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.

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


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…




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?

A “Lestrygonians” Preview and 13 Good Reasons


There are many reasons I’ve gone astray the last few weeks and haven’t been administering to full capacity. Here are 13 good ones…

1. I moved.
2. To a fixer-upper.
3. I got a metal shared in my eye.
4. It rusted.
5. It infected my eye.
6. I assembled these chairs.

They sort-of work, too.
They sort-of work, too.

7. I also painted them.

I mostly painted them.
I mostly painted them.

8. My cat is an unrelenting attention magnet.

How could you resist this pussens?
How could you resist this pussens?

9. I’ve been downturned by the Great American Downturn.
10. I’ve been working on upturning.
11. I’ve upturned.
12. I weeded this yard.

I haven't weeded in a decade.
I haven’t weeded in a decade.

13. Hey, I freaking moved!

But this is all behind us…all but for the infection and the cat. I am now able to focus my sophomoric scholarship and feeble wit on the next episode in Ulysses, “Lestrygonians”!

If you remember from my fun summary of the relevant episode from The Odyssey, this was the apex of Odysseus’ douche-y-ness. Peeved because 2 crew members let the air out of the Aeolus bag, he basically sets up his entire fleet to be shish kabob’d by a bunch of giants.

Turning to Ulysses, we’ll be thinking about who gets (metaphorically) eaten. And get ready for Bloom’s erotic musings!

Much thanks to Brendan for ably taking on the “Aeolus” episode. Tweets start tomorrow!