ULYSSES Funmary #5: The Lotus Eaters

by SCOOTER THOMAS

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Scooter Thomas, aspiring toward dolce far niente.

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My owners have asked me to write The Lotus Eaters Funmary for reasons which I find both flattering and deeply offensive. On one hand, they know that my astute critical analysis could enhance “The Lotus Eaters” chapter in illuminating and perhaps unexpected ways. I’ll take that as a compliment. On the other hand, they think that I, being a cat, am amply qualified to address themes of lethargy, drowsy complacence and lazy intoxication. Would that this vile canard die a quick and sudden death! Yes, our napping skills are superior to most, but that’s hardly reason to engage in gross slander against the entire feline species. One suspects humans think us totally worthless creatures incapable of rigorous scholarship or even basic motor skills. Yet again, I must light the candle of truth in this den of lies my owners call a home.

One other issue before we start: I must confess to feelings of loathing toward Mr. Bloom, who cowardly remarked to his own cat in the “Calypso” chapter — and I quote —

I never saw such a stupid pussens as the pussens.

This is really repugnant. He is a contemptible man. I will do my best not to stoop to his level, but I cannot confess to being an unbiased commentator. This monster really boils my blood.

Ahem. On with it, then.

I trust that the Wandering Rocks readership is fully aware of the Odyssean parallel Joyce is using here. In his (quite rambling) epic poem The Odyssey, Homer describes Odysseus and his men escaping from Calypso’s island and being driven by a storm to the land of the Lotus Eaters, where the natives “live upon that flower,” the taste of which saps all desire to do anything except take a nice long nap. Odysseus “rescues” them, if that is the correct word, from this life of lazy idleness. (This Odysseus sounds like quite the nagging busybody, does he not?)

Thus Joyce employs similar motifs of intoxication and escapism in his reimagining of “The Lotus Eaters.” We are treated to a panoply of yawn-inducing images: Mr. Bloom’s tea-inspired daydreams about the far east, with its “big lazy leaves” and “flowers of idleness”; the “lazy pooling swirl of liquor” spilled out of train barrels; the chemist’s shop with its “drugs [that] age you after mental excitement. Lethargy then. Why? Reaction. A lifetime in a night.” And consider the hour of day this takes place: mid-morning (the “slack hour,” as Bloomie calls it), as the contents of breakfast settle and everything in sight (a bed, the floor, the coffee table, an empty cardboard box) becomes a potential resting spot.

Joyce is not merely suggesting physical idleness either. Mr. Pervert Bloom’s worship experience at All Hallows offers a glimpse of spiritual stultification with its placating routines and comfortable ritual. (Congregants “don’t seem to chew” the communion wafer, only “swallow it down.”) Seeing as cats have usually not been welcome inside a Catholic church, I cannot speak from personal experience as to the verisimilitude of Bloomer’s impressions, though I find the idea of rinsing wine chalices with Guinness (or, for my tastes, port) rather inspired.

Finally we have the marital laziness of the Blooms, both trading love letters outside marriage; the one who won’t act on his impulses of infidelity is the one whose head we are trapped inside during this chapter, thus another type of complacence. On the subject of human infidelity and multiple partners, I will abstain from comment. We cats are not monogamous by nature, though I never had a say in the outcome as I was viciously castrated shortly after birth. (My current owners are not to blame for this, though my residual post-traumatic stress comes to bear against them first and foremost.)

On this note, I felt quite sympathetic toward the eunuchs Mr. Bloom considers when he looks at the choir loft, though I received no side benefit from losing my manhood such as a prolonged stay in the Papal Choir. No matter. My vocal skills are quite unpleasant. I would’ve sounded pretty much like my friend Burger here.

If my owners ever put me in a cage and stick a video camera in my face, so help me God — I will bring the pain like it has never been brought before.

(And lest you think that it’s cruel for poor Burger to be in a cage like that, you should know that he’s undergoing court-ordered rage counseling after second degree assault on his elderly owner’s ankles.)

Thank you for reading. I invite everyone to a spirited back-and-forth of intellectual discussion in the comment forum.

And Godspeed to “Hades”!

Mrkgnao!

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks, Scoots! I know how difficult it must be for you to type on an anthrocentric keyboard.

    Although it didn’t happen in this chapter, any thoughts on Bloom’s pitiful imitation of catspeak with “miaow!” (p.67) and the narrator’s faithful rendition of it with “Mrkgnao!”? What do you make of the difference? Anyway you could translate to humanspeak?

    My cat likes boxes, too!

  2. Boxes are great!

    I chalk Mr. Bloom’s pitiful imitation of catspeak up to the fact he’s an insensitive cretin.

    I’m hoping Stephen Deadalus bests him in an athletic competition of some sort, or just shivs him in the back.

  3. Bravo on your Funmary Scoots!

    Milk for the pussens! Milk for the pussens!

  4. Every cat knows the pussens was saying “Milk Now!” Thanks for the commentary – this episode is one of my favorites, feels most like Dublin to me.

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