ULYSSES Funmary #8: Lestrygonians

By JERRY GRIT

We’re back with Bloom, who is for the most part alone here. Sensual guy he is, his concern for food is central. Especially since he’s looking for lunch. Unlike the narcotic somnolent effect food has on us (as depicted in the postprandial “Lotus Eaters”) we’re preprandial here. His mind is alert. He’s on the hunt.

So “Lestrygonians” is told in food. So if we follow the food, we get a pretty good idea of what’s going on.  Cherchez l’aliment, as no one would ever say.

We begin with candy. Bloom sees a candystore sell “pineapple rock, lemon platt, butt scotch” to a teacher. These are those gross hard candies your grandma could not give away. Not an appetizing start. I’m sure the kids were thrilled. Bloom, a man with taste, does not stop.

Mmm...pineapple candy...

Mmm...pineapple candy...

And then we’re on to the lamb blood and burnt offerings of the evangelical flier Bloom gets handed and at first misreads as his own name. The misreading suggests the identification of Bloom with Christ, himself a big piece of meat or bread or fish or lamb or whatever (however a divine miracle).

And there’s a bit with food as trick, as Bloom tries to get gulls to mistake the flier he balls up as food. (Bloom’s own failed attempt at–or a Joycean slagging of–the Eucharistic miracle?)

Guilty for his shenanigans, he buys the birds cake from the apple cart. Food is everywhere.

But also from all the food thoughts, we see how much our physical, emotional, social, professional, political lives are tied up with food. All Bloom’s reflections are food-associated. Whether it be the mutton and chutney he served to Molly during happier days (possibly the night Rudy was conceived). Or the strange tastes Molly had when pregnant are linked to Mina Purefoy’s troubled third day of labor. The Plumtree’s Potted Meat ad poorly placed on the obituary page gives us insight into Bloom’s marketing acumen. That Plumtree placement is about as bad as this one…

Picture 125 Or this one…

Picture 126Or my favorite…

Picture 127

Along with food and eating, there are also the execratory parts. Enough said.  Poop happens.

The pinnacle scene in this book, is of course Bloom’s peak into the Burton. The Burton is a restaurant filled with this guy…

This intimately depicted gross eating recalls the man barbeque the Lestrygonians had of Odysseus’ fleet. And Bloom’s revulsion to the scene demonstrates a bit of his own snobbery. This is not a man we’ll find in line at the China Buffet. And it also shows the limits of his generosity. His nightmare vision of some kind of dystopia where we all somehow end up eating at the China Buffet suggests Bloom’s sensibly restrained politics. This is no socialist. Sure, he’ll help a dirty blind dude across the street, but don’t touch his potatoes.

Ulysses attempts to contain an entire life in one day. Here we get the full treatment of food’s role in our lived. How and what we eat/drink also says a lot about who we are.

The 6th beer that I’m having today says that I am an awesome dude.

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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?

Some Stuff To Know About Ulysses Before Reading It, Part 1: Ulysses and the Odyssey

By JERRY GRIT

I may have oversystematized “Ulysses.”
–J.J. to Samuel Beckett

To help everyone who’s preparing to read Ulysses beginning on June 16th (and even for those few eager beavers who started early), I will tell you about stuff that might help. And I will do so with slick levity, utilizing my marketing career-honed bulletpoint skill, to ensure–respectively–fun and easy-reading.
 
I’ll contain my first set of bullets to Ulysses’ tangled relationship to the Odyssey
 
Caveat: I am no expert. So take my information with great suspicion, or lax scrutiny.

  • The Odyssey takes place over years. Ulysses is just one day.
  • The Odyssey follows Odysseus all over the Mediterreanean. Bloom just wanders through Dublin.  
  • Leopold Bloom is a comic Odysseus. He’s an advertising salesman, not an exulted king/military leader. He can’t go home, not because a cyclops or a charybdis or a sea is in the way, but because he knows his wife (Molly Bloom) intends to boink a douchebag (Blazes Boylan). He’s also looked down upon by most his contacts because of their anti-semitism (Bloom is Jewish, furthering his identification with exiles…more on that later). And he has major paranoia and self-consciousness issues concerning his wife’s adultery and his own feelings of impotence. 
  • Leopold Bloom is a real-deal Odysseus. Whatever laughs J.J. intended with Bloom’s homeric parallel, it also amplifies Bloom’s more tragic and heroic characteristics. Much like Odysseus, Bloom is also motivated by the same love of home. But unlike Odysseus, his wife is unfaithful, his child died very young. His return to a loving home is irrecoverably lost to him. He also displays similar heroic qualities such as presence-of-mind and paternal protectiveness, generosity.
  •  The Odyssey is used to structure Ulysses. Although Joyce didn’t explicitly title his chapters based on the Odyssey, he did lay out the Odyssey-system in letters to various critics at the time (each chapter also has its own color, symbol, body organ, style, etc…we’ll get into that later…or not). Now it’s customary to see the book in three parts: Part 1. “The Telemachiad”–The first three chapters focusing mainly on the Telemachus-like character, Stephen Dedalus. Part 2. “The Odyssey”–The next 12 chapters (and the majority of the book) focusing mainly on Bloom’s wanderings, culminating in Bloom’s and Dedalus’ meeting in Dublin’s red-light district. Part 3. “The Nostos”–The last 3 chapters depicting Bloom’s homecoming and the infamous  “Penelope” chapter (an unpunctuated stream of Molly Bloom’s consciousness as she drifts to sleep).
  • Homeric references recur throughout Ulysses, to both comic and dramatic effect. There are cameos from a cyclops, sirens, a Nausicaa-like hottie. If you have the Odyssey fresh in mind, you can have a pretty satisfying time picking out the subtle (and not s0) correspondences.  

I’ll probably add to this list. I just started rereading the Odyssey (this time, the Fagles edition!). 29 days before we start our voyage, just enough time to do your own reading of the Odyssey!