Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Wrapped Up Like a Cop-Out
Good morning, my lovelies. As the WULAD Productivity Patrol has unfortunately begun a period of fan-shit-hitting at the Day Job, this will be a week with few new offerings. Instead we'll be presenting some Grade A, bona fide recycled blog gems from the WULAD Archives, which we are pretty sure you either didn't read the first time, or have forgotten by now.

As tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the date commemorated in that pulp trash Ulysses, we'll start off our week of chewing the creative cud with last year's so-nerdy-you-can-barely-stand-it tribute to that pretty OK novel.

And next week... man, is the brilliance gonna be flyin'! You'll wet your damn pants, it'll be so good.

So now, imagine you are traveling deep into the past... farther and farther into the shrouded mists of yesteryear... all the way back to The Year 2003.

Bloomsday No. 99
...is upon us.

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

-- Introibo ad altare Dei.

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:

-- Come up, Kinch! Come up, you fearful jesuit!
...of course the first 18 Bloomsdays were unobserved since the Big Book hadn't been published. But in honor of that fateful day, we at WULAD are concentrating on things Joyce. (After some whiskey & ale, Shan-Bear & I spent some time in the gutter last night in honor of The Great Cataloguer's less polished moments.)

First of all, Jorn Barger runs the web's best omnibus of JJ info at IQ Infinity... there is a wealth of information here for all of the Canon, including extensive source info, pictures, history, sound samples, and the kind of scholarly discourse not likely to be found in the hallowed halls of academia.

My own semi-literate romp through Joyce's works (begun when this guy bought me my first copy of Portrait) is currently hovering over ReJoyce (corny title, the UK version has the more on-topic Here Comes Everybody) a loving and incisive overview of The Man's oeuvre by none other than Anthony Burgess (forever associated with violent guys in longjohns). Particularly interesting to me are his thoughts on the popular misconception of Joyce as primarily a trickster or hyper-intellectual whose main purpose was to confuse and dazzle the reader—Burgess rightly points out that underneath the technical and structural mastery of the books lie universal themes (fathers and sons, love and death, history and myth) that are served by technique but are not subservient to it. As a student of jazz, I've come to appreciate technical mastery only to the extent that it is in service to an idea, and lose interest when the mastery exists only for its own sake.

All of you should read Ulysses at some point in your lives. I had the good fortune to give it a whirl when I had a lot of down time at my old horrible job, and without getting overly verklempt, the connection I felt with the book's characters and their struggles (especially Stephen, Joyce's youthful parallel, coping with his mother's death, his seemingly stillborn artistic career, and tripping over his own ego at every turn). My favorite (simplistic) interpretation of the book's overall theme is the idea of Joyce's young and willful self (Stephen) meeting his older and wiser self (Bloom), and the lessons they might or might not learn from each other. Or as mentioned repeatedly in the book in various contexts, he is himself his own father.

And blah-ty blah blah. Where to begin? I recommend Gabler's corrected text (although any modern edition will suffice), and the following companion books are pretty near essential: The New Bloomsday Book, an excellent chapter-by-chapter synopsis by Harry Blamires; and Ulysses Annotated by Don Gifford, the most comprehensive line-by-line reference guide; as well as a good dictionary. Maybe read a chapter cold, then read the Blamires summary, then read it again with the annotations. I wish I'd read the whole book cold first, but I doubt I would've been able to finish it. The bottom line is enjoying the book and following the story line(s), so anything that helps the reader do that is OK by me. OK, semi-academic bullshit artist hat coming off.