Ulysses_TypefaceOh Jesus Christ! The chapter referred to by you scholarly types as Aeolus was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever read. Perhaps it’s no harder than the other chapters but I seem to have hit my first wall! In the struggle to find certain ground I find myself in a group of people talking way over my head – and to make matters worse ignoring me too! My post title refers to my feelings on the matter. I press on, but this chapter leaves me dizzy and I have to put it down every few pages to rest. Maybe I’m just going through a phase – can’t seem to string two words together right now – and I thought reading and writing were two different concerns! Anyhow, if a man puts a straw boater behind his red face – does that make him a tit? Sometimes Ulysses makes me wonder if I’m actually reading or just hallucinating – with words!

Once, a million years ago, I was tested on my ability to read the backwards type in a fresh case by what I then thought of then as an old man with black ink-stained fingers. I nearly went down that route as a career and the offices we find Bloom wandering through at the beginning of this episode seem vaguely familiar. It was good to start with something familiar, though the actual purpose of the HEADLINES escapes me. Some seem obscure – others vaguely amusing but it’s as hard as ever to discern quite what attitude to take to the reading of them. I wonder if this were an animation if those headlines might spin out at me? The impossible part of this chapter though is in trying to understand what the characters are talking about. Their conversation and train of thought seems to leap about and is constantly interrupted. It’s a busy office – a newspaper office – and they know very well what it is they are talking about. They know to what they allude and Joyce feels no compunction towards explanation. I mean I find it fairly obvious that the one-armed adulterer was Nelson – I got that straight off. My problem is that even when I recognise the personage I fail to grasp the point of the allusion.

Ulysses-Blavatsky-1Among the familiar, strange names crowd together on the printed page. Blavatsky springs out for me (my interest in Hinduism makes me aware of Theosophy) and I press on. For every ten things that escape me I seem then to fall on one thing I recognise and which partly motivates me to move forward. The other thing major problem that throws this reader off during this chapter is the shifting of the point of reference. We begin with Bloom (and therefore inside his head) and then lose him halfway through to Stephen. Normally the lack of speech marks can be overcome by common sense but here we get multiple speakers talking across one another and your guess is better than mine as to who is speaking to whom.

Grasping for straws of meaning at the end I gather the newsmen are off for a drink to continue their discussion. Bloom seems preoccupied by an advert for someone called Keyes which he is trying to ‘firm up’ and for which he has thought of a clever design – or so he thinks as no one else seems terribly interested or impressed. Stephen has delivered the article on Foot and Mouth – the one he took from the school master Deasey earlier on – though there seems to be some doubt as to whether or not it will see print.

Ulysses_NelsonQuestions are plentiful but in the main I’d like to know if this newspaper shares its offices. Not that it matters a great deal but I’m wondering if this Freeman’s Journal is on something like the Dublin equivalent of Fleet Street – are there other competing papers close by? Is it a free paper – paid for by advertising – or is there some reputation that goes with it? I suppose the meaning behind the conversation of the journalists (if that is what they are) will become clearer when I come back to read it through with notes and some much needed help, but there’s also Stephen’s story of the women climbing the tower and eating the plums. What is that? Is he telling a story or a joke or is it an idea for some kind of article? Is this his creative writing? Is it saleable? Is there a cash benefit to it or is he just idling with friends?

Having got something of the gist of what Bloom is about in his business I’m still not sure what Stephen does? What is his connection to the Freeman’s Journal? Is he hoping for publication of his own writing. I’m assuming he’s a writer – a would-be writer – maybe Joyce’s counterpart in the fiction. I’ve not read any other Joyce or even anything about him but from compiling the Hypertext Chapbook I thought I came across the idea that Stephen is some kind of continuation of the main character of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Joyce’s own character.

I make no bones about it – I am completely ignorant! Feel free to fill me in if I’m missing the elephant in the room. Ah! Just before I post I realise The Freeman’s Journal is or was a real newspaper! I hadn’t thought of that!



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6 thoughts on “K.M.G.B.A.

  1. The Freeman’s Journal was a regular newspaper and it was later incorporated into the Irish Independent which still exist, but has moved relatively recently. You can read old editions at irishnewsarchive.com.

    The journalists might well be the source of a lot of hot air as Aeolus was the god of wind and there is quite a lot of movement in this chapter.

    I live in Dublin and this is a great help in reading the book…but none at all in fathoming the ‘Parable of the Plums’. I’ve never read a convincing explanation of that one so don’t feel bad aboutit!
    Never mind, its lunchtime, so next up the The Laestrygonians.

    Davey Byrne’s is still in the same location but Burtons has gone. It is so easy to think of kindly Bloom feeding the seagulls as you walk across O’Connell bridge. Go enjoy it!

  2. The Freeman’s Journal backed onto the offices of the Evening Telegraph.

    One reference of the House of Keyes is The Church. The crossed keys are on the coat of arms of the papacy. The keys to heaven etc., so a salvation motif as well–Bloom the seeker?

  3. Aww, Jayz. So much here to talk about and I told myself I was going to let Michael’s fresh experience with the book be something for all of the readers to play with. But, sometimes, his questions are so much like my own during the first reading of the novel that I just can’t stay away. Okay, Michael, here’s some stuff;

    As Niall points out, “Aeolus” is indeed the god of the winds or, more important for this chapter, old windbags. Odysseus is given a bag of wind by the sea-god and it steers him on his way toward home. Men from his ship, however, suspect he’s got some fabulous treasure there that he’s unwilling to share and they open the bag while Odysseus is in sight of his home at ithaca. The ship and crew are instantly blown back where they came from and the sea-god is insulted and unwilling to be of further help.

    Stephen, in this chapter, has no job he cares for and no home to return to that night. He’s comforted for a time by the respect of Dublin intellectuals (or, in this case, newspapermen) who, respecting his talents, wish to offer him a home.

    Bloom, already a part of their society yet still shunned and apart from their graces, is working up-wind to accomplish a similar goal; to use his cleverness of mind to put him in goods with the editors.

    Their different courses will blow cross-purposes of the newspapermen this day.

    Stephen has no decent job and, in this chapter, his loneliness, hubris and acknowledged wit make him an excellent candidate for the brotherhood of newsmen.

    Bloom does fine for himself already, but his wandering, puzzling mind makes him think he’d like to be in this society of men.

    Both are blown off course in this chapter by the old windbags who surround them.

    The characters in this chapter are almost entirely biographical from Joyce’s time in Dublin. That happens often throughout the book, but to be mentioned here is not a good thing for a Dubliner in the day.

    I’m actually really protective of this chapter’s readability because, as a cartoonist, this is the one I feel is the purest comic strip. The trick is to see the events as they may’ve been drawn be E.C. Segar. Trust me. See it that way, and this is the funniest chapter ever.

    The “Parable of the Plums” is, as the novel goes, textbook oblique. But, hey, remember how in the “Hades” chapter Bloom’s ride in the carriage takes him past a plum-seller at Nelson’s Pillar just an hour or so earlier? Stephen takes that same experience and turns it a story Joyce might’ve written for DUBLINERS. He stakes the claim, then and forever, that Stephen won’t be a writer any less tan the author himself. He’s setting Stephen’s course wile Bloom’s, more confident and aware, is much less specific.

    Hades brings these two characters close and blows them apart. It’s a joke; a big fart-bag deciding what might happen but, here at least, never does.

    The disjointed, disaffected sexuality of the two old-maids who stop at Nelson’s Pillar (one of which was the imagined midwife carrying an abortion in chapter 3, by the way) spitting plum pits onto Dubliners below is a joke as well. Stephen uses it to say, “I’m not one of you, you know.”

    But in “Aelous” things are misdirected. Maybe we’re meant to see similarities here between Stephen and Bloom more directly. After all, this s the first chapter to draw direct and spoken comparison between the Irish and the Jews. That’s a source to keep in mind when reading the novel.

  4. points of trivia:

    -James Joyce’s first published short story, “The Sisters,” appeared in the pages of the *Irish Homestead* in the summer of 1904. What made this a little odd was that the Homestead was primarily an agricultural paper (it was nicknamed the “pig’s paper”), and would have made a more logical place to complain about hoof in mouth disease. But one of its editors was George Russell, a.k.a. AE, a central figure in the Dublin literary world, about whom we’ll be talking more in episode 9 (Scylla).

    I think the Parable of the Plums is meant to confound us exactly as much as the readers of “The Sisters” in the Irish Homestead must have been counfounded… Russell asked for something “simple” and “rural” for his readers, a little Thomas Hardy kinda thing. What he got was different. It’s a proto-draft of a short story that Stephen Dedalus will someday write in the parallel Bloomsday universe. I think we’re also meant to contrast Stephen’s story with the gassy oration that has preceeded it, as a way of seeing what the modernists felt they were up against, and a way to feel the urgency of their reaction against the encrusted forms of the Victorian world.

    Finally, Moses. From Mt. Pisgah, Moses sees the promised land he may not enter. From the top of Nelson’s pillar, the biddies see only Nelson, not the sprawling city around them that is the sole object of Joyce’s creative imaginaion.

  5. i’ve got some little bits to add here.
    2 on Stephen’s “Parable of the Plums”: first, the old ladies’ spitting their plumstones onto the pavement below shows Dublin’s sterility – if Stephen remains there, he’s dropping the seeds of his creativity onto infertile ground, wasting his potential. Second, it shows us his true calling; he wants to be a poet, but his real talent is in storytelling. Unfortunately, it’s a talent he gets from his father, and he has a problem with acknowledging any similarity with his father. He shows another one here, though, when he stands drinks for everyone. OH, and a third one: no one mentioned the contrast between Nelson and Parnell. In “Hades” we saw the platform for a Parnell statue that was never built because Parnell was ruined in Ireland for being an “adulterer.” but the hugest monument in Dublin is dedicated to an adulterer – and a British one. Stephen feels that Ireland not only destroys its would-be liberators but also embraces its oppressors.
    Then there’s the “House of Keyes” ad. Bloom even points out the “idea of Home Rule” inherent in the logo of the keys, while obviously the church stuff is there too.
    All that said, I like the idea of this chapter drawn by EC Segar!

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