I forge ahead, but shortly after entering the forbidding jungle of meaning that is Chapter III, or part the third, or as I am reluctant to call it Proteus (I say reluctant as it seems the unnecessary addition of just one more word that escapes my understanding), I at last feel some sympathy for those who have indeed given up, lain down and expired on this Joycean journey.
Green Hell. I think it may be safe to say that everyone has a threshold for ‘this kind of thing’ and I can’t help feeling the desire for a sort of game-show type scenario (as at right) whereby readers are eliminated one by one. I myself have the uncomfortable feeling I’m about to take a short fall into the tank of gunge at any moment.
However, sheer meanness at the thought of wasting money prevents me from hurling the 1922 out of the nearest window. I am not a man to be defeated so easily. Well, not today anyway.
Did I not absorb the idea that Joyce was writing for the everyman. What a man the Everyman of 1922 must have been. A nation of Übermensch – something at least for a comicbook geek like be to appreciate – but I may be hopping back to Chapter one there.
Proteus finds our hero Stephen Dedalus wandering along the beach. I think he’s wandering – he may actually be going somewhere, but where is lost on me right now. This wandering recreation allows him far too much time to think and God help us, we are privy to all those jumbled thoughts. Anyone unsure of how a stream of consciousness might actually read – well – here it is. I do believe it gets worse – or better depending on your tolerance. Not being afraid of seeming stupid I might hazard a guess as to the thoughts I partly recognise. Kind reader, please be aware that this a live show and I’m am not referring to any written notes – only mental ones. So Stephen is wandering the beach, and help me out here, but does he actually make a visit to some relatives, an uncle perhaps, or is that part just another of his thoughts and recollections – a memory perhaps. He does some somewhat troubled – very non-specific – these seem the thoughts that any creative might reasonably dwell upon while strolling beaches and observing live dogs pondering dead dogs.
Hard to put a percentage on how much of this is going over my head, but I find in the language an odd rhythm that keeps me going and every now then a word pops up or a phrase is repeated that makes me think I’m swimming to shore – just before I lose sight of it again. Thankfully, though having given up before the end, I read enough of Swift’s political satire to know what a Houyhnhnm is. Well, that’s one word at least. A tiny victory.
But just what is Stephen thinking about? It must be something like looking into a crystal ball for a phony gypsy. The mists are clearing. I see a birth. A couple of (old?) women. A miscarriage. A liaison in France. A watery death. There’s hardly enough understanding to make any kind of guess, so it looks like I’ll have to fall back on some questions. Whose birth? His own? What’s all this French about? Is he remembering time spent as a student abroad? Who is Kevin Egan – a friend or lover (I’d not spent any time thinking there might be any homosexual themes in the book – and there still might not be). What’s this book of letters? And this death. His father? Does this have anything to do with Mulligan who “saved men from drowning”? See – I am reading it! Not just pretending. There is more, much, much more.
I could extrapolate all kinds of stories from this material, but instead I’ll keep it floating. I won’t go by myself down any one path, but keep it all in mind for the next chapter, which, I’m sure will only confuse me even more. At any rate the text indicates a break before part II. I’m three chapters in and I’m still positive I’ll get something out of it – don’t anyone crush my hopes, OK?