ULYSSES p. 2-3, “Telemachus”


I read the first page* of Ulysses today. Hopefully, you did too.

I tweeted while I read it, which was not easy. Keeping “insights” to under 140 characters at a time is not conducive to literary analysis. It also took me less than 2 hours to read the page. I do not recommend this at all. Going forward, I’m going to tweet just once after every page I finish. 

For what it’s worth, here’s all the tweet action today, with some links added.

  1. I’m going to read page 1 of Ulysses now. I’ll give myself 1 hr to finish. I’m starting with 16 followers in twtr. Will probably end with 2. [12:17 pm] 
  2. Have to find a copy online first. Had to loan gfriend my copy since I lost hers. No idea what happened. This whole thing has me frazzled. [12:20 pm] 
  3. Alright. Here we go, (deep breath) “Robert Langdon awoke slowly.” Wha?! Hey, that’s not right. [12:25 pm] 
  4. Now here we go. Starts with a big “S” in “stately” and then “plump” and that’s all for page 1! Easy. [12:32 pm] 
  5. Should read next page. Before I do, checking Don Gifford. S stands for Stephen, Subject (1st part of syllogism, there is a logical structure). [12:41 pm] 
  6. 2 other parts of the book start with a big M (Molly, middle) and P (Leo-Poldy, predicate). Medievals regarded S-M-P as the order of thought. [12:48 pm] 
  7. If S=M, and M=P, then S=P. M, the middle term drops out, combining the subject and predicate. Molly brings together Stephen and Leopold. [12:51 pm] 
  8. Moving right along to word 2…nothing on “plump”…though funny to think of someone stately and plump, I guess. Are we getting satire here? [12:53 pm] 
  9. Reading the full sentence. Buck Mulligan is coming from the stairhead with a bowl (which will become a chalice according to Don) and razor. [12:55 pm]
  10. “Yellow dressinggown, ungirdled”? Gross. Did dudes girdle? I will never finish this page. Been reading for 30 mins. Need to power thru. [12:57 pm]
  11. 1st line of dialogue, Introibo ad altare Dei means I will go up to God’s altar. Said in Catholic Mass. Like Homer, an appeal to divinity. [1:05 pm]
  12. Also, Buck is having a laugh at Catholic ritual, & poking fun at his tower-mate (they’re living in an actual tower), Stephen. [1:08 pm]
  13. He gets Stephen to the towertop, calls him Kinch & fearful Jesuit. To Don, Kinch sounds like a cutting sound. Sounds a like stupid nickname. [1:10 pm]
  14. This guy is putting a lot into his shaving ritual. Why hasn’t Gillette optioned this for a commercial. The Mach Mulligan. Ba-dum-bump! [1:15 pm]
  15. There’s our boy, Stephen Dedalus. Displeased & sleepy. But I can’t tell who has the equine face, untonsured (!?) hair, pale oak complexion. [1:18 pm]
  16. Looking it up…and not finding it. I’m 65% sure it’s Stephen with the horseface. Been at this an hour. Need to pick up the freaking pace. [1:30 pm]
  17. Back to barracks…a military command. Buck has both national and religious significance. It’s tuff to do this under 140 characters, btw. [1:41 pm]
  18. To Don, the genuine Christine is jokey reference to black mass (and not Applegate), where a woman’s body is used as an altar. Weird joke. [1:45 pm]
  19. Chrysostomos is not a sentence! Is this the narrator speaking? Word means golden-mouth, referring to Buck’s gold-capped teeth and big mouth. [1:51 pm]
  20. Who’s he’s whistling to? And what’s the current? Looking it up… [1:53 pm]
  21. No idea who whistles back. Don & the comic are no help. Current seems to be the wind, which he’s telling god to turn off. What a jokester. [1:59 pm]
  22. If the plump shadowed face=Buck, then Stephen must have the horseface! Mystery solved! Can you have just one jowl? Checking… [2:01 pm]
  23. According to Webster, jowl just means slack flesh, usually associated with cheeks, lower jaw, throat. Buck probably has a double chin. [2:02]
  24. To Don, face description suggests Pope Alex VI, corrupt Renaissance leader/arts patron (good call?). Anyways, a symbol of decadent power. [2:07 pm]
  25. Buck makes fun of Stephen’s name. Stephen=1st Christian martyr; Dedalus=ancient Greek artificer, killed his own son with the wax wing plan. [2:08 pm]
  26. Stephen still hasn’t said anything yet. Just follows Buck onto the towertop, sits on the gunrest. Is he the resting gun? I’m going nutz.  [2:10 pm]
  27. And that’s it! Read page 1 in less than 2 hours. This is going to be a breeze! [2:11 pm] 
  28. Signing off. Need to do some actual work, even though this completely exhausted me. Maybe will take a nap. I end with all 16 followers! [2:13 pm]

So, let’s take stock of what happens on page 1. Buck comes to the top of the tower, where he’s living with Stephen. He brings a bowl of lather, a razor, and a mirror, supposedly to shave. He’s still in his yellow(ed?) pajamas. Before he begins to shave, Buck makes fun of Catholic ritual and Stephen (with a bunch of weird, not-funny jokes) while posing as a loud-mouthed, decadent authority figure. He intonation to God parallels to invocation to the muse at the beginning of the Odyssey.

He calls horsefaced Stephen up to the top of tower. Stephen just stares, probably just waking up, and probably annoyed that he was woken up to watch this dude shave. This is probably the roommate situation from hell.

Their residence here is based Joyce’s own brief unhappy residence at Martello Tower, built a century earlier to defend Dublin against a possible Napoleonic invasion. It was 40 ft high with thick walls. It’s single door was 10 ft off the ground, only reached by rope ladder. Sounds like fun, but that rope ladder would get old quick.

Picture 59Martello Tower.

Joyce lived there with Oliver Joseph St John Gogarty(who is now immortalized as the inspiration for Buck Mulligan). According to the Ellman biography, Joyce had a pretty unfortunate roommate situation living with Gogarty, who was sarcastic, a drunk, and probably really disrespectful of Joyce’s space. I’m imagining Taco Bell wrappers everywhere.

The setting of the top of the tower also recalls Hamlet (act 1, scene 5), where Hamlet confronts the ghost of his father.  Stephen definitely thinks of himself as a more Hamlet figure than a Telemachus one. And just coming off our funmaries, so would I. 

Some questions for discussion:

  • Who whistles back to Buck? Is this just the wind?
  • Who’s the narrator here? It’s definitely 3rd, but not necessarily omniscient or objective. Definitely seems to have it in for Buck.
  • What exactly does it mean to have *untonsured* hair?
  • What are the significance similarities/differences between Hamlet and Telemachus?
  • Is Buck’s reference to the feminine Christ a subtle nod to Dan Brown’s work?

Adopt-An-Episode Update: We’re only have a little over a third of the episodes in Ulysses adopted. Please find it in your heart to become a parent!

Picture 58

NEXT: I will read 10 pages and post tomorrow!

Adopt-An-Episode or they will die!


* = Technically, I read the first 2 pages of Ulysses. Page 1 just has a big letter and 2 words.


14 Responses

  1. Ok, I’m on board!
    I think the “equine” face is actually ol’ Buck, as Daedalus “leaned on his arms and looked coldly at” 1- the face that blessed him (equine in ITS length– unless D. is now an “it”) AND 2- the light hair (grained & hued). The sentence is set up w/ symmetry.
    Poor Daedalus– do you suppose he has to put up with this nonesense every morning?
    — Lizaanne

  2. Thanks to Mike Millard and Boston’s Phoenix newspaper for calling attention to our project in his great Bloomsday piece. It’s chock full of good info and clips! Thanks, Mike!

  3. Number of copies of Ulysses sold at my bookstore since I staff-picked it on Friday: 3

    Adjusted for literary deflation, that equals 345 copies of The DaVinci Code

  4. I may, but I need a while to get my feet wet first.

  5. Kudos to Jerry et al! I think getting to the 16th was a big step for Wandering Rocks. With the exception of one tardiness (I won’t name names, but his initials are Tad Smith), everyone has contributed beautifully….

    Here’s to a strong start, continued success!

  6. The information about the structuring in relation to the medieval thought process is exactly the kind of thing I’d miss reading it alone. It’s truly fascinating … thanks for the heads up!

  7. Erin Voreblog will take on an episode, preferably one at the end.

    Rather than read, Ben has opted to get a massage from his mother while I pour over Beez’s tweets.

  8. Oh, I’ll give you a tweet.

    I’ll give you a tweet sandwich.

    In the face.

  9. Yikes! Erin “Molly Bloom” Voreblog & Eric “Blazes Boylan” Bescak engage in a little online tweet for tat while Ben “Hamlet Dedalus” Voreblog gets a massage (message?) from his ghost mother!! Life imitates art imitating other art!

    The Hold Steady could not break up this marriage: will Jame Joyce?

  10. Joyce seems to be using synesthesia as part of SD’s disorientation with his world: “stirring silver points of anxiety in his eyes” (8) and “heard warm running sunlight” (10).

    • Or Joyce is just a sucker for cross-sensory metaphors. But you’re probably more right.

      Those are great lines. Thanks for calling attention.

  11. […] About Wandering Rocks ← Ulysses, p. 2-3 […]

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