Ulysses Funmary # 9: Scylla & Charybdis

Ok– it is long past time for me to write this funmary, but admittedly I’ve been bogged down in the minutie of academia (not unlike our librarians here).  So, after far too much ado and many apologies, through the twin dangers we must sail.

Now, in The Odyssey, Odysseus knows what dangers await him.  He has advanced warning from Circe (remember her?) and chooses to lose a few crew members to the many-headed monster Scylla rather than to lose his entire ship to the whirlpool of Charybdis.  We see just an echo of this as Steven Daedalus sails cautiously into the librarian’s discussion: “A hesitating soul taking arms against a sea of troubles, torn by conflicting doubts” (184).  We also get our first hint of how heavily Shakespeare and Hamlet are going to feature.  Despite his hesitations, though, Stevie soon jumps into the argument with both feet (and several other body parts as well).

In fact, take a moment to Brush Up Your Shakespeare and your Hamlet, ladies and gentlemen.

Don’t we all feel better about things now?

Odysseus and his crew spend their time gawking at the revolving, churning, spewing, and generally attention-seeking Charybdis.  Meanwhile, Scylla sneaks up behind from her cliff and grabs up 9 of the sailors for a snack.  Our Joyce has pulled a similar trick with this section.  He has us all gaping agog as Stevie argues round and round about Shakespeare, Hamlet, Anne, and assorted other personages{few of Stevie’s arguments are new ones, and most are terribly outlandish, but doesn’t he describe them well!}, so we nearly fail to notice the crucial things happening in the background.

What exactly is happening behind the scenes, you ask?  Well…

I’m sensing a list coming on:

1. Our characters are all gathering: Stevie, Buck, and Leo are all together at the same time, and young Kinch has just been and gone.

2. We are finally getting to see Stevie away from the world that makes him so uncomfortable.  While firmly entrenched in his murky library, he feels like the master puppeteer– manipulating minds with his words.  It is only at the end of the section that he reemerges “into a shattering daylight of no thoughts” (215).

3. Stevie, though he claims not to believe in his own argument, is living proof of his own “ghosting” theories.  Having left Ireland as a young man, he has returned to its shores to act out his scenes without truely experiencing them.  He cannot connect with the world around him, and instead lives in foggy flashbacks of his mother, his father, and his regrets.

4. Though he feels most comfortable in their company, we get the distinct feeling that the librarians are mocking Stevie– winding him up and watching him go through his dance.

Yet, for all the foaming verbiage of this chapter, despite its hushed reading room setting, Our Hero (well… our boyo at any rate) navigates himself safely and ends the section in a peaceful place, free from any foreboding omens, and on his way to the nearest pub.

Up next… Our Namesake!

ULYSSES Funmary #4: Calypso


All right, Folks, it’s time for another funmary!  Let’s hear it for Calypso!

The Calypso section serves as an introduction to Leopold Bloom, his family, his personal issues, and his role in the novel. 

In this chaper, Leo is the active character.  He’s the Energizer Bunny as he makes breakfast for himself, his wife, and the cat; goes to the butcher; gets the mail; defines a word for his wife; promises to return a library book; eats a kidney; reads a letter from his daughter; uses the outhouse; and throughout, he daydreams– particularly of lush gardens.  

Continuing with the Homeric parallels, the *Calypso* here is Molly Bloom.  She is still and quiet (except for her bedsprings).  She sits in her room as the queen bee at the center of her universe as Leopold buzzes busily around her.  Molly is the nymph of the title, holding Leopold to her; poor Leo is as effectively caught in a honey trap as Odysseus was.  The contrast, though, is that Leo is not desperate to leave [though he suspects her of cheating]. 

As Hermes arrives to Calypso’s island, so also several messages arrive to the Blooms, but unlike Zeus’s missive, these letters do not set Leopold free.  Instead, they tie him further to his family by reminding him of his and Molly’s daughter & their son. They also sour the honey a bit by reminding Leopold of Molly’s unfaithfulness.

Calypso gives us our first glimpse at Leopold in contrast to Stephen. To finish our funmary, let’s take a quick look at this awesome two-some

Stephen: is so over-educated that everything reminds him of a line of poetry; estranged from his father & uncle; Catholic; desperately single; poet who is teaching; booted out of his tower by roomate

Leopold: has trouble remembering history lessons and multiplication tables; strongly connected to wife & daughter; Jewish; married; salesman who is an aspiring writer; didn’t want to disturb wife in her room

Both: thinkers & daydreamers; have a dead family member & are both in mourning black; don’t practice their religion but are strongly influenced by it ; live on the edge of poverty; have no key to their homes 

Quite the pair.

Odyssey Funmaries #11: Hades (Book XI)


I will efficiently deal with this book in the 3 parts. Part 3’s most relevant to Ulysses.

PART 1: The Trip Down

Odysseus continues the long version of his story to the Phaeacians … he attempts to cut it short, but one of them claims that, “The night’s still young, I’d say the night’s endless”[11.422]. We’ve all had to deal with that guy.

Odysseus and the remains of his crew follow Circe’s detailed and bizarre instructions to get to Hades, where they need to find Tiresias, the blind prophet who will tell him how to get home.

They need to board a “black craft” which will pilot itself to their destination (the Knight Rider of the Mediterranean?). Odysseus needs to find where the River of Fire and the River of Tears meet, make some animal sacrifices, dig a trench, and fill it with the animal blood.

He then has to guard this bloody trench and wait for Tiresias to show. Blood is like coffee to the spirits. It gets them perky and chatty.

PART 2: Tiresias’ Prophecy

Tiresias the prophet shows up, drinks the blood, and basically tell how the rest of the Odyssey will go.

He says that Odysseus and crew will get home if they practice self-restraint. They better not touch the Oxen of the Sun on Thrinacia Island. If they do, his men and ship will be destroyed.

Given the crew’s history with self-control, they’re doomed.

If Odysseus is able to escape, Tiresias, tells him of the troubles he will face at home with the slobs. Once Odysseus kills all the slobs, Tiresias says he’ll have to take an oar on a trip “to a race of people who know nothing of the sea.” Then he has to make a sacrifice. He then says Odysseus will grow old and die peacefully.

PART 3: The Parade of Dead

Hades is not exactly Hell, despite Mark Hoobler’s descriptions to the contrary. At least in the Odyssey, Homer doesn’t conceive of an afterlife with a heaven and hell.

But it’s definitely hellish. Hades is like a open-invitation liquor-less cocktail party, where the great and the not-so great mingle and mope. Life in antiquity must have been miserable already, without antibiotics or Twitter. And then, they only had to look forward to an eternal dry mixer with a bunch of Debbie-downers. How did these people get out of bed?

So Odysseus runs into a bunch of friends and family, and has an unrelentingly depressing series of conversations.

He sees his mom, who tells him she died from missing him. “Gee, thanks, Mom. I’ve only been lost for 10 years and killed my entire fleet, but now I’m also responsible for your death.” She also tells him his dad is still alive, but is wrapped up in rags, sleeping with his goats. Odysseus tries to hug her, but she’s bodiless, of course.

He then meets up with a bunch of famous women, basically mortals who hooked up with gods (the goomahs of the gods?).

There’s also a reunion of the Archaean Rat Pack. Agamemnon-Sinatra, who understandably has a touch of the old misogyny after getting betrayed by his wife, bitches about the undependability of women and warns that Odysseus should be very skeptical of Penelope.

So even your own wife–never indulge her too far.
Never reveal the whole truth, whatever you may know;
just tell her a part of it, be sure to hide the rest. [11.500-502]

Great advice. Who is this, Tom Leykus?

Picture 6

If you don’t know Tom Leykus, he’s a really, really awesome guy. 

There are also appearances by Achilles, who now is not so hot on honor anymore, preferring to be a living slave than staying any longer in Hades. Leykus must be getting to him.

There are also cameos from Ajax, Elpenor, Sisyphus, Hercules (who had yet to achieve his 13th labor).

They complain about their fate and beg for dirt on their living children.

Since he’s still living, Odysseus can leave this horrible party. He sneaks out.

Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses in 8 days!

Board our dark craft to Wandering Rocks!

Odyssey Funmaries #10: Circe (Book X.CXLVI-DCXXXI)


Have you ever had a relationship end with someone telling you to “go to hell”? Count yourself lucky they were only being metaphorical. But our hero Odysseus has a funny way with the ladies.  So when Odysseus’ latest ‘island girl’ turns his shipmates into groveling swine at the beginning of the relationship, you probably could guess it will not end with “I hope we can still be friends.”  That’s right kids! Odysseus’ ‘black-hulled’ ship, aka The Love Boat, is making another island-hopping run!* Next stop: Aeaea**, stomping ground of the beautiful goddess/witch Circe***:

Wow! Stop staring boys!! If you could move your eyes for a moment just slightly to the right you will see our hero reflected in the mirror behind Circe!

Ok. Sorry for starting in media res. Let’s backtrack.

After losing the rest of his fleet, Odysseus charts a course for the Aeaean island. With the help of a god, Odysseus and the boys land on the island. Odysseus scales a raggedy height or commanding crag, as he is wont to do, to take visual stock of the situation and spies Circe’s lair. And here we are treated to some of that wily Odyssean logic that has kept him alive long after Achilles:

Mulling it over, I thought I’d scout the ground –

that fire aglow in the smoke, I saw it, true,

but soon enough this seemed the better plan:

I’d go back to shore and the swift ship first

feed the men, then send them out for scouting.  (the first emphasis is mine; the second O’s)

The great tactician at his best! Well, at least he is going to feed them first. 

So Odysseus sends his crew under Eurylocus (ancient Greek for ‘Unlucky’) to Circe’s palace. Almost as soon as they get there, Circe turns them all into pigs save Eurylocus, who had sensed a trap. Eury hightails it back to the beach and gives Odysseus the story. So Odysseus sets off on his own to save the day. On his way he encounters Hermes in the woods who gives him the much bally-hooed ‘Holy Moly’ that will protect him from Circe’s spells. The Gods love this guy! So Circe tries to work her dark magic on Odysseus, but her spell is as effective as trickle-down economics in the ‘80s: No luck. Odysseus draws his sword and Circe falls at his knees, begs mercy, says Hermes told her he would come, then implores him:

Come, sheathe your sword, let’s go to bed together,

mount my bed and mix in the magic work of love –

we’ll breed deep trust between us.

But Odysseus knows better! Hermes has warned him, Circe will ‘unman’ him (Circe-umcision!) unless he gets her to swear a binding oath. No more lies. Circe complies. Now – ‘at last’ – Odysseus gets his wandering rocks off. Soon thereafter he is bathed and oiled-up by Circe’s nymphy handmaidens who ‘perform the goddess’ household tasks’ (What is ancient Greek for ‘Playboy Mansion’?) At any rate, post rub-down Odysseus is sat down on a throne for a feast. I guess it is at this point that he remembers that his crewmates are still swine.  Here Odysseus draws the line. No winey-diney until the boys are men again. Circe works her magic in reverse. The crew are pigs no more. And all is well.

So well, in fact, that Odysseus decides to hang with witchy Circe for a FULL YEAR. Eventually the crew brings him to his senses. It is time to move on.

So Odysseus begs Circe that he might take leave of her. But as the old song sayeth, breaking up is hard to do. Circe keeps good on her promise to help Odysseus get back to Ithaca, but she has one little errand for our hero; he needs to make a little stop in the port-of-call known as Hell to see the seer Tiresias.

Bet he wishes she had just kept his favorite t-shirt…

Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses in 9 days!

Holy Moly, indeed.

* = Poor Achilles! You spent your Homeric epic killing people and being taunted with epic epithets! Who knew you could have spent your 24 books knocking leather sandals with every goddess or virginal nymph in the Mediterranean?? Well, most likely wily Odysseus with his golden tongue convinced old blind Homer to make him the hero of the more ‘romantic’ epic….I guess the pen is mightier than the sword! (Amateur Freudians can remove one of the spaces in that last sentence for some hermeneutic fun!!)

** = For Andrew Cashmere, and readers of Fitzgerald’s translation, ‘Aioli’ and ‘Kirke.’ Homeric scholars and amateur adventurers have been trying to find the real places our hero visited for about 2000 years or more. I think one of the things that has thrown them off is everyone spells them differently. Isn’t aioli a type of garlic mayo?

*** = Circe or Kirke, has a long history in western culture, including both Homer and Joyce. What you may not know, is that one hot summer night in 1970, after eating too many lotus plants and reading book X of The Odyssey, Don Henley and Glen Frey came under her spell.

Odyssey Funmaries #9: Laestrygonians (Book X.XXVIII-CXLV)


A lot happens here, but Odysseus is suspiciously short on the details.

Odysseus continues his woeful story to the Phaeacians. After losing the magical whooppee cushion (no Vore-esque restraint here), Odysseus describes how his fleet rows dejectedly for 6 days and ends up of the land of the Laestrygonians.

In the calm cove, all of the ships in Odysseus’ fleet tie themselves together. Odysseus alone anchors his ship separately outside this cove … and doesn’t really explain why.

Odysseus sees a plume of smoke and … unlike on Cyclops … he doesn’t investigate, but sends some crew instead. Again, highly suspicious.

3 random crewmembers go ashore to find the king of the land, King Antiphates, and run into his “strapping” daughter. According to Mirriam Webster,  “strapping” means “vigorously sturdy.” If you don’t know much about a land, and you run across a vigorously sturdy little girl, it might give you some concern about the size of its grown men.

She sends them off to the big palace. In the palace, they meet the queen, who’s huge. Surprise, the Laestrygonians are giants. And guess what giants like to eat?

Little dudes covered in olive oil.

The queen freaks and summons the king. He bursts in and snatches up one of the sailors and “tore him open for dinner.”

The 2 other sailors freak out and flee. The king calls out to his big peoples. With the entire fleet trapped and tied together in the cove (all but for Odysseus’ ship), the giants “speared the crew like fish” and took them home for Archaean shish kabobs.

Picture 2

Only Odysseus and his ship’s crew escapes. No more fleet.

This part of the story really bothers me. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Why does Odysseus dock away from the fleet? Why does he not go ashore? And why does he seem to know so much about the island, but not that it’s inhabited by man-eating giants?

My hunch: Odysseus is probably pissed about his crew letting the wind out of the bag. Vengefully, he serves them up. Odysseus, mad about losing the wind bag, becomes a douche bag.

Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses 10 days!

Get hungry for it!

Odyssey Funmaries #7: Cyclops (Book IX.LXXI-DCXXX)


Here we have the worst house guests in all antiquity vs. the worst host, in a competition for last.

Odysseus continues his tale of sorrow to the nagging Phaeacians (who aren’t letting the poor guy go). After fleeing the Lotus Dopers, and still way off course, his fleet of twelve ships runs aground in the land of the one-eyed Cyclops.

He describes them as a lawless people, “each a law to himself” [9.127] and that they don’t plow their land, relying instead on whatever grows … failing to account that farming may be tough without depth perception.

He also describes how their land is rich with wild bounty, overrun with fat goats and sheep, and teeming with fruit and wheat. You can hear the expansionist’s greed in Odysseus as he rhapsodizes on the natural resources the Cyclops haven’t plundered and ruined like “advanced” two-eyed civilizations.

He decides to take a closer look with his own ship’s crew to “probe the natives” [9.194] to find out whether they were violent and lawless, or stranger-loving and god-fearing. Quite a risk here, Odysseus … wagering you and your men’s lives to see if these people like strangers? I don’t think Odysseus is being completely forthcoming with his intentions.

So Odysseus says he and his crew go ashore and immediately come across a huge cavern, which is obviously a giant’s liar, and a giant who clearly does not mix with the other giants, given its isolation and fortification. It’s also clear from the cave that he is a “grim loner” … which is saying a lot given the lawlessness of your garden-variety Cyclops. Do we have here a Cyclops Unabomber?

So they enter the Unabomber’s cave. And given the cave’s organization, he’s also like the obsessive compulsive of the Cyclops, with all his cheeses and goats are well organized and racked according to type. Odysseus decides to hunker down and start eating “the bulk” of this guy’s cheese while waiting for him to return. I wonder how an OCD Unabomber Cyclops is going to take this?

The Cyclops known as Polyphemus comes back to the cave, shuts it up with a massive boulder, and sits down to do his chores … organizing his cheeses and goats. Finishing up his chores, he sees the hiding freeloaders. Odysseus announces they’re Agamemnon’s men (the Sinatra of the Achaeans) and that they were hoping they would get a warm welcome and gifts … he even threatens Polyphemus for hospitality, announcing, “strangers are sacred — Zeus will avenge their rights” [9.305].

Polyphemus grabs two of the freeloaders, “knocked them dead like pups,*” [9.325] and eats them.

Odysseus: 0
Polyphemus: 1

Thus goes the first night in Chez Cyclops. At dawn, the Polyphemus, grabs another two sailors for breakfast, and leaves for work, this time closing up the cave behind him with the giant boulder.

Odysseus: 0
Polyphemus: 2

And this is just like one of those lame A*Team scenarios. The villainous construction company imprisons the A*Team in a garage with welding equipment, a car, and a nail-gun. Here, they’re locked up in a cave with fire, a huge club, and knives. This team builds antiquity’s nail-spewing-tank equivalent: A giant stake. I wonder where that’s going?

Polyphemus comes home again, does all his chores (impromptu hostage-taking won’t distract him from his schedule), and eats two more men.

Odysseus: 0
Polyphemus: 3

Odysseus then offers up some wine to complement the taste of his men’s bodies: “Try this wine to top off / the banquet of human flesh you bolted down” [9. 387-388] … Odysseus, the wine steward? And again he brings up Polyphemus’ rudeness to his uninvited guests by imprisoning and eating them two at a time.

Cyclops drinks the wine down, wants some more, and demands Odysseus’ name.

“Nobody,” Odysseus says he said, “that’s my name. Nobody / so my Mother and father call me, all my friends.”

Polyphemus essentially responds, “I like you. I’ll eat you last.”

A drunk Polyphemus throws up and goes to bed. Just like every night during Ben’s teenage years. Odysseus gouges his eye out. Odysseus indulges in a gross descriptive passage of the scene, which results in a “red geyser of blood” [9.442]

Odysseus: 1
Polyphemus: 3

Polyphemus calls out to all the other Cyclops, who run to this cave and ask what’s going on. And Polyphemus responds, “Nobody’s friends…Nobodys killing me!” [9.454]. Yuck, yuck. Get it?

Odysseus: 2
Polyphemus: 3

Now completely blind, Polyphemus devises a strategy … a kind of game of Red Rover to the death. He opens up the cave and sits at the entrance, arms outstreched feeling up all that pass through. Odysseus straps each of his men to the underbelly of the goats to escape.

Odysseus: 3
Polyphemus: 3

Odysseus and crew flee to their ship and escape to their fleet. As they’re sailing away, Odysseus can’t help but gloat, but while still within Cyclops boulder-hurling range. Odysseus calls out the that the blinding is Zeus’ payback for not treating his unwelcomed visitors well. Polyphemus throws a rock almost hitting their boat. Odysseus’ crew tell him to shut up.

But the trash talk continues, and Odysseus can’t help but give his actual name. And why not? His address, too. At which point, Polyphemus reveals that he is son of Poseidon, the god of the sea (whoops!). Polyphemus plays the daddy card and prays that Odysseus gets hell.

Odysseus: 3
Polyphemus: 4

Polyphemus wins! The crew reunites with the rest of the fleet. But good times are not ahead. Although Odysseus is fated to return to Ithaca, it will be not without a bumps in the sea.

Way for a plan to come together, Odysseus!

Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses in 12 days!

Be highly awesome and get involved!

* = What the hell kind of simile is this? Who’s translating this thing, Michael Vick?

Odyssey Funmaries … THE REVISED SCHEDULE!

A quarter of the way through, popularity for the funmaries is through the roof! And folks are hungry for a piece of the action. We are scheduled to have 4 new contributors to our fun review of Homer’s Odyssey in preparation for our reading of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Tad, Mark Hoobler (deuce!), Andrew Sweeney, and Brooke (it’s a lady!) have all volunteered their reviews of key events in the Odyssey. Here’s the revised schedule with our new funmarizers, but with the same ridiculous color scheme! 

Picture 1

Write a funmary…

You won’t know how fun they are until you do!


* = You can still write one of Ben or Jerry’s Funmaries. Just let us know! Jerry’s totally freaking out!

** = Don’t expect much here.