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!

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!

ULYSSES Funmary #6: Hades


Okay, so Saturday turned into Sunday (which is rapidly turning into Monday…) But! we are done with Hades in all of it’s gloominess. The good news is, friends, that we are out of hell. One can only assume that it’s just going to be kittens and rainbows from here on out!

I hope I’m not wrong! Anywho, back to “Hades.” So much has come to light about Bloom throughout this chapter. First I’m going to touch on how it related to its Homeric parallel. There are many bridges you can draw between the two. First of all and most obvious are the four rivers and Odysseus and crew must cross on the way to Hades and the four rivers the Dubliners cross on their way to the cemetery. In “The Odyssey” they are the Archeron, Pyriphlegethon, Cocytos and Styx and in “Ulysses” there is the Dodder, Grand Canal, Liffey and Grand Canal.

Odysseus finds out from Theban Theiresias that  there are a pack of men at his house trying to get there grubby little hands on his stuff and his woman. Right as Bloom is thinking of just such a man, Blazes Boylen passes by. But, unlike Penelope, Molly has (allegedly) accepted his advances.

There are characters from the two chapters that (the internet tells me) directly correspond. But what I find more interesting is the way that the dead appear to both Odysseus and Bloom but in different ways. Down in the real Hades, the dead approach Oddyseus, drink from the pool of blood and address him directly. For Bloom, they appear in his mind. Memories of those who have gone before him are triggered by images on his ride through Dublin and when he contemplates the whole idea of cemeteries and burial. Odysseus’s mother comes to him in Hades and Bloom’s father comes to him in his thoughts. And while Odysseus inquires about what has become of his son, Bloom wonders what would have become of Rudy, had he lived.

Another idea that we know going into this chapter (well, if you looked it up like I did) is that the organ of choice is the heart. Bloom thinks of it repeatedly as a part of the bodies machinery, pumping blood throughout and when it stops, game over. That was how Paddy Dignam died. In fact, Cunningham just says that singular word as an explanation, “Heart”. But there was another fleeting reference to the heart in the way that it relates to Catholic Ireland in their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This brings us to another theme in the book that was really driven home in this chapter and that is Bloom’s alienation from those around him. The greatest factor in this is religion. He is surrounded by (supposedly) practicing Catholics. Not only is he non-practicing but he is ethnically Jewish. And even though his mother is Irish, it seems it is his otherness that people see. There doesn’t seem to be any malicious intent to exclude him, he just exists on a different plane. Death means something completely different to him than it does to the other men. He can not give nor accept the condolences that they do. And the whole action of this chapter, the ride to the cemetery and the perfunctory activities of the requiem mass and burial, are meaningless to him. He believes it is of no consequence to the dead because they have ceased to exist and it is of no consolation to him as one of the living. He is at complete odds with the culture of Ireland in this way. It is also against his nature as a pragmatist. Mush of the chapter is spent with him thinking about how this is all a waste of money, land and other resources and how it could be done in a way that is more beneficial to those who are left on the earth above.

This is not to say that he is not a compassionate individual, though. I think we see just the opposite in this chapter. He notices the people around him, be they the family of the deceased or the people they’re passing in the carriage, and empathizes with them. And even when his first reaction is judgemental, after a moment of reflection, he can be more compassionate. When Simon goes on his Mulligan-induced rant, Bloom initially sees him as loud and pompous. But he turns on a dime when he realizes that, had only Rudy lived, he would probably be just as protective.

So there it is folks. There’s more I could write and I’m sure there’s much I’ve missed. Please fill in my blanks and discuss below. For now, I will leave you with a classic from the band Styx, named after the aforementioned river on the way to Hades. I dare say our friends Odysseus and Bloom might have been singing a tune like this to themselves as they were passing through those glimmering gates, on their way out of the underworld.

NEXT: Sail away with Brendan (new contributor!) as he sets sail for Aeolus!

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.

ULYSSES pp. 60-65, “Calypso”


Now that we’ve all had a chance to refuel (with our beverage of choice), time to get back on track with the next few pages of Calypso.  While the rest of the passengers are boarding, let’s take a few moments to review my tweets covering this section.  Pay careful attention, please, because Joyce loads us up with insight into Leopold and Molly Bloom over the course of these 6 pages:

60-LB buys sausage, avoiding eye contact w/ butcher; saunters back towards home, reading posters cut sheets adverting far-away farms; leads 2 daydream

61-recalls estranged friends; cloud brings dark thoughts of barren land & people; thinks of home & Molly 2 cheer up; @ home finds mail on mat

62-LB delivers postcard & letter 2 Molly in bed; moves dirty clothes; makes tea; cooks kidney; scans letter from daughter w/ fond memory

63-LB takes b-fast tray 2 Molly, sees she has opened letter; LB lavishly describes her body; letter is from her manager Boylan about concert

64-M asks L 2 define “metempsychosis” from her smutty book; he tries; he recalls day they met & how much he hates circuses; M wants new book

65-still explaining migration of souls; puts book in pocket; kidney burns; LB rescues it & eats alone in kitchen; thinks of daughter’s note

 Let me ‘splain– no, there is too much.  Let me sum up:

 1. Leo here follows the plan that he set out for himself earlier in the section, so we can see he is goal-oriented, which fits what we already know of him as a businessman.  He has his day planned out carefully.  So carefully, in fact, that he refuses to acknowledge any connection to the butcher (just as he previously only made small-talk with the store-keeper), lest it lead to something for which Leo is unprepared: “No: better not: another time” (60).  [side note– his reaction to Molly’s novel is certainly startling.  Who knew that Leo circus-o-phobic?]

2. Leo multi-tasks at home as he does the job of both husband and wife (cooking, tidying, bringing in the mail, organizing laundry, etc) because that slovenly, slug-a-bed Molly has yet to arise from her Spanish?, squeeky-springed mattress {as the astute Scooter Thomas noted, she is an excellent napper}; although she does awaken enough to gobble her breakfast and to clandestinely read the letter from her lover, Boylan.  

2a. As the first female character to be properly introduced in the novel, Madame Molly does not demand our sympathies.  Instead, she plays the part of the over-indulged and over-sexed nymphette to a tee (by having her tea and drinking it too, so to speak). 

2b. However, we do have her question about “metempsychosis” to thank for illuminating a central premise of this novel: the transference of Odysseus’s spirit into Leopold.  There’s also a nice little example for us pointing to Molly as a nymph.

3. Despite his domestic placidity, however, there are dark depths to our Irish Odysseus.  During his trip back home from the butcher’s, Leo is unexpectedly overcome by a wave of despair (interrupting another lovely daydream of ripening fruit in the Promised Land) when he sees a cloud pass over him–an example of pathetic fallacy in reverse.  This incident, although Leo dismisses it out of hand as “morning mouth” (61) clearly throws him off his stride.  It echoes Stephen’s previous imagery of barren lands and sexually-unproductive women, here with the added themes of the lost and abandoned Israelites throughout the world.  Leo’s feelings of loneliness and disconnection also match Odysseus’s emotions as he weeps at the shore of Calypso’s island. 

3. In another of his refreshing contrasts to Stephen, though, Leo does not wallow in his misery.  Thoughts of Molly lift him out of his funk and cheer him as he arrives home.  Thus, Leo manages to score two points up on our Stephen in that he successfully makes it back home without his key and he does it cheerfully [interestingly enough, Leo brings himself back by conjuring up pleasant sensory images– echoing the experiment Stephen was trying earlier]. OH– make that three points, Leo actually likes his family members and recalls them fondly, as evidenced by his brief flashback to when young Milly gave him the mustache cup for his birthday. 

Right, time for nibbles and questions.  Buy some sweets from the nice lady’s tray– mind the chocolate frogs. 

Questions for discussion:

–How many sexual innuendos did you count in these 6 pages?  The “tender gland” one doesn’t count as it is too easy. 

–What do you think was REALLY in that letter from young Master Boylan?

–Would you like to see the Blooms on an episode of “How Clean is Your House?”  Explain using details.

–Calculate the probability of the word “metempsychosis” appearing in an dirty novel about circuses to at least 10 decimal places.

Bonus points: 

 a. Jerry mentioned several posts ago that each section has its own color.  Can you identify the color for this section? 

b. Did you catch the cameo appearance of rosy-fingered Dawn?

ULYSSES p. 14-23, “Telemachus”


Seriously, these twreads are pretty awesome. I’m not missing a thing. You’re all suckers if you’re still reading the book.

  • P14. BM patronizes milkmaid. SD’s sympathetic to her but resents her submissiveness. Haines (Brit) speaks Gaelic, but maid doesnt understand.
  • P15. Haines guilts BM 2 pay milkmaid. BM underpays. Maid leaves. BM begs SD 2 bring money 4 drinks. BM 2 swim with Haines. SD doesn’t bathe.
  • P16. SD quips agn. Haines wants 2 collect SD’s quips. BM tries 2 get SD 2 ask Haines 4 $. SD refuses. BM resigned, says SD needs 2 play them.
  • P17. All get dressed 2 leave, SD takes cane & tower’s only key. All 3 walk together. Some tower talk. Haines asks 4 SD’s Hamlet theory.
  • P18. BM makes fun of theory, SD lets him. Haines says tower recalls Elsinore, one-ups w/another theory. SD feels odd as the only 1 in black.
  • P19. BM sings his own song about a joking Jesus, dances away. Haines laughs but says 2 SD he shouldn’t. Asks if SD a believer, SD rebuffs.
  • P20. Haines criticizes personal god idea. SD says SD’s misunderstood. SD knows they want 2 take the key. SD says SDs servant 2 church&England.
  • P21. SD’s esoteric thoughts about Church heresies, links thm 2 BM. Haines’ an antisemite. They watch boats. Mention Milly Bloom’s dirty? pic.
  • P22. BM gets ready 2 swim w/another dude already in sea. Old dude jumps out of sea. Redheads are horny liars. BM says he’s Adam, asks 4 key.
  • P23. SD gives BM key & money. BM extols theft & swims. Haines says theyll meet later. SD leaves knowing he’s been screwed & can’t come back.

So that brings us to the end of the “Telemachus” chapter. So far so good. 

Just a few more notes. I want to call attention to the subtle parallels to the Odyssey’s 1st books. We start with absent fathers (there are no dads here, but possibly for the old dude who pops out of the sea). There’s a milkmaid recalling Athena’s disguise, when she went to Telemachus to get him off his duff to find out about Odysseus. The maid shows up just as Stephen-Telemachus is usurped from his home, to begin his journey.

There are also a lot of references to the Irish Renaissance which was all the rage in turn-of-the-century Ireland (Yeats, Synge, and that crew), which meant to celebrate authentic Irish country folk (of the west, east was more cosmopolitan and British-influenced). The British rich guy Haines is there to collect Irish folklore and knows Gaelic. The old Irish lady is unfamiliar with Gaelic. It suggests Joyce’s dubiousness about this movement.

There are also references to what will be developed later: Stephen’s Hamlet theory, the “photo girl” picture of Milly Bloom (Leopold’s daughter), the drinking later that day.

My favorite word from this reading: dewsilky.

NEXT: Onward into “Nestor”! The “Telemachus” Funmary (huh?)

There’s still time to join the fun and recruit for more fun!

Odyssey Funmaries #18: Penelope (Book XXIII) **FINAL!**


As the first lady to contribute to Wandering Rocks, it is of course appropriate that I be the one funmarizing about our hero’s first lady, Penelope.

So as we know by now, back at the ranch, Penelope is on year 20 of same sh*t, different day. She has waited, weaved, unweaved, weaved again, unweaved again, wailed, whined, weaved some more and waited some more. I mean, it has been a really long freaking time.

Let’s put this in some perspective here: Remember Castaway? You know, Tom Hanks gets stuck on a tropical island, loses 140 pounds, learns how make fire and becomes BFF with a volleyball. All the while Helen Hunt keeps the search going for him, is told she’s crazy to think he’s still alive, holds a funeral, then finally gets over it and ‘lets him go.’ By the time Tom finally makes his odyssey back to Memphis, she’s married, has a new house, and even has a kid with the guy (a.k.a. “the suitor”). (But hey, at least she kept the car!) All this, in only FIVE YEARS, people. Five.

Picture 52You can’t wait 5 years for this guy?

I guess when you look at it from this vantage, it’s not so difficult to understand that Penelope was in bed and depressed, deep in an Athena-induced-Vicodin-like sleep, when Odysseus came home. Penelope literally slept through the genocide of every Ithacan prince who has bothered her for the last two decades. Now they’re all heaped in a burning pile out back, and Odysseus is softscrubbing the whole bloody palace. And when her faithful, lifetime nurse comes upstairs to tell Penelope that her husband finally got home, Penelope gets ticked off that she was awoken from the best sleep she’s had in ages.

When she learns that the suitors have been slaughtered, she’s pretty excited, but she still refuses to believe that her husband has returned. It must be the gods, she explains to her loony nurse. But they still go downstairs to check out the scene.

Odysseus, long-enduring though he is, is probably pushing 50, which is no small thing given the life-expectancy back then (50 was the old 90). Plus, he still looks like a bum, smells like the doghouse, and just washed off gallons of blood with more gallons of household disinfectant and whatever he used to “purify” the castle. So, again, you can’t begrudge Penelope for being a little apprehensive.

Telly throws a hissy-fit that mom and dad aren’t getting along, so dad delegates him to take the wait-staff and throw a fake wedding party, to cover up the groans coming from the pile of mostly dead guys. I mean, we can’t have the neighbors talking. Better to have them first feel bad about not being invited to the wedding, and then have to hear it through the grapevine that the “party” was actually a mass murder.

So off they go, leaving the old lovers to chat. They go back and forth—half flirting and half fighting about who is more stubborn, and eventually Odysseus, master of tactics, simply threatens to go sleep in the guest room.

Of course, Penelope’s got a few tricks up her own sleeve. And they all involve the bed. (Cue sleazy porn music… now.) Penelope, calls the maid in, and asks her to move the bed out of the bridal chamber for their strange guest to sleep on.

Odysseus calls her bluff and proceeds to tell all about his mighty craftsmanship in building their unmovable tree-bed. An original, DIYer, Odysseus built the bedroom himself–around a big olive tree. But since left no room for a BED (hello!?), he chopped off the top of the tree, and carved a bed right into the trunk. Alright, it’s pretty cool, but it’s no treehouse:

Picture 53

Complete with tree-toilet!

He responds:

Woman—your words, they cut me to the core!

Who could move my bed? Impossible task,

Even for some skilled craftsman—unless a god

Came down in person, quick to lend a hand,

Lifted it out with ease and moved it elsewhere.

Not a man on earth, not even at peak strength,

Would find it easy to prise it up and shift it, no,

A great sign, a hallmark lies in its construction.

I know, I built it myself—no one else…

Ah yes, the great bed. This is an important symbol in our main attraction, Ulysses readers, so wake up, wipe the drool off your desk, and write this in your moleskine: Bed.

So Penelope finally believes that it is Odysseus after he spills the beans on the big tree-bed secret. And it MUST be him, since the gods can’t read blueprints, no one else could possibly know about this crazy bed that Odysseus, ever the talker, so mightily crafted. But I digress. They are happy, and eventually make their way to the big soft bed to “delight in each other.” But not before Odysseus tells Penelope that he’s going to have to leave again on a dangerous trip and kill a bunch of farm animals in order to apologize to Poseidon. If he does that, though, then they get a long, full life together.

Athena keeps it dark out (making this the Longest. Night. Ever.), and they make their way to bed, and now “rejoice in each other,” and then get caught up on the last twenty years, eventually falling asleep.

And great Odysseus told his wife of the pains

He had dealt out to other men and all the hardships

He’d endured himself—his story first to last—

And she listened on, enchanted…

Sleep never sealed her eyes till all was told.

Wandering Rocks starts Ulysses To-freaking-day!!!

Follow along in real time as Jerry tweets his way through page 1!

Starts at noon-ish!