More Beginnings Than Endings

c_a001I’m sitting back on my first chapter and it’s good to make a start. Legend has it that this novels has many levels and more than a few nooks and crannies to explore – that might be the understatement of the year, but I’ll let you who have been there already be the judge of that. I’m thinking that this first chapter may be lulling me into a false sense of security as in itself it didn’t seem terribly difficult to read. I’m fairly sure I’m not picking up everything but it began and ended and made some familiar narrative sense, so I’m grateful for that at least.

I might have to look a few things up to be sure. What’s an ashplant? All that Latin might as well be Greek to me. But all-in-all and carrying on regardless I like the banter between the men, even though I can’t be entirely sure of the strict meaning of the barbs being thrown about. I’m trying to put previous scraps of knowledge and overheard gossip out of my head while reading through for the first time and I’d like this first (!) read through to be as pure and virginal as myself possible.

It took me a few pages before I could put Rob’s comic pages out of my head. That’s not a criticism. As I say, I want to read the book first. I seriously can’t wait to come back and look at it in the new medium. Already I’m wondering if our dear artist has not bitten off more than he can chew. Exciting times ahead. I wouldn’t be anywhere else!

c_a012Obviously I’ve seen the comic pages that exist, and I realise there’s more to the text than what is immediately apparent, and there may be later versions with ,one assumes, corrections additions and deletions, but I couldn’t help notice the line “Where is his guncase?” in quotation marks in an early version of the comic interpretation but not here in my 1922 text. Those marks have now been removed – marks that made it seem like Stephen was reporting what Haines had shouted in the night. Without, it seems that Stephen is asking after his own safety as if Haines has a gun and might shoot him at any moment, either half-asleep or drunk maybe. I’m assuming Haines was calling out in his sleep but he could perhaps equally have been wide awake and drunk – or mad – I’m not sure.

Anyway if Stephen is reporting what Haines called out is there a mistake in the text (‘his’) or is Haines, in some feverish delusion, calling out for someone else’s guncase. I still prefer the thought that Stephen is concerned for his own safety. Mulligan seems the sarcastic one, adept at mimicking others, whereas Stephen seems less likely to do that, more uncertain, more likely to be afraid — even of unlikely consequences — but I admit I may be way off on that.

Also picking up false signals from outside the novel but I’m guessing there will be an issue with the key to the tower. The three main characters so far seem to be friendly on the surface, but there also seems to be an undercurrent of tension. I’m also picking up from somewhere the idea that Buck Mulligan, a character whose dialogue I could read for a long while, will not be around much of the rest of the novel. Shame – I liked his cruel language and thought for a moment I could hear my own voice.

Keeping on this theme of beginnings I’ve just been reminded and have now pulled off a very high shelf a first Penguin paperback edition of Homer’s The Odyssey translated by E.V. Rieu. Now, I’m not quite so daft as I always thought Homer was primarily a character in The Simpsons, but I can’t say I’ve gotten around to reading this one either. It’s one of many books from the collection left to me by my dear old dad before he passed on (and a subject to which I’ll return later). I believe it has some relevance to the novel, although what that might be seems rather beyond me at the moment. I realise from this very site that Telemachus is the chapter heading of the untitled section I have just read.

So is that one more book to read? Just how relevant is it? Will I need a companion read to that as well? This is going to take some chewing I can tell.


3 thoughts on “More Beginnings Than Endings

  1. An ashplant, Michael, is a wooden walking stick. It’s Stephen sword if Stephen is a Hamlet (yet another book to reference heavily in this chapter!). I’m actually curios if anyone has an idea of how Stephen’s ashplant should look as I happen to be drawing it in tomorrow’s page. Anyone got any specific ideas?

    You’re right about Stephen being in fear of his safety. The events here with the Haines and the gun come from a real-life story of why Joyce left the Martello tower. It’s not necessary for understanding the novel or this chapter, but its another amusing insider joke from the author. There’s plenty ofr them, believe me.

    Any Joyce fans out there want to tell Michael the story? I’ve got drawing to do….

  2. As i remember the black panther story, the characters are:
    James Joyce (“Stephen”)
    Oliver St. John Gogarty (“Mulligan”)
    Samuel Trench (“Haines”)
    Trench was an Irish-obsessed Englishman who was living in the tower after having recovered from malaria and often had delusional fits in his sleep. One night he woke from a nightmare convinced there was a panther in the room and started shooting. Gogarty decided to play into the insanity and yelled “Leave him to me!” He grabbed the gun and started shooting, apparently coming close to Joyce’s head. That was Joyce’s last night sleeping at the tower.
    Personally, I think the story seems embellished at best, but that’s how it goes.

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