Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best I Have Returned from Joyce's Nighttown

The Circe chapter of Ulysses is the book's longest at 183 pages, nearly all of it consisting of hallucinations experienced by Bloom as he trails Stephen through the streets of Dublin's redlighty "Night Town" to the parlor of Bella Cohen's brothel. But this chapter is actually one of the book's easiest sections, if you ask me, because whenever it gets weird it's no big deal because it's all just hallucinations...of course, you have to caught on that he's hallucinating to reap this benefit and stay sharp to when it's not a hallucination. Also, the chapter is written as a drama with lots of stage directions, making it even easier to follow. In it's way.

Some excerpts, light on the context:

(A sinister figure leans on plaited legs against O'Beirne's wall, a visage unknown, injected with dark mercury. From under a wideleaved sombrero the figure regards him with evil eye.) (p. 436)

During most of the first part of Circe Bloom faces a hallucinatory trial where he is mostly slandered:


He is a marked man. Another girl's plait cut. Wanted: Jack the Ripper. A thousand pounds reward.


(Awed, whispers.) And in black. A mormon. Anarchist.

(pg. 470)

But is also sometimes transformed into the heroic leader of all of Ireland (here he greeting and serving his people):


(Shaking hands with a blind stripling.) My more than Brother! (Placing his arms round the shoulders of an old couple.) Dear old friends! (He plays pussy fourcorners with ragged boys and girls.) Peep! Bopeep! (He wheels twins in a perambulator.) Ticktacktwo wouldyousetashoe? (He performs juggler's tricks, draws red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet silk handkerchiefs from his mouth.) Roygbiv. 32 feet per second. (He consoles a widow.) Absence makes the heart grow younger. (He dances the Highland fling with grotesque antics.) Leg it, ye devils! (He kisses the bedsores of a palsied veteran.) Honourable wounds! (He trips up a fat policeman.) U.p: up. U.p: up. (He whispers in the ear of a blushing waitress and laughs kindly.) Ah, naughty, naughty! (He eats a raw turnip offered him by Maurice Butterly, farmer.) Fine! Splendid! (He refuses to accept three shillings offered him by Joseph Hynes, journalist.) My dear fellow, not at all! (He gives his coat to a beggar.) Please accept. (He takes part in a stomach race with elderly male and female cripples.) Come on, boys! Wriggle it, girls! (pg. 486)

And then he is called upon to administer wise counsel to his people:


What am I to do about my rates and taxes?


Pay them, my friend.


Thank you.

(pg. 487)

But Ruler Bloom falls from grace, his female subjects are distraught:

(Many most attractive and enthusiastic women also commit suicide by stabbing, drowning, drinking prussic acid, aconite, arsenic, opening their veins, refusing food, casting themselves under steamrollers, from the top of Nelson's Pillar, into the great vat of Guinness's brewery, asphyxiating themselves by placing their heads in gas ovens, hanging themselves in stylish garters, leaping from windows of different storeys.) (pg. 492)

Later, deeper inside Nighttown, curious signs begin to appear:


Silent means consent. (With little parted talons she captures his hand, her forefinger giving to his palm the passtouch of secret monitor, luring him to doom.) Hot hands cold gizzard. (pg. 501)

In the parlor, dancing ensues around the pianola:

(Zoe and Stephen turn boldly with looser swing. The twilight hours advance from long landshadows, dispersed, lagging, languideyed, their cheeks delicate with cipria and false faint bloom. They are in grey gauze with dark bat sleeves that flutter in the landbreeze.) (pg. 576)

An absolute favorite dance-description from my first read:

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

I could have shared so much more. I recommend this whole chapter.


sarah said...

Um, you may choose to have your text in white or another light color. Or perhaps you were going with a secret message?

Brigham said...

I was being spooky.

Side of Jeffrey said...

Somebody worked in Roygbiv into a novel? Bravo!