played a big part in Joyce's life and fiction - Bloomsday itself being a personal milestone in his relationship with Nora Barnacle and Molly's birthday happens to be that of the Virgin Mary. While I was interested in noting the reactions of the gathering at the various re-enactments of scenes from the book, I did not feel the need to exchange notes with anyone else. I was, on that day, the proud owner of the most soiled copy of Ulysses (Penguin Books, 1985 edition - that it was already well worn when I purchased it for eighty rupees in a Calcutta bookstore in 1989 is a secret that stayed with me) and another, who had the same edition albeit in mint condition complimented me on the use I had put to mine. I should have recommended Flann O'Brien's Buchhandlung service to him, especially the Le Traitement Superbe option that would have a team of men mauling his book. Contrary to the opinion expressed above in The Dubliner, the readership numbers of Ulysses are far greater than 7. It may still hover in the double digits, but the book itself sells in the hundreds of thousands every year. And everyone who seems to have read the book seems to have written one about it. I guess this is the closest I am going to come to doing that. For your kind indulgence, I am grateful.

A casual reading of newspapers and magazines reveals much about the testy relationship between Joyce and the city of his birth and fiction. Readers of his fiction and biographies know that Dublin was in his heart all through his exile despite his preference for a continental residence. His statue stands on Earl St. frowning as if in disapproval of the Millennium spike, the tall tapering column on O'Connell street that was built recently. In its place used to stand Nelson's Pillar before it was blown apart supposedly by miscreants in an anti-British fervour in 1966. His resentful expression seems to say There goes my Parable of the Plums or A Pisgah Sight of Palestine but he would not in his wildest dreams have expected to be strung up high at twilight on June 16, 2004 over a imitation pillar hosting an imitation Nelson as 21st century sounds emanated from the street below (God at work). He would have felt the keen irony of The Parable of the Plums being played out in the city's busiest thoroughfare as a wordless procession of massive cutouts of characters from Ulysses accompanied by youngsters dancing to primitive drumbeats. He is supposed to have remarked in 1924 that it was the 20th anniversary of Bloomsday and no one was paying him any attention. I don't think he will have cause for complaint over the series of events that the city organized to celebrate the Bloomsday centenary. He may have had something to say about the city choosing the location of the red-light district (Monto town) to bear the name James Joyce Street, but he should be grateful for the 2003 construction James Joyce Bridge right in front of his Usher's house location in The Dead. But the most pleasing tribute of all for Joyceans are the fourteen pavement plaques with quotations from the Lestrygonians episode in Ulysses, placed on the sidewalks at the exact location where the action takes place in the book. Thrilling.

Aside: The remark about how Ulysses can be understood by anyone outside Ireland is the most confounding. The novelist's arguments are simply that Ulysses is full of the Irish nationalism and Catholicism of those years; Parnell, Sinn Fein. And the references to classic Irish pub-speak. Does he expect his own readership to be limited to those born within 5 years of his own birth and probably within a couple of neighbouring counties? Ulysses has been translated into several languages with localized settings. Joyce himself oversaw the Italian translation. He never considered his book as provincial in its scope . What is one to make of phrases like mahamanvantara or Akasic that appear in Ulysses? La ci darem la mano? That Ulysses can only be understood by Sanskrit scholars or Italian opera buffs? 

  James Joyce Tower

  View of Howth Head from atop Martello Tower

   40 foot pool

  Picture of Throwaway (inside James Joyce Tower)

    Joyce Death Mask (inside James Joyce Tower)

Much of the action in Ulysses takes place in the area on both sides of the Liffey and can be traversed on foot in a day. A notable exception is the Martello tower (a 20 minute ride on the DART) which is the site of the books opening where Stately, plump Buck Mulligan dressed in a yellow dressing gown climbs to the top to recite a mock-mass and gaze at Dublin bay. The tower, now called the James Joyce Tower is now the site of the James Joyce museum. The 40 foot pool (men only in 1904) is still open for those who are brave enough for a dip in the cold waters of the bay and lies just outside the tower. The museum houses a Joyce death-mask among other artifacts - including a painting of Throwaway, the horse that won the Ascot Cup on June 16, 1904. Up one level is the space that served as the quarters for Oliver St. John Gogarty and Joyce and their fictional counterparts. It has been furnished to resemble the first chapter of Ulysses including a black panther which only figures in Haines' nightmare. It does bring out the smiles from the visitors. Climb up one more level to get into the open air on the round tower and if you are lucky with the weather you can gaze at the snotgreen sea or the scrotumtightening sea. The tower itself is one of many built to defend the empire against Napoleon and this particular one is located in the Dublin suburb of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Done Leary) that was known as Kingstown in Joyce's time. It has now reverted back to its original name with the British no longer in power.

In the overview picture below, the blue patch marks the Liffey with the City Centre approximately near the location marked as Temple Bar. The James Joyce Tower is in Sandycove (near the southeastern corner). Howth (pronounced Hoath) Head is directly to the north of it across Dublin Bay.
Dublin Area

Joyce quotations at Sandycove shop window

Sandymount strand is the other location that would take some walking from the city center and it features in two episodes that are divided by the entire day almost. Much of the events at this location in the book are internal thoughts and a beach by its nature does not distinguish itself with permanent landmarks. The original stretch of beach is no more due to reclamation. Glasnevin cemetery is yet another location that is not within walking distance (Bloom and companions go there by horse carriage from Sandymount). I skipped these two locations and preferred to spend as much of the 3 days I had in Dublin near the city center and the Martello tower.

Click here for a Ulysses map of Dublin.


Bloomsday Centenary Day (16 June, 2004)

An amused Joyce looks on at the crowd outside the former No. 7 Eccles Street

While readings and enactments from Ulysses were held at many locations in Dublin (and around the world), I was quite keen on starting the Bloomsday centenary day at the location where Bloom did in 1904. No. 7 Eccles street is now a multi-storeyed hospital building, so the duo from Balloonatics (a theatrical group who were reading/performing sections from Ulysses at their exact locations) chose a house across the street to act out the Calypso episode. It was a baking hot beautiful summer day with not a cloud in the sky. The crowd of about thirty (well, that's what you get if you write unreadable books!) watched with amusement as Bloom went about his breakfasting business while Molly slept (on the stairs with the sun on her face!). An occupant of this house walked out and took the crowd in her stride, smiling in gracious amusement. The action required Bloom to walk to the cross street (Dorset Street) to Larry O'Rourke's (still a pub, but named The Snug - the barmaid there would not suffer to accept my payment the previous day for a drink until I pronounced its name, Smithwicks, without voicing the w) and then further on towards Dlugacz's - the butcher shop. This was a rare instance where Joyce invented a fictional location as there was never such a shop at that location. Of course, the actor had not memorized the episode and read some of it from a book. Nobody minded that as the onlookers walked behind the actor as he went about his business. 
Balloonatics playing Bloom and Molly (asleep in bed)

  Not a stampede, this. People taking their large brains out for a walk?

     The high grade ha.

He crossed to the bright side, avoiding the loose cellarflap of number seventyfive. The sun was nearing the steeple of George's church. Be a warm day I fancy. Specially in these black clothes feel it more. Black conducts, reflects (refracts is it?), the heat. But I couldn't go in that light suit. Make a picnic of it. His eyelids sank quietly often as he walked in happy warmth. 

St. George's Church

He approached Larry O'Rourke's. From the cellar grating floated up the flabby gush of porter. Through the open doorway the bar squirted out whiffs of ginger, teadust, biscuitmush.

Outside Larry O'Rourke's

Turning into Dorset street he said freshly in greeting through the doorway:

-- Good day, Mr O'Rourke.

-- Good day to you.

-- Lovely weather, sir.

-- 'Tis all that.

Where do they get the money? Coming up redheaded curates from the county Leitrim, rinsing empties and old man in the cellar. Then, lo and behold, they blossom out as Adam Findlaters or Dan Tallons. Then think of the competition. General thirst. Good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub.

Some puzzle that. Walking back home...

St. George's Place, approximate location of Dlucagz, the butcher

All eyes on Bloom, a hundred years later.

Outside Larry O'Rourke's (now called The Snug)

The small crowd following Bloom as he returns to Eccles Street

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

Well, not quite, but no one complained as they enjoyed the sun's warmth. The arrival of the cloud (the same one that Stephen spies from Sandycove in the earlier episode that is synchronous with this) brings about a change in Bloom's mood...

Grey horror seared his flesh.

To me, one of the unforgettable phrases in the book. The prose leaps off the page and strikes you with the force of a sledgehammer. Eager to leave this desolation in his thoughts behind, Bloom hurries home...

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...To smell the gentle smoke of tea, fume of the pan, sizzling butter. Be near her ample bedwarmed flesh. Yes, yes.

But what awaits him at home?
The letters... 

...and the excitement they caused at the Blooms


Two letters and a card lay on the hallfloor. He stopped and gathered them. Mrs Marion Bloom. His quick heart slowed at once. Bold hand. Mrs Marion.

Bloom is confronted with the reality of other males usurping his position as the pre-eminent man in the lives of his wife and daughter.

His vacant face stared pitying at the postscript.
...
He smiled with troubled affection at the kitchen window.
...
A soft qualm regret, flowed down his backbone, increasing. Will happen, yes. Prevent. Useless: can't move.

A few moments later, Bloom feels the need to empty his bowels. At this juncture the expectation is that the author of the fictional work will leave his character to take care of his business in private and wait patiently outside. Joyce refuses Bloom this simple courtesy and insists on accompanying him inside. Bloom picks up an old paper Titbits to aid him in his quest and reads the prize titbit. Matcham's Masterstroke. Written by Mr. Philip Beaufoy.

Joyce's description of Bloom's evacuation is an example of the kind of literary candour that distinguishes him from others. It is written with great care, sincerity and dignity considering the subject matter. (In the late evening Nausicaa episode, Joyce takes a different route altogether to describe another intimate act. There the bazaar fireworks come to his aid in describing Bloom's transports.)

Bloom at the Jakes
The actor playing Bloom did his best through his facial expressions to convey the above as he pretended to squat on a stool. Several hours later, he will meet Mrs. Breen and intending to ask about Mrs. Purefoy, he will slip his tongue and say Beaufoy instead. This in turn will bring on the prize titbit memory and a brief moment of anxiety Did I pull the chain? Yes. The last act. What has happened here is that it is Joyce who forgets to inform the reader of this chain-pulling act when it happens. When Bloom's memory is later jogged by the Beaufoy reference, followed by a  momentary lapse in memory (Did I pull the chain?), he asks the question and the author comes to his rescue (Yes. The last act).

Bloom editorializes the story by using it to wipe himself (parallel with Stephen who also uses part of someone else's text - Garrett Deasy's foot and mouth disease letter to the editor - for a creative purpose, as opposed to Bloom whose purpose is the opposite). He comes out and hears the bells of George's church tolling the hour.

    Heigho! Heigho!
    Heigho! Heigho!
    Heigho! Heigho!

the triple tolling suggesting a...

Quarter to. There again: the overtone following through the air, third.


The James Joyce Center

 

The James Joyce Center at North Great St. Georges Street is the site of tremendous activity on every Bloomsday. It is a brief walk from Eccles street and we arrived to a street filled with people, several in traditional costume. On our way there, we stopped briefly outside St. George's church for a poetry reading by another player from Balloonatics.

Several players were simultaneously performing various scenes from Ulysses. Some were in the middle of the street, some on the sidewalk and some on top of a tour bus.

Lydia Douce and Mina Kennedy were eyeing the viceregal cavalcade from the Ormond Quay hotel. 

The Sirens

The Citizen and Bloom confronted each other at Barney Kiernan's pub in the one episode where Bloom gets really worked up. It is probably the only "action" scene in the entire novel. 

  The Citizen (pipe in mouth) regarding Bloom with contempt while the others enjoy a laugh

  Bloom is provoked into uttering a blasphemy

  The witnessing of Ben Bloom Elijah

The scene shifted to Gerty exhibiting herself to Bloom who is unable to contain himself. 

Bloom eyes Gerty McDowell

  ...fireworks at the Mirus Bazaar

The girlfriends enjoying the fireworks at Mirus Bazaar...

Cissy Caffrey and Edy Boardman

Then the  flirtation scene between Bloom and Mrs. Breen from the nightmarish Circe episode.

Mrs. Breen and Bloom in an exchange so unlike their  counterparts in the waking world

Random members from  the gathering were pulled in to play a passive Bloom as Dr. Malachi Mulligan (Buck Mulligan still wearing the yellow dressing gown from the opening scene and "motorgoggles") subjects him to a humiliating medical examination before declaring him virgo intacta. We watched this scene being repeated from time to time with various onlookers being pulled in to play the hapless, wordless Bloom. 

Dr. Malachi pronouncing Bloom virgo intacta

Turning our heads towards the open top bus, we spied Molly Bloom soliloquizing her way to the final Yes that ends Ulysses. 

yes I said yes I will Yes.

Amidst all this, the Irish President, Mary McAllese stopped by for a visit to the center. The security entourage is pretty minimal for a person of such importance.
Irish President visit

One of the Cyclops players spotted my well-worn Penguin edition of Ulysses and accosted me. He asked for the book and requested that I recite a passage. So off I went Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish, the inner organs of beasts and fowls. Before my memory was tested any further he rudely interrupted me with "Be warned, you are violating copyright. I am watching you", returned my book and left. I learnt later that this was a parody of some recent attempts by the Joycean estate to suppress readings from the book in public.

Other characters moved about. A man with a shop-cart hanging from his neck peddled "Plumtree's potted meat", a reference to Bloom, the advertising canvasser's low opinion of a particular advertisement ("Sardines on the shelves. Almost taste them by looking. Sandwich? Ham and his descendants mustered and bred there. Potted meats. What is home without Plumtree's potted meat? Incomplete. What a stupid ad! Under the obituary notices they stuck it. All up a plumtree Dignam's potted meat"). In another sense, Bloom is himself the meat referred to here with his own home incomplete without him. 

Plumtree's Potted Meat

Ulysses abounds with reference to advertisements with a particularly curious situation concerning a mobile sandwich advertisement ("A procession of whitesmocked men marched slowly towards him along the gutter, scarlet sashes across their boards. Bargains. Like that priest they are this morning: we have sinned: we have suffered. He read the scarlet letters on their five tall white hats: H. E. L. Y. S. Wisdom Hely's. Y lagging behind drew a chunk of bread from under his foreboard, crammed it into his mouth and munched as he walked."). On this day the HELY'S were women and they were atop the bus strewn with advertisements, but the S had no apostrophe in it, contrary to Joyce's careful mention of that detail.
HELY'S

Not to forget the opening scene with the yellow-girdled Mulligan shaving himself beside a petulant Stephen...

And Mina Purefoy at the maternity hospital...

A particular recital by a man with an American accent proved a bit difficult for me to place. 

Lynch! Hey? Sign on long o me. Denzille lane this way. Change here for Bawdyhouse. We two, she said, will seek the kips there shady Mary is. Righto, any old time. Laetabuntur in cubilibus suis. You coming long? Whisper, who the sooty hell's the johnny in the black duds? Hush! Sinned against the light and even now that day is at hand when he shall come to judge the world by fire. Pflaap! Ut implerentur scripturae. Strike up a ballad. Then outspake medical Dick to his comrade medical Davy. Christicle, who's this excrement yellow gospeller on the Merrion hall? Elijah is coming washed in the Blood of the Lamb.Come on, you winefizzling ginsizzling booseguzzling existences! Come on, you dog-gone, bullnecked, beetlebrowed, hogjowled, peanutbrained, weaseleyed four flushers, false alarms and excess baggage! Come on, you triple extract of infamy! Alexander J. Christ Dowie, that's yanked to glory most half this planet from 'Frisco Beach to Vladivostok.

I later figured this one out as the final paragraph from the "Oxen of the Sun" episode, the most inventive of all with the possible exception of Sirens. The Oxen of the Sun episode sees a concerned Bloom paying a visit to Holles street hospital to enquire after Mrs. Purefoy's childbirth. While the act of birthing goes on, Joyce's language undergoes a similar embryonic journey and gives birth to the English language itself, going through historical literary periods and finally ending with the above passage as a futuristic extension. The reference to Elijah and Blood of the Lamb are from the Lestrygonians episode.

 

JJ with Malini 

We did not neglect to stop at the main Post Office to obtain the commemorative First Day Cover.

 

A short while later, a small group gathered around the Joyce statue on Earl street to retrace Bloom's steps at lunchtime

An impromptu reading near the Joyce Statue on Earl street opposite the Millennium spike


The Pavement Plaques

 

The Lestrygonians episode  provides ample opportunity to explore Bloom's Dublin. It is lunchtime and eating is in the minds of Dubliners (and Bloom). The path that Bloom takes during this chapter has been marked with metal plaques containing the quotation that exactly occurs at that point. A noon time walk saw a large group of people following a few actors who read from the book at various points along the walk. Extraordinarily, I lost the group after lingering on too long at one of the plaques to soak in the moment. 21st century Dubliners concerned with their own immediate appetites rather than worry about a hundred-year-old fictional character's lunch were moving about in large numbers and the traffic signals at O'Connell Bridge were not conducive for a large group of literary enthusiasts to stay together as a peripatetic group. Never mind. I had my books and could complete the walk on my own. Despite my having spent only a few days in Dublin, I had already walked these streets before in the days preceding Bloomsday. The following passage opens the chapter as Bloom is about to cross O'Connell bridge:

PINEAPPLE ROCK, LEMON PLATT, BUTTER SCOTCH. A SUGARSTICKY GIRL shovelling scoopfuls of creams for a christian brother. Some school treat. Bad for their tummies. Lozenge and comfit manufacturer to His Majesty the King. God. Save. Our. Sitting on his throne, sucking red jujubes white.

A sombre Y.M.C.A. young man, watchful among the warm sweet fumes of Graham Lemon's, placed a throwaway in a hand of Mr Bloom.

Heart to heart talks.

Bloo... Me? No.

Blood of the Lamb.

His slow feet walked him riverward, reading. Are you saved? All are washed in the blood of the lamb. God wants blood victim. Birth, hymen, martyr, war, foundation of a building, sacrifice, kidney burntoffering, druid's altars. Elijah is coming. Dr John Alexander Dowie, restorer of the church in Zion, is coming.

    Is coming! Is coming!! Is coming!!!
    All heartily welcome.

I just love that Bloo... Me?. One of the many ways Joyce chose to present preverbal reactions to an external stimulus. In the fraction of the second before Bloom's brain has registered the word 'blood' his instantaneous reaction is to associate it with himself. The reference to Dr. Dowie is interesting because it is the same doctor that is mentioned in the passage quoted earlier from Oxen of the Sun. The other words that merit attention are throwaway and Elijah, which has much impact on the rest of Bloomsday. The Cyclops episode ends with the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy (made by Malachi 4:5-6) with Bloom himself elevated to ben Bloom Elijah. 'Throwaway' first appears in the earlier Lotus Eaters episode outside the chemist Sweny's in Lincoln place. Bloom has bought a cake of sweet lemony soap for 4p. (Time to get a bath round the corner. Hammam. Turkish.). 

Sweny's chemist, Lincoln Place - Colm at the door and Malini taking a picture of the shop window

He encounters Bantam Lyons outside who asks to sneak a look at Bloom's newspaper so he can see something about a French horse that is running in the Ascot Gold Cup race. Bloom asks him to keep the paper as he was just going to throw it away. This innocent remark causes much grief to Bloom (leading to the most violent action scene in Ulysses, referred to earlier) later in day owing to Lyons' misconstruing it as a tip on Throwaway, a contender for the race. As mentioned earlier, a painting of the horse named Throwaway is displayed at the James Joyce Museum housed inside the Martello tower at Sandycove. I've read in one of several books on Ulysses that the records show that there was indeed a horse named Throwaway that ran in that Dublin race on June 16, 1904.

Amazingly, you can still buy the sweet lemon scented soap at Sweny's chemist at the identical location today. Not for 4p. though. Or its Euro equivalent. And that is what I did the day preceding. The chemist's shop's display behind a glass window was full of Joyce memorabilia complete with the reference to the shop in Ulysses. Even more amazing than the longevity of Sweny's and the lemon soap are Bloom's thoughts prior to his purchase of said soap. Better get that lotion made up. Where is this? Ah yes, the last time. Sweny's in Lincoln place. Chemists rarely move. Not even in a hundred years. Well foreseen, Mr. Bloom!

Ulysses text displayed with lemon soap at Sweny's window (2004)
After Bloom's encounter with Lyons, he...

He walked cheerfully towards the mosque of the baths. Remind you of a mosque, redbaked bricks, the minarets. College sports today I see. He eyed the horseshoe poster over the gate of college park: cyclist doubled up like a cod in a pot. Damn bad ad. Now if they had made it round like a wheel. Then the spokes: sports, sports, sports: and the hub big: college. Something to catch the eye.

There's Hornblower standing at the porter's lodge. Keep him on hands: might take a turn in there on the nod. How do you do, Mr Hornblower? How do you do, sir?

Heavenly weather really. If life was always like that. Cricket weather. Sit around under sunshades. Over after over. Out. They can't play it here. Duck for six wickets. Still Captain Buller broke a window in the Kildare street club with a slog to square leg.


Yet another instance of Bloom's obsession with ads. Interesting, the association between good weather and cricket. My attempts to locate the Turkish baths ("mosque of the baths") where Bloom heads immediately after were in vain. The location identified in Robert Nicholson's excellent guide turned out to be an office block. 

Aerial photo of Dublin (St. Stephen's Green)

The person manning the front desk (with a pretty aerial photograph of Dublin city centre behind) had no idea about the Turkish baths, but offered alternative literary trivia in the personality of Oscar Wilde. Apparently the building next door was his favorite haunt! His companion registered tacit scepticism of this with characteristic Irish humour (we were total strangers who had just barged into an office front desk asking if this was ever a Turkish bath! All this because of the events of a fictional day that did not happen a 100 years ago). The other place that we barged into was a newspaper office off O'Connell street which was the location of the Freeman's Journal office in the Aeolus episode. Once again, the locals were completely ignorant of all this, but took our trespass in their stride and were graceful and bemused at the same time. All this barging in was courtesy our friend Colm, a Dublin resident we'd first met last year in the Peruvian Andes, who we were delighted to have as our guide for the afternoon preceding Bloomsday.


Davy Byrne's Pub

Good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub.

Bloom's reflection that Davy Byrne's "moral pub" is the scene of frenetic activity every Bloomsday. Time to multiply Bloom's single order for a Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and Burgundy wine into a few hundred. It would be impossible to experience the kind of quite reverie that Bloom indulges in amidst the crowd today. 

Bloomsday revellers consuming Burgundy wine and gorgonzola cheese

Bloom's reverie takes a downturn and his thoughts move from remembered pleasure to his current state of loneliness and then disgust at the endless need of human beings to process food. This would eventually lead to his curiosity about the mesial groove of the stone goddesses at the library museum. But currently he feels a more immediate need to relieve his bladder ("Dribbling a quiet message from his bladder came to go to do not to do there to do"). Without intending to carry the mimicking too far, I feel a similar need and while emerging from the washroom, I remember one of the most remarkable and touching episodes in Ulysses that happens right there in the pub. While Joyce insisted on accompanying Bloom inside the jakes in the morning, he decides to stay back with Nosey Flynn and Davy Byrne, while Bloom does his business inside. Having been in the constant presence of Bloom's constant monologue interior, we are suddenly placed in unfamiliar territory. Succumbing to the very human habit of gossiping behind another's back, Davy Byrne and Nosey Flynn catch up on each other's knowledge of Bloom's past. To their credit, they express no antagonism (unlike a few other Dubliners on that day) but enjoy a frank opinion exchange of the man. They are soon joined by Paddy Leonard, Bantam Lyons and Tom Rochford and the conversion briefly touches the Gold cup race that is to take place later that afternoon. Bantam Lyons announces his intention to plunge five bob on his own and when asked who gave him the tip, their conversation is interrupted by the return of Bloom in third person.

Mr Bloom on his way out raised three fingers in greeting.

-- So long, Nosey Flynn said.

The others turned.

-- That's the man now that gave it to me, Bantam Lyons whispered.


So how does Bloom's interior monologue resume when he returns after relieving his bladder?

Mr Bloom walked towards Dawson street, his tongue brushing his teeth smooth. Something green it would have to be: spinach say. Then with those Röntgen rays searchlight you could.

We have no idea how Bloom's thoughts got from food and stone goddesses to Röntgen rays, but it does not really matter. This is a clever rendering of the restlessness of the human mind as it flitters back and forth over ideas while influencing and being influenced by the circumstances around and memory.

A similar discussion on Bloom in his absence, but with more hostile overtones takes place much later at Barney Kiernan's in the Cyclops episode as the gathering mistakenly assumes that Bloom is off to collect his winnings from Throwaway's upset victory at the race. Ironically it is Bantam Lyons again who causes the misconception, having been persuaded by Blazes Boylan to switch his bet to another horse, Sceptre, which ends up losing to the outsider Throwaway. Several theses have been written on the symbolic parallel between the horse race and Molly Bloom's eventual preference of Bloom over Boylan.


The Legend of the Cyclops

To mark the Centenary, the James Joyce Center organized guided walks through Dublin with various themes over an extended period. Understandably, demand for the limited slots available was huge and we were only able to register for the one at 2 pm on June 17th. This walk was entitled "The Legend of the Cyclops" but its content was expected to be much wider and include Joyce's other work, Dubliners, as well. We studiously avoided going out of our way to cover the locations in Cyclops in the preceding days to avoid repetition.

Surprisingly, the walk began outside the birthplace of Oliver St. John Gogarty (quotation above), who was the model for Buck Mulligan and resented that deeply. The fictional events of the opening episode at the Martello Tower are said to be based on a real life incident that resulted in the falling out between Joyce and Gogarty and Joyce's subsequent departure from the tower. The action in the book is much tamer compared to the real life version. 

Gogarty's House

Passing by Gogarty's house and Belvedere College where Joyce studied in the 1890s, the walk passed the Wax Museum enroute to Henrietta street. This street is mentioned in a keenly observant passage in the Dubliners short story, A Little Cloud, that transports the reader to turn-of-the-previous-century Dublin. 

He emerged from under the feudal arch of the King's Inns, a neat modest figure, and walked swiftly down Henrietta Street. The golden sunset was waning and the air had grown sharp. A horde of grimy children populated the street. They stood or ran in the roadway or crawled up the steps before the gaping doors or squatted like mice upon the thresholds. Little Chandler gave them no thought. He picked his way deftly through all that minute vermin-like life and under the shadow of the gaunt spectral mansions in which the old nobility of Dublin had roystered. No memory of the past touched him, for his mind was full of a present joy.

Our guide pointed to the houses on the deserted street with a dead-end on one side and told us that the interior of some of these houses contain some of the most lavish fittings despite the ordinary looking exterior. Unfortunately, she could not take us inside any of the houses on this day as she did not know anyone who would be in this day. 

Henrietta Street

A lot of the atmosphere in A Little Cloud is echoed in the Aeolus episode. Little Chandler's present joy is at the prospect of meeting the London resident Ignatius Gallaher who is visiting the homeland after a long gap. Gallaher has become a famous name and his exploits are extolled by Myles Crawford, the newspaper editor of the Freeman's Journal in Ulysses:

The Great Gallaher

-- You can do it, Myles Crawford repeated, clenching his hand in emphasis. Wait a minute. We'll paralyse Europe as Ignatius Gallaher used to say when he was on the shaughraun, doing billiardmarking in the Clarence. Gallaher, that was a pressman for you. That was a pen. You know how he made his mark? I'll tell you. That was the smartest piece of journalism ever known. That was in eightyone, sixth of May, time of the invincibles, murder in the Phoenix park, before you were born, I suppose. I'll show you.

Little Chandler, who considers himself superior to Gallaher in birth and education, knows that he is stuck in a provincial rut in Dublin while the more enterprising Gallaher made it big in Paris and London. He is excited by his friend's success and simultaneously resentful of his patronising him (and Ireland by extension). Little Chandler has a brief moment of literary revelation on top of Grattan Bridge across the Liffey on his way down Capel Street towards Dublin City Hall.

For the first time in his life he felt himself superior to the people he passed. For the first time his soul revolted against the dull inelegance of Capel Street. There was no doubt about it: if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin. As he crossed Grattan Bridge he looked down the river towards the lower quays and pitied the poor stunted houses. They seemed to him a band of tramps, huddled together along the river-banks, their old coats covered with dust and soot, stupefied by the panorama of sunset and waiting for the first chill of night to bid them arise, shake themselves and begone. He wondered whether he could write a poem to express his idea. Perhaps Gallaher might be able to get it into some London paper for him. Could he write something original? He was not sure what idea he wished to express but the thought that a poetic moment had touched him took life within him like an infant hope. He stepped onward bravely.

Even before meeting Gallaher, Little Chandler has begun to look at Dublin through the latter's eyes. And when Gallaher says:

Damn proofs and printers, I say, for a few days.I'm deuced glad, I can tell you, to get back to the old country. Does a fellow good, a bit of a holiday. I feel a ton better since I landed again in dear dirty Dublin...

The afore mentioned Parable of the Plums begins with the title "Dear Dirty Dublin". One can discern Joyce's feelings towards his home city from these revealing passages from his works.

Returning to the walk, the next stop is Barney Kiernan's pub, site of the only "violent" scene in all of Ulysses. The original address was Nos. 8 and 10, Little Britain Street. It is now gone and all that remains is a ladies salon and a unisex salon, upstairs and downstairs. 

What remains of Barney Kiernan's pub after the "catastrophe"

Little Britain Street, scene of the "violent" altercation after Bloom's blasphemy

The orange facade of an Asian Cash and Carry grocery store lies below the street sign. The place cannot be more undistinguished. It probably never was. But the Ulysses scene in the Cyclops episode is lifted by the technic of giganticism that Joyce used to magnify the action.

For a change, Bloom is doing plenty of talking here instead of monologueing. Unwisely, he gets into a debate among company whose attitude towards his jewish ancestry is at best, cautiously reserved and at worst, openly hostile. It begins innocently enough, but eventually zeroes in on his racial background. And unbeknownst to him, the outside Throwaway has won the race and Bantam Lyons (who was persuaded by Boylan to bet on Sceptre) has let on that Bloom would have made a packet. The scene finally builds to a climax when the citizen (one-eyed Cyclops who cannot see the other's point of view) throws a biscuit tin at Bloom as he exits the scene. Unlike the rest of Ulysses there is plenty of dialogue here with Dublin street speech interspersed with long passages of parody. For a brief (compared to the size of the actual episode) outline of the Cyclops episode click here.

Walking down Capel Street, our guide takes us inside a door on a side street (St. Mary's Abbey). We were inside Abbey Lane Laundry (Open Mon-Sat 10am - 7pm, Friendly Service, 5 Mary's Abbey, off Capel Street, besides Boars Head pub) and were led past a small lane into another interior space. The spot is the most historic in all of Dublin. At least, Ned Lambert thinks so. The reference is to silken Thomas who is mentioned again in the Cyclops episode in the context of the seismic disturbance (not since the earthquake of 1534, the year of the rebellion of silken Thomas have we had one of such a magnitude) caused by the citizen's biscuit tin.

-- Hello, Jack, is that yourself? Ned Lambert said, raising in salute his pliant lath among the flickering arches. Come on. Mind your steps there.

The vesta in the clergyman's uplifted hand consumed itself In a long soft flame and was let fall. At their feet its red speck died: and mouldy air closed round them.

-- How interesting! a refined accent said in the gloom.

-- Yes, sir, Ned Lambert said heartily. We are standing in the historic council chamber of saint Mary's abbey where silken Thomas proclaimed himself a rebel in 1534. This is the most historic spot in all Dublin. O'Madden Burke is going to write something about it one of these days. The old bank of Ireland was over the way till the time of the union and the original jews' temple was here too before they built their synagogue over in Adelaide road. You were never here before, Jack, were you? 

Exterior of Saint Mary's Abbey, now a laundry


James Joyce Street

Robert Nicholson, the curator of the above mentioned James Joyce Museum, in his book "The Ulysses Guide" teasingly suggests that the city of Dublin chose the Monto town location for "James Joyce Street" in an act of civic revenge. On the afternoon of June 14, 2004, using the Guide as reference, we walked from Mountjoy square (where the Rev. Conmee walks down the steps of the presbytery to commence the Wandering Rocks chapter) to Monto Town via Lower Gardiner street. The street was busy on this Monday afternoon and it seems safe enough despite its seedy reputation.

James Joyce Street
The Nighttown itself does not in any way evoke the nightmarish atmosphere of the Circe episode. The area resembled a downtown office block with the obligatory construction work going on. Guessing our intent right, a passing Dubliner simply said "James Joyce?" and on affirmation proceeded to point out the pub that is featured in the chapter.
"Nighttown"

Not content with the zoomed out maps of Dublin that I have, I walked into a grocery store opposite James Joyce Street to look for a detailed city map to augment the Ulysses walking tour maps in The Ulysses Guide. The owner of the store, of obvious sub-continent descent, makes the obligatory enquiry to which I respond "Madras". I return the courtesy and he replies "Pakistan". Not satisfied with this, I demand a zoomed in reference and he smilingly clarifies "NW Frontier Province". And then volunteers in the shared sub-continental language "I like Indians and am always happy to see them. I don't know what you think, but I don't harbor any ill feeling towards Indians at all". Not wanting to be outdone by this belligerent attitude, I try to match this with my hesitant version of the same language "Well, there really is no difference, is there?". Before the situation could deteriorate any further, my wife spots us and whisks me away. I was fast running out of words to put in a good performance there. Having already used up a lot of my Indo-Pakistani goodwill speech repertoire a couple of days earlier at a Cork restaurant (The Spice Route - Indian Cuisine), I would probably have been reduced to speaking gibberish in Hindi/Urdu very soon. Maybe I would have simply started reading the gibberish from the opening of the Oxen of the Sun episode from the copy of Ulysses that I had in my pack.

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 downwardtending 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?

This was a convenient location to end our first walk of Bloomsday Centenary week on June 14 as the Connolly Station (Amiens Street Station during Joyce's time) is nearby. It is serviced by DART which takes us to Dun Laoghaire in a short trip back to our B&B.

DART (Connolly Station, formerly Amiens St. Station)

Ulysses schematic laid out like a London subway route map (on display at the James Joyce Center)


Ennis, County Clare

The well marked route that the carriage that takes Bloom, Martin Cunningham, Simon Dedalus and Jack Power to Paddy Dignam's funeral requires a lot of effort to traverse and I did not attempt it. Nor did I include Glasnevin cemetery in my itinerary. Some other time. While the attempt of many Joyceans to accurately pinpoint the time and the place of several events in Bloomsday may seem excessive at times, there are certain aspects of these studies that make them worthwhile. One such study (by Clive Hart/Ian Gunn) that traces the movements and thoughts of the two principals, Stephen and Bloom, over the Proteus and Hades chapters, draws interesting parallels between their thought processes. Yet another illustration of Joyce's belief in "kinship among disparate things". Based on minute analysis of the two timelines and utilizing the points where the two characters are co-located (e.g. Bloom noticing Stephen ("lithe young man") from the funeral carriage as it pass Watery Lane), parallels can be drawn between Stephen's thoughts on his father ("the man with my voice and my eyes") and Bloom's on his dead son ("If little Rudy had lived...My son. Me in his eyes"); Stephen notices a "bloated carcass of a dog" while Bloom sees the dogs' home and thinks of "Poor old Athos"; the living dog in Proteus looks "for something lost in a past life" while Bloom thinks of his father's suicide".

We spent the week before the Bloomsday centenary travelling on the west coast of Ireland. After spending a day at Connemara, we were driving south in County Clare towards Limerick and were looking for a suitable town to stay the night. We stopped at the town of Ennis and checked into a B&B. I decided to spend a little time reading Ulysses with a Dublin map by my side to chalk out my plan for the next week. By an extraordinary coincidence I came to reading the Hades episode ...

Mr Power asked:

-- How is the concert tour getting on, Bloom?

-- O very well, Mr Bloom said. I hear great accounts of it. It's a good idea, you see .

-- Are you going yourself?

-- Well no, Mr Bloom said. In point of fact I have to go down to the county Clare on some private business. You see the idea is to tour the chief towns. What you lose on one you can make up on the other.


At this point the (first time) reader is quite unaware of the nature of Bloom's private business that needs to take him to County Clare.

And then a little later the occupants of the carriage start discussing death in its various forms and a moment of awkwardness suddenly occurs:

-- In the midst of life, Martin Cunningham said.

-- But the worst of all, Mr Power said, is the man who takes his own life.

Martin Cunningham drew out his watch briskly, coughed and put it back.

-- The greatest disgrace to have in the family, Mr Power added.

-- Temporary insanity, of course, Martin Cunningham said decisively. We must take a charitable view of it.

-- They say a man who does it is a coward, Mr Dedalus said.

-- It is not for us to judge, Martin Cunningham said.

Mr Bloom, about to speak, closed his lips again. Martin Cunningham's large eyes. Looking away now. Sympathetic human man he is. Intelligent. Like Shakespeare's face. Always a good word to say. They have no mercy on that here or infanticide. Refuse christian burial. They used to drive a stake of wood through his heart in the grave. As if it wasn't broken already. Yet sometimes they repent too late. Found in the riverbed clutching rushes. He looked at me. And that awful drunkard of a wife of his. Setting up house for her time after time and then pawning the furniture on him every Saturday almost. Leading him the life of the damned. Wear the heart out of a stone, that. Monday morning start afresh. Shoulder to the wheel. Lord, she must have looked a sight that night, Dedalus told me he was in there. Drunk about the place and capering with Martin's umbrella:

    And they call me the jewel of Asia,
    Of Asia,
    The geisha.

He looked away from me. He knows. Rattle his bones.

That afternoon of the inquest. The redlabelled bottle on the table. The room in the hotel with hunting pictures. Stuffy it was. Sunlight through the slats of the Venetian blinds. The coroner's ears, big and hairy. Boots giving evidence. Thought he was asleep first. Then saw like yellow streaks on his face. Had slipped down to the foot of the bed. Verdict: overdose. Death by misadventure. The letter. For my son Leopold.

No more pain. Wake no more. Nobody owns.

Joyce's elusive technique still denies the reader full knowledge of what it is that causes Martin's discomfort at Power's opinions on suicide and his temperate remark "not for us to judge" in response. Who is he covering for? Bloom does not speak (closed his lips again) to the others, but what is he going to think? Initially, all you get is Bloom's appreciation of Martin's tact and sympathy. It is obvious that Bloom does not view suicide attempts harshly. But is that all? Absolutely not. "He looked away from me. He knows". So what does Martin know that we don't? Bloom does not waste any more time and lets us in finally. "For my son Leopold".

Martin changes the topic. Much later, when he gets a chance to get Power's attention with Bloom out of earshot...

Martin Cunningham whispered:

-- I was in mortal agony with you talking of suicide before Bloom.

-- What? Mr Power whispered. How so?

-- His father poisoned himself, Martin Cunningham whispered. Had the Queen's hotel in Ennis. You heard him say he was going to Clare. Anniversary.

-- O God! Mr Power whispered. First I heard of it. Poisoned himself!

He glanced behind him to where a face with dark thinking eyes followed towards the cardinal's mausoleum. Speaking.

-- Was he insured? Mr Bloom asked.

I'd read this episode innumerable times before and the name Ennis never registered until now. Maybe I should have checked into the Queen's hotel in Ennis. Bloom's query about Dignam's insurance sets himself up for some charity work he will do with Martin later in the afternoon only to be tragi-comically misunderstood by Dublin's citizenry.


Wandering Rocks

Contrary to my expectation, I did not get much out of the Wandering Rocks tours. This is the central chapter where several characters simultaneously make their way through the streets of Dublin. Broken down into 18 sections (same as the number of chapters or episodes), the action is synchronized through the use of sentences borrowed from other sections. It would take a monumental effort for a reader to piece the chronology together. Fortunatelhy, Clive Hart's excellent essay lays it down in the form of a massive table.

Some of the notable elements that serve as ties that bind the individual sections together are : the one-legged sailor who receives a contribution from Molly, the crumpled "throwaway Elijah thirty two feet per second per second" piece of paper that Bloom discarded appears twice, a young woman who detaches a twig from her skirt.

The busy narrative is a break for the reader from Bloom's interior monologue. We spy him through outsiders eyes as he scans books for Molly under Merchant's Arch, just outside of Temple Bar (an area that has been fashionably restored in the 1990s and has a Bloom Hotel in it among other things). The ubiquitous racing horse reference makes yet another appearance:

-- Even money, Lenehan said returning. I knocked against Bantam Lyons in there going to back a bloody horse someone gave him that hasn't an earthly. Through here.

They went up the steps and under Merchants' arch. A dark-backed figure scanned books on the hawker's cart.

-- There he is, Lenehan said.

-- Wonder what he is buying, M'Coy said, glancing behind.

-- Leopoldo or the Bloom is on the Rye, Lenehan said. 

Merchant's Arch where Bloom picks up "Sweets of Sin"

The other spots we covered in the Temple Bar area that are featured in the episode are the Turk's Head Chop House (Kavanagh in Joyce's time) and D.B.C where Buck Mulligan heads to meet Haines after Stephen's discourse at the Library.

  Turk's Head Chop House (holding Robert Nicholson's invaluable Guide)

On our last day in Dublin we made a fruitless trip to the Guinness brewery because it was closed by the time we got to it. On our way back, we spotted the plaque on the wall at Watling street that quoted the passage from Ulysses that referred to it. 

Mr Kernan turned and walked down the slope of Watling street by the corner of Guinness's visitors' waiting room. Outside the Dublin Distillers Company's stores an outside car without fare or jarvey stood, the reins knotted to the wheel. Damn dangerous thing. Some Tipperary bosthoon endangering the lives of the citizens. Runaway horse

Ulysses quote on Watling street

Walking back towards the city center, we stopped briefly at 15 Usher's Island, the location of much of the action in The Dead where the aunts lived. It apparently fell into disrepair for a long time and is now being renovated as yet another center dedicated to James Joyce. 

15 Usher's Island (featured in The Dead)

As if all this was not enough, a brand new bridge lies across the Liffey in front of the house that is named James Joyce Bridge. Designed by Dr. Santiago Calatrava, whose name kept cropping up in our lives this year. We could not help but notice that the bridge was remarkably similar to the photograph of the new Sundial bridge in Redding, California. A little bit of research revealed that Dr. Calatrava designed that too. And his name came up again during the Athens Olympics as he designed the Olympic Sports Complex. All these works seem to be characterized by white lines, inclined arches and glassy flooring in turquoise.

  James Joyce bridge across the Liffey in front of the Usher's Island house

On James Joyce Bridge


The Parable of the Plums

Retracing the Hades route would have involved the use of motor transport as the action takes place in Glasnevin Cemetery ("dead center of Dublin"). The newspaper office of the Freeman's Journal is a short distance from the James Joyce center. The newspaper does not exist anymore but this did not prevent our friend Colm's earnest attempts to find out what happened to it even if it meant barging into office buildings and amusing today's Dubliners.

It hardly needs pointing out that Joyce is fond of allusions, exhibiting an obsessive aversion to state explicitly. This can be very frustrating initially, but can quickly turn into an exciting game of chasing allusions and playing detective on the act of creating art as if it were a crime scene. It is very well that the action that is being described (alluded to) is of the everyday variety because there is plenty of hide-and-seek that the author plays with the reader. But however difficult the dense exterior may seem, it takes just a bit of perseverence to penetrate the exterior, the very act of which is tremendously satisfying. It is important not to be put off by the excessive zeal of the Joyce scholars while looking for skeleton keys that will unlock a few doors.

Sufficient for the day is the newspaper thereof.

The Matthew 6:34 version goes "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof".

The Aeolus episode is an exhibition of rhetorical devices containing instances of metaphor, enthymeme, metathesis, idiotism, apostrophe, apocope, syncope, solecism, anagram, hyperbole, pleonasm and so on in a brief 30 odd pages. It involves a few major speeches delivered with much bombast. Joyce himself choose one of the those speeches for his only audio recording from Ulysses. As if to dismiss all this as empty rhetoric, Stephen counters with his own irreverent narration of the story of two spinsters who climb up (the now defunct) Nelson's pillar for a view of Dublin. Stephen takes great care to include the detailed addresses of the ladies, the number of years each has live there, where they bought their picnic lunch and plums and for how much. Joyce himself follows Stephen's example of obsessing over details of names and addresses and educational qualifications on several occasions in Ulysses (prompting a few to call for a good editor) implying that they are essential to his art.

The Parable of the Plums was the unlikely topic on which the evening's outdoor entertainment was based on, at twilight on Bloomsday centenary day. Joyce may have grumbled in 1924 that the 20th anniversary of Bloomsday went by unnoticed but he could not have complained about 2004. He might even have smiled at the irony of the wordless procession of gigantic 2 dimensional figures that paraded up and down the center of O'Connell street. Nelson's pillar was resurrected for the evening complete with a stony Nelson who watched impassively as the dancing party of various ethnicities gyrated to rhythms unlikely to have been heard in Joyce's time. 

Those slightly rambunctious females

A massive crane was brought into service to lift the resurrected Joyce (resembling Groucho Marx more than James Joyce) high above the street, forced to watch silently, the city he abandoned, exacting its revenge on him for the excesses he fostered upon it almost a century ago.

Makeshift "Nelson" saluting hanging Joyce on the evening of June 16, 2004. One of the Dublin vestals below


Fuga per canonem.

The Sirens episode is an attempt to compose a fuga per canonem with words, complete with overture and polyphony. It is set in a bar in Ormond Quay overlooking the Liffey. The Ormond Quay hotel still exists complete with bar. The location of the original bar is now a corporate conference center where presumably no garter snapping takes place. We did go in for a peek courtesy Colm who enquired about it of the waitress. The conference rooms are named Joyce, Leopold, Barnacle, Bronze and Ulysses. Nice inspiration, bad execution. A little more thought could have been put into it for a more relevant set of names.

Sirens Lounge, Ormond Quay Hotel

The content of the episode is as musical as its form and includes recitals by Simon and Ben Dollard. The songs included are replete with the theme of betrayal and the climax of M'appari is paralleled in Bloom's thoughts as he reflects on the consummation of Boylan's tryst with Molly with the juxtaposition of the final "Come" with that other event. 

The episode concludes with Bloom breaking wind ("must be the bur") and trying to time it so an approaching tram's noise drowns it. Joyce chooses to include a reference to Robert Emmet's last speech before he was executed. Bloom is staring at a picture of the hero with his last words in it.

Seabloom, greaseabloom viewed last words. Softly. When my country takes her place among.

Prrprr.

Must be the bur.

Fff. Oo. Rrpr.

Nations of the earth. No-one behind. She's passed. Then and not till then. Tram. Kran, kran, kran. Good oppor. Coming. Krandlkrankran. I'm sure it's the burgund. Yes. One, two. Let my epitaph be. Karaaaaaaa. Written. I have.

Pprrpffrrppfff.

Done

Bloom's interior organs are thus added to the fugal players.


Questions and Answers

What action did Bloom make on their arrival at their destination?

At the housesteps of the 4th of the equidifferent uneven numbers, number 7 Eccles street, he inserted his hand mechanically into the back pocket of his trousers to obtain his latchkey. 

Close up of plaque at the approximate location of 7 Eccles St. (with eerie shadow effect)

Described by Anthony Burgess as the ugly duckling of all episodes, Ithaca  was the first one that caught my eye way back in 1986 and hooked me to Ulysses forever. Despite my bewilderment at the rest of the book, I could sense the author's intentions clearly in this episode more than in any other. Technically, this episode did not feature in any of the Ulysses walks around Dublin, but it is in Ithaca that the missing pieces that throw light on the obscure references to Bloom's past life are eventually revealed. And it is easy to see why the question-answer format is the only way to ultimately reveal the minutiae of Bloom's past life that so affects his thoughts on Bloomsday. Obviously, the stream of Bloom's consciousness is not going to explicitly describe past occurrences for the reader's clarification, especially if they are deeply affecting. But the overall effect of the chapter is still comic. It is almost as if Joyce can foresee his novel being shoved down the throats of unwilling students of a future generation and comes to their rescue by coming out with his own "most important questions". And he is kind enough to provide the answers too.

For instance, we've heard about the tragic death of Bloom's father (Rudulph Bloom born Virag) from Martin Cunningham in two separate instances Hades (where Power remarks on suicide being the worst of all deaths) and Cyclops (where Martin mentions the suicide and provides some additional information (His name was Virag. The father's name that poisoned himself. He changed it by deed poll, the father did). Joyce sums up the whole thing in Q&A format thus:

What suggested scene was then reconstructed by Bloom?

The Queen's Hotel, Ennis, County Clare, where Rudolph Bloom (Rudolf Virag) died on the evening of the 27 June 1886, at some hour unstated, in consequence of an overdose of monkshood (aconite) selfadministered in the form of a neuralgic liniment, composed of 2 parts of aconite liniment to 1 of chloroform liniment (purchased by him at 10.20 a.m. on the morning of 27 June 1886 at the medical hall of Francis Dennehy, 17 Church street, Ennis) after having, though not in consequence of having, purchased at 3.15 p.m. on the afternoon of 27 June 1886 a new boater straw hat, extra smart (after having, though not in consequence of having, purchased at the hour and in the place aforesaid, the toxin aforesaid), at the general drapery store of James Cullen, 4 Main street, Ennis. 

a few questions and answers later...

What did the and drawer contain?

Documents: the birth certificate of Leopold Paula Bloom: an endowment assurance policy of #500 in the Scottish Widows' Assurance Society intestated Millicent (Milly) Bloom, coming into force at 25 years as with profit policy of #430, #462--10--0 and #500 at 60 years or death, 65 years or death and death, respectively, or with profit policy (paidup) of #299--10--0 together with cash payment of #133--10--0, at option: a bank passbook issued by the Ulster Bank, College Green branch showing statement of a/c for half year ending 31 December 1903, balance in depositor's favour: #18--14--6 (eighteen pounds, fourteen shillings and six pence, sterling), net personalty: certificate of possession of #900 Canadian 4% (inscribed) government stock (free of stamp duty): dockets of the Catholic Cemeteries' (Glasnevin) Committee, relative to a graveplot purchased: a local press cutting concerning change of name by deedpoll.


Quote the textual terms of this notice.

I, Rudolph Virag, now resident at no 52 Clanbrassil street, Dublin, formerly of Szombathely in the kingdom of Hungary, hereby give notice that I have assumed and intend henceforth upon all occasions and at all times to be known by the name of Rudolph Bloom.

What other objects relative to Rudolph Bloom (born Virag) were in the 2nd drawer?

An indistinct daguerreotype of Rudolph Virag and his father Leopold Virag executed in the year 1852 in the portrait atelier of their (respectively) 1st and 2nd cousin, Stefan Virag of Szesfehervar, Hungary. An ancient hagadah book in which a pair of hornrimmed convex spectacles inserted marked the passage of thanksgiving in the ritual prayers for Pessach (Passover): a photocard of the Queen's Hotel, Ennis, proprietor, Rudolph Bloom: an envelope addressed To my Dear Son Leopold.

What fractions of phrases did the lecture of those five whole words evoke?

Tomorrow will be a week that I received... it is no use Leopold to be... with your dear mother... that is not more to stand... to her... all for me is out... be kind to Athos, Leopold... my dear son... always... of me... das Herr... Gott... dein...

What reminiscences of a human subject suffering from progressive melancholia did these objects evoke in Bloom?

An old man widower, unkempt hair, in bed, with head covered, sighing: an infirm dog, Athos: aconite, resorted to by increasing doses of grains and scruples as a palliative of recrudescent neuralgia: the face in death of a septuagenarian suicide by poison. 

A casual browsing of the chapter at rapid speed is good enough to spot the musical notations which are incongruous enough but not as much as the balance sheet. This reduces Bloom by filtering out all information but his financial dealings of the day, anticipating a systems analysis methodology of the late 20th century. It may seem dull at first sight, but this "view" of Bloomsday is as interesting to the seasoned Joycean as some of the more verbally brilliant passages. And Ithaca is not exactly lacking in them. The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

Bloomsday (which is not a calendar day, but a day stretching from dawn to dawn) is coming to a close. I'll leave you with Bloom's final moments just as he is about to fall asleep.

He rests. He has travelled.

With?

Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailer and Finbad the Failer and Binbad the Bailer and Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailer and Hinbad the Hailer and Rinbad the Railer and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer.

When?

Going to a dark bed there was a square round Sinbad the Sailor roc's auk's egg in the night of the bed of all the auks of the rocs of Darkinbad the Brightdayler.

Where?

.


Final Chapter

Bloomsday is over, but Ulysses is not. There is no point in returning to an Ithaca without a Penelope. The structure of the novel, with its many parallels, would be incomplete without the final (18th) episode (if it can be called that). But it is primarily this chapter that attracted all the notoriety and legal troubles that Joyce ran into while trying to publish Ulysses.

Penelope is not simply about presenting the other point of view. Ulysses is not a court case between Bloom and Molly where you have to decide in favour of one. While Ithaca presented an opportunity for the omniscient author to give a detailed and impartial account of the lives of Stephen and Bloom, it was not a suitable vehicle to convey the impressions of Molly about her life with Bloom. Joyce chose a different path for that.

It would require a complete knowledge of all the chapters that precede it for a reader to be able to wade through the unpunctuated sentences in the final chapter. These are not actually sentences in that they are not constructed per formal (male?) rules, but merely phrases that jump from one thought to another without a break. This is very unlike the technique in some of the earlier chapters to convey Bloom's stream of consciousness.

Joyce himself admitted that he lacked a crucial element in the author's toolbox, creative imagination. He could not make up things on his own. He needed real life models, be it persons, places, events. Brenda Maddox's biography of Nora Barnacle makes an important point about where Joyce got the so-called dirty passages from. It was from Nora who by his own admission outdid him in this department. Not bad for someone who was considered unliterary and who never read Ulysses, a big disappointment for Joyce.

Does that mean that Joyce should share authorship with his unwary contributors, Nora being an important one? I think not. The artistic purpose of Ulysses is to build an imaginary structure using raw materials that make up the real world. The creative act here is not in the reduced fragments that make up the substance of the finished work, but the conscious deliberate design of the whole.


Ulysses on CD

To mark the centenary, 2 separate sets of audio recordings of Ulysses were releases. One was by the Naxos label (famous for its low priced but excellent CDs of classical music) with Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan featuring. The other was by RTE which had actually staged the book on Radio in the early eighties with several players filling the bill. I also came across a third recording on Amazon featuring the wonderful voice of Donal Donnelly (who played Freddy Malins in John Huston's adaptation of the final Dubliners short story, The Dead. It is a great pleasure and revelation to listen to these audio recordings. They are expensive but well worth it for the interested Joycean. If you had to pick one, I'll recommend the RTE version which features multiple voices, giving it a dramatic feel. It is also the wonderfully packaged and user-friendly with the CDs neatly organized by chapters with file-folder-like CD sleeves in a hard box. 


Why Ulysses

The striking thing about Ulysses that sets it apart from other literary works is its timelessness. While the technology of its times may be outdated and by extension its culture, the obsession of the characters with everyday minutiae produces an effect of immediacy that is curiously attractive. Joyce, like Beethoven before him, is the great modernizer who bridges the gap between the classical and the modern. Beethoven saw the transition of music from its elegant courtly air to something with dark and personal overtones. The breakthrough seems to have been the realization that what happens in the privacy of the human mind is the ultimate stuff of interest to other human beings irrespective of how many years lie between. Joyce follows the same path in Ulysses to free literature from the tyranny of the exterior and lets the wide open spaces of Bloom's interior psyche take centre stage. It is for this reason that I feel that the true potential of Ulysses is yet unrealized. It is not a curiosity to be shred to pieces in the laboratories of universities or a fetish for a handful of people to enjoy every 16th of June, but a creature of wonder that can surprise and charm readers from any background.


Commentary: R. Venkatesh
Pictures : Malini Kaushik and R. Venkatesh
Bloomsday Walkers: Malini Kaushik, R. Venkatesh, Colm Harrington