Step 3b: Paring down to the Essentials

My MarkUp

At left, just the markings, I believe, the average American reader–me– might need.  In the hierarchy of citations, what you would want most to know most, in your first time through this chapter, is the following:

  • where the characters are located (supplied by the hyperlink to the Web site),
  • who they are (Buck makes his presence known.  He calls up to Kinch, whom we figure is Stephen/Kinch),
  • what they are doing (we need to learn that Buck is parodying Mass and needling Stephen; Stephen watches him with displeasure),
  • how they feel about one another (we can see that they view each other with contempt, though Stephen’s metaphor of the Trojan Horse is much subtler than Buck’s insults).

There is just a heck of a lot else.  The lines which draw a blank can become bewildering very fast if we try to understand everything.  I believe, from my experience fording one stream after another on a rainy hike in the Smoky Mountains, that too many options for crossing a stream only distract us from ever crossing well.  My one attempt at multi-tasking left a scar under my chin.  I am asking you frankly to ignore the other rocks and logs until you’re safely across.  Then, and only then, you can point to that nice big fat log up the stream and how we could have cross there.  And I’ll agree, but not before you’ve crossed once.

I love the following story.  Custer, as a young lieutenant, was watching two generals argue over how deep a stream was–and therefore how it would be crossed.  Custer had had enough.  He mounted his horse and rode to the middle of the stream.  “It’s about this deep, Sirs”.  Custer was good with a line, and bad with Indians.

Therefore, I sympathize.  How can I provide you with enough lilypads in the stream?  As I  struggled through my first few time, I would capture handfuls of explication from professors in my college career.    I looked forward to becoming an “adult” and reading Ulysses at a leisurely pace.  Har-har.

Biblioklept’s How to Read James Joyce’s Ulysses (and Why You Should Avoid “How-to” Guides Like This One) makes for funny and informative reading.  I don’t always agree with the author.  However, he/she make a great argument for roughing it, like an author in a National Geographic article.

I do love Biblioklept’s assessment of Ulysses Annotated, because such a critique will never be heeded.  I myself do not find it to be “dour” reading.  The book is impervious to criticism.  The worst I can say is that it would make for distracted reading.  That’s where I come in, as the annotations filter, the guy who tells you where the stones are in the stream.

Nabakov’s famous line on forgetting about looking for parallels with Homer is just that–one of Nabakov’s many, many famous lines.  I often believe that he found teaching literature to be a needling business.  I believe he felt that any good line he could launch at his students would corral them.  And now he’s dead and famous.  So, we believe him, right?

However, the French have Proust in all his volumes, and still they believe in le mot juste.   So, let’s see what’s necessary.


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