Thursday, September 03, 2009

Best Well Played, James

Eumaues, the antepenultimate chapter of Ulysses, is perhaps the book's most "normal" chapter. It's an excellent way to follow up the madness of Circe's Night Town, the switch from hallucinatory stories to realistic, straightforward prose is a fine embodiment of the mental shift experienced here by Bloom and Stephen.

In this chapter our two heroes get to know each other a little better while hanging out in a cab stand, enjoying the company of the colorful characters found there. The chapter might seem dull, stylistically, when compared with anything else in Ulysses but if you need proof that Joyce can write almost totally straight prose better than most, this is a chapter to turn to. (Not to say the language is without inventiveness, he does employ the conjugated verb "Sherlockholmesing")

I like this excerpt where a sailor at the shelter tells a little story of Stephen's father's sharpshooting (I'll skip explaining that).

—I seen him shoot two eggs off two bottles at fifty yards over his shoulder. The left hand dead shot.

Though he was slightly hampered by an occasional stammer and his gestures being also clumsy as it was he did his best to explain.

—Bottle out there, say. Fifty yards measured. Eggs on the bottles. Cocks his gun over his shoulder. Aims.

He turned his body half round, shut up his right eye completely, then he screwed his features up some way sideways and glared out into the night with an unrepossessing cast of countenance.

—Pom, he then shouted once.

The entire audience waited, anticipating an additional detontion, there being still a further egg.

—Pom, he shouted twice.

Egg two evidently demolished, he nodded and winked, adding bloodthirstily:

Buffalo Bill shoots to kill,

Never missed nor he never will.

Now, if you'd excuse me, I need to finish this book.

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