ULYSSES Funmary #8: Lestrygonians


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.


ULYSSES Recap, pp. 163-173 of “Lestrygonians”


**********Wandering Rocks Alert**********

Some dude in Dublin is also tweeting though Ulysses! (I discovered this when I hashtagged Ulysses… apparently the old “#” can be helpful when it’s not abused). He’s way back in “Hades,” but he’s not really summarizing a page per tweet. So he could catch up!

We must all make a vow. We must beat JODedia to page 783.

But the good news: I got us 1.3% closer to finishing today!  Here are the tweets.

163. LB recalls run-in w/cops at antiBrit protest. Thinks Corny an informer, how Brits get youth 2 rat. Admires Sinn Fein’s cell structure.
164. LB thinks of diff’t approaches 2 Irish Home Rule movement, but politics don’t change anything. Rich get richer. LB feels eaten&spewed.
165. Coincidences. Sees lesser bro of famous nationalist Parnell & AE, famous poet & Lizzie Twigg’s boss. AE is vegetarian, which LB mocks.
166. LB recalls unsuccessful vegetar’n attempt. Poetic impulse might b caused by diet. Windowshops 4 glasses. Folks lose stuff. Looks @ sun.
167. Wants 2 visit observatory 2 ask about parallax. But won’t change anything. Thinks of happier times w/MB, then of Boylan & lovers codes.
168. Recalls how life changed after Rudy died, no sex w/MB since. Ogles ladies underthings in shop. Knows he can’t go back. Goes 2 eat.
169. Goes 2 The Burton, filled w/men eating sloppy food. Wonders if he looks as sloppy eating. Place is gross. Wants 2 leave. Men order food
170. More revolting eating. Decides 2 go 2 Davy Byrne’s instead. Thinks of the horror of a communal eating future, would make men monsters
171. LB now thinks vegetarianism may not b bad. Enters Byrne’s clean quiet pub. Flynn’s there. Sees potted meat on shelf, still mad about ad
172. Orders a gorgonzola cheese sandwich. Flynn asks about MB’s concert tour and Boylan. LB plays cool, pays 4 sandwich, puts mustard on.
173. Worries Flynn knows, but decides he’s dumb. Flynn praises Boylan’s boxing gambling. Flynn asks 4 horserace tip. Bloom eats, admires bar

Again not much happening. Bloom is still wandering and hungry. He does some window shopping. He steps into one restaurant, finds it gross, leaves. Goes into a cleaner one, orders a cheese sandwich. His thoughts are on his wife, their happier times, Irish politics, food, the difference in the apparent direction of an object seen from 2 points of view (parallax).

I’ll go into the larger themes in this section in my funmary. Here, I want to be helpful in another way.

Those facing difficulty with this book (which is all of us) should take comfort that reading Ulysses is also a process of learning to read Ulysses. By closely attending to the text we get really important clues and directions about how this book works, not just what it’s about.

In the case of this chapter (and specifically these pages), key phrases occur to Bloom that give us a clear understanding of what to pay attention to.

For example, while Bloom thinks about Dixon, the doctor who bandaged him up after his scrape during some anti-British protests, he also notes how Dixon is also the same doctor attending to Mina Purefoy in her 3rd day of labor. At which he thinks “Wheels within wheels” [163], a cliche about our interconnectedness, adapted from the biblical description of God’s creation as four great wheels. (Dante has a field day with this. And so does Mick…but it’s not as good.)


When Bloom sees both Parnell’s brother and poet A.E. just after having thought about the history and politics of Irish nationalism, as well as the response he got from Lizzie Twigg (assistant to A.E.) to his ad he placed in the Irish Times, he thinks

Now that’s really a coincidence: second-time. Coming events cast their shadows before [165]

This is essentially the definition of hysteron proteron.

As we’ve noted before, this book works a lot through its interconnections and foreshadowing. That Bloom draws attention to these phenomena in his life centralizes their function in the book. Life may be rife with instances of Kevin-Bacon-degrees and Nic Cage’s knowledge of numbers, but so is this book. By paying attention to these phenomena in the book, we have a much richer experience of the book and as well new ways to appreciate and think about how these function in our own lives.

We can also make terrible, terrible movies about them.