Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Best Holiday for People who Like Acting All Smart

One hundred years ago today, James Joyce and Nora Barnacle took a walk together in Dublin. Ever the romantic, Joyce chose to immortalize the date of his first outing with Nora by setting Ulysses, the story of a single day in Dublin as experienced by Stephen Dedalus and Mr. Leopold Bloom, on June 16, 1904, a date celebrated amongst devotees of Joyce’s as “Bloomsday.” I don’t know that I want to describe myself as a devotee of Joyce’s or as celebrating Bloomsday, but I do believe Ulysses to be the finest book I’ve ever read, and, until I read anything better, I’ll consider it the greatest literary work ever created by the hand of man alone.

At first I had written well over 1,000 words on Ulysses with quotes from secondary sources and everything, but I couldn’t even stand proofreading the post, let alone expect anyone to want to read it. So, instead, I’m just going to memorialize 100 years of June 16ths with some of my favorite quotes from Ulysses. While their strength and (at times) beauty are severely weakened by pulling them from their proper context in the book, I still hope you like them and I’d like to go on the record as to have said that I don’t believe that one will have fully enjoyed their mortal existence if they don’t take the time and make the effort to read Ulysses.

“Time shocked rebounds, shock by shock. Jousts, slush, and uproar of battles, the frozen deathspew of the slain, a shout of spear spikes baited with men’s bloodied guts.” (pg.32)

“The carcass lay on his path. He stopped, sniffed, stalked round it, brother, nosing closer, went round it, sniffing rapidly like a dog all over the dead dog’s bedraggled fell. Dogskull, dogsniff, eyes on the ground, moves to one great goal. Ah, poor dogsbody. Here lies poor dogsbody’s body.” (pg. 46) (It needs to be said that this is a description of a dog sniffing a dead dog, not an Irishman sniffing a dead dog.)

“A soft qualm regret, flowed down his backbone, increasing. Will happen, yes. Prevent. Useless: can’t move. Girl’s sweet light lips. Will happen too. He felt the flowing qualm spread over him. Useless to move now. Lips kissed, kissing kissed. Full gluey woman’s lips.” (pg. 67)

“(Closeclutched swift swifter with glareblareflare scudding they scootlootshoot lubering by. Baraabum!!)” (pg. 578)

And, for me, this last quote is just about the best bunch of words ever put together by man:

“What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?
The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.” (pg. 698)

I wrote these paragraphs on the 12th floor terrace of my apartment building on 3rd street in Greenwich Village with the sun setting and the day’s heat cooling off. I hope this post to be the stuffiest and most self-indulgent I ever put up on Steady Mobbin’, and I will make every effort to getting back to my typical nonsense as soon as possible.


Ryan said...

On a somewhat related note, I have to post my personal favorite Joyce quote, the classic sentence which closes 'The Dead' - "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead." Many moons ago I wrote a pesudo-classical piece based on this quote, which I have since remixed into a hydra-headed electronic creation. If I ever get it finished, I'll post the mp3 somewhere.

Brig said...

Too right, Ryan. In Bloomsday Post 1.0 (the super long version) I gave props to the Dead and it's ending, good to see it still made it up. There's nothing in the world like that last paragraph, reading it slows the beating of the human heart.