ULYSSES Recap, pp. 151-162 of “Lestrygonians”

By JERRY GRIT

First, this should have been your face…

Second, here’s the first part of my tweet-thru Ulysses‘ “Lestrygonians” chapter, minus the shameless hashtag exploitation (which was completely unsuccessful in inflating our follower number).

151. LB wandering, handed religious flyer. Recalls glowing cross they lived by before. Sees SD’s sister. Criticizes church on contraception.

152. Thinks priests r fattys. SD’s sis looks starved. On bridge, sees beer barge, recalls Dodd joke. Tosses flyer 2 gulls. Admires gull wit.

153. Buys cakes 4 gulls. Wonders about swanmeat, why saltwater fish ain’t salty. Sees floating ad. Recalls ad placed @ urinal by clap doc.

154. Worries Blazes will give MB the clap. Thinks about parallax. Admires MBs common wit. Sees bad ad from old job. Recalls boss’ stupidity.

155. Recalls how hard it was 2 get nuns 2 pay. A nun invented barbed wire. Recalls happier days with MB before Rudy died. Walks along curb.

156. LB recalls better times w/MB, the night Rudy conceived. Runs into old flame Mrs Breen. Have small talk. Milly’s like a house on fire!

157. Breen asks about LB’s mourning clothes. Funeral talk. LB asks about husband. Mr Breen is nutz. LB smells food. Breen rummages in purse.

158. Breen describes Mr. B’s nightmare about dark figure & postcard rec’d w/only “U.P.” on it. He’s trying 2 sue. LB thinks about food.

159. Talk of Mina Purefoy’s troubled pregnancy, 3 days in labor. Another nut w/a long name walks by. Reminds Breen 2 get her nutty hubby.

160. LB thinks Alf sent U.P. card as bad joke. Passes Irish Times. Recalls ad placed 2 start sexy letters w/Martha C. LB bought ladys pantys.

161. LB pities Purefoy, Thinks about breastfeeding pain, that its time 2 invent painless pregnancy, how 2 promote savings. Heads 2 library.

162. LB recalls MBs pregnancy. Sees birds, covets aerial pooping. Sees cops, weak when eating. Poet statue @urinal. No public potty 4 ladys.

So we’re moving from the windy windbags of “Aeolus”, to hunger and food motifs. If you remember from my astute funmary of the relevant episode in The Odyssey, this was where Odysseus sets up his entire fleet to be eaten by a bunch of giants after they messed up the great bag o’wind.

We also return to Bloom’s internal monologue, which is my favorite place to be in this book. There are so many great lines here, and I don’t know if I’ll ever have the presence of mind to use them. Here are my favs from this reading:

  • It was a nun they say invented barbed wire.
  • Getting on like a house on fire.
  • He’s a caution to rattlesnakes.
  • Drink till they puke again like christians.
  • Smart girls writing something catch the eye at once. Everyone dying to know what she’s writing.
Hmm..."History is a nightmare from which I cannot wake"... Oh, no. That sounds pathetic!

Hmm..."History is a nightmare from which I cannot wake"... Oh, no. That sounds self-indulgent and pathetic!

As usual, not much is actually going on in this chapter. (Seriously, you’d think by now someone couldn’t have punched this thing up with a car chase or zombies. Zombies eat people, right?) So far, it’s about 1pm and Bloom is just wandering around feeling a little peckish; runs into an old flame (Mrs Breen); has a short, pleasant conversation; decides to head to the library to look up a newspaper ad; Mrs Breen gets eaten by a zombie.

All the while Bloom is being eaten by his thoughts (get it?). He’s remembering better days with his wife, before the death of their second child ten years ago. He’s thinking about the things he’s seeing: birds flying, bad advertising, crazy people.

As a marketing-type person, I’m especially struck by his critiques of ad placements and messaging strategies. He thinks there are a lot of great places to put ads (urinals, showcarts, the river), pretty much prophesying the commercial drenched world in which we live. Where are the great humanitarian’s ethics here?

And this is not the only place Bloom’s shortcomings become apparent. Passing by the Irish Times, he remembers the ad he placed for a typist that started his naughty correspondence with Martha Clifford. He also got a response from a Lizzie Twigg, who apparently came across as too “literary” for Bloom… “No time to do her hair drinking sloppy tea with a book of poetry.”

Real nice, Bloom.

Of course, this is coming from a writer who said about Gertrude Stein, “I hate intellectual women

That said, Bloom’s humanitarianism is also on display. He’s sympathetic to Mina Purefoy, who’s laid up in the the hospital on her third day of labor. (Purefoy’s labor will become of central significance in the “Oxen of the Sun” episode.) Which leads to his sympathies for women and the troubles they have in pregnancy. (These are pre-anesthetic times. Ladies were expected to bite on a stick and push.) He also has thought on the hypocrisy women suffer from the Roman Catholic Church’s rules on contraception and the utter lack of public ladies’ restrooms.

But underneath all these thoughts is the awareness of Blazes Boylan’s hook-up with his wife later that day. These thoughts serve to distract him from this realization, but even they betray him. Thinking about the urinal-adjacent ads about clap treatments triggers the fear that Boylan will transmit an STD to his wife.

If he…

O!

Eh?

No…No.

No, no. I don’t believe it. He wouldn’t surely?

No, no. [pp 153-154]

Of course Bloom’s habit of mind is to put such troublesome thoughts out of it, to “think no more about.” How long can Bloom keep this up? If he’s really worried about his wife getting gonorrhea (no joke during pre-penecillin days), shouldn’t he do more? What is it that’s holding him back? Will the zombies get to him first?

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