Monday, June 16, 2008


Well and it is Bloomsday again, and I'm reading my way through Ulysses. Not the first time I've started, but hopefully a finish this time. It is (for anyone who hasn't read it) a dense and rolling read with so many things going on that may (or more usually) may not make any sense. I'm not far in, but I'm already further than I've ever been (that's sounding very Star Trek, isn't it!?) and there's something alien and seductive about this work.
Here's the passage I'm up to:

"Their dog ambled about a bank of dwindling sand, trotting, sniffing on all sides. Looking for something lost in a past life. Suddenly he made off like a bounding hare, ears flung back, chasing the shadow of a lowskimming gull. The man's shrieked whistle struck his limp ears. He turned, bounded back, came nearer, trotted on twinkling shanks. On a field tenney a buck, trippant, proper, unattired. At the lacefringe of the tide he halted with stiff forehoofs, seawardpointed ears. His snout lifted barked at the wavenoise, herds of seamorse. They serpented towards his feet, curling, unfurling many crests, every ninth, breaking, plashing, from far, from farther out, waves and waves."

It starts out like a normal paragraph, and then.... goes somewhere else altogether. I love it.
I remember the first year I discovered Bloomsday, and went to the reading at the Mitchell wing of the state library in Sydney. They had put a first edition of Ulysses in a glass case towards the front of the room, and to me that physical book was a miracle. It was a big moment to consider all the effort, all the writing, all the energy and attention and love and passion that had gone into every single stage of getting those words into that order (look at one of his manuscripts if you ever get a chance - it will rock your world) those pages typed up and the damn thing published, let alone all the way across the world to Sydney.
Forget the travails of Rowling - James Joyce couldn't get a publisher! In the end, Shakespeare and Co. in Paris printed 750 copies (in about 1922). What if there hadn't been anyone willing to risk the prudes, the nay-sayers, the economic uncertainty and publish it at all? But they did, and the world of human literature is richer for it. Is 'human literature' a tautology? At the moment I guess it is, but I'd like to think "not for long"!

Anyway, happy Bloomsday!
Yes! She cried, Yes!!

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