Calypso 0040

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It’s pretty safe to say “The Bath of the Nymph” is not a real painting, so Rob modeled what’s hanging over the Blooms’ bed on this:

Once more, it sets up a fine joke for Joyce, one that will come back with a vengeance in the outhouse scene at the end of Calypso.  We are making fun of snobs, of pretentious people who want to put a fence around high culture and high art and literature with a capital L.  Like he did with Bloom’s Oriental visions earlier, Rob draws on kitschy art and pop culture of the time the same way Joyce does.  Bloom recalls that this “splendid masterpiece in art colours” was gotten through a penny-weekly magazine, one of the many cheap illustrated publications that sprung up as printing became much less expensive, photography more widespread, and demand for light, disposable, and slightly trashy reading material surged at the turn of the century.  Photo Bits was barely reading material at all, consisting mostly of soft-soft-core, vaguely erotic pin-up type pictures and ads for dubious quack health products.  Furthermore, the “masterpiece” over the bed functions primarily as an advertisement for Photo Bits, and is a purely commercial product–and Bloom thinks of it that way, remembering exactly how much he paid for the frame and how Molly thought of it in terms of interior decoration rather than art.  (It makes me think of this scene from Hannah and Her Sisters; you really get it if you watch the beginning, and then 3:39-4:04.)

It tells us something about Molly, too, that she reads Photo Bits and thinks this is something worth hanging over the bed.  But the nymphs also echo the allusions to Calypso, and remind Bloom of Molly herself:  “Not unlike her with her hair down.”  Nymphs, like Molly, are changeable.  We return to the real world with a smell of burn…


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