Ulysses | [James Joyce]I’ve grown very fond of Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan’s  Naxos recording of James Joyce’s Ulysses.  No one is more surprised than I am.  I always expect a great classic of literature to be enunciated as distinctly and dully as any “Paradise Lost” or “Farie Queen”.  Sorry, but I live too far away in time to hear back that far.

I’m wrong.  Through Audible.com, I was given the opportunity to download, for free, as lively a radio show of Ulysses as I could ever expect to hear.  Imagine my good fortune.  I have had Pat Delaney’s Re-Joyce! to baby-step me through Stephen’s first three chapters.  I now can almost carry the emotional and intellectual weight of these passages.  Through the delight of these audio chapters, I can now fairly glide from chapter four to Scilla and Charybdis, and Wandering Rocks.

For anybody in the know, that’s still only halfway through the book.  It will still be a battle from there through Cattle of the Sun and Circe.  Life does calm down after that, and I enjoy the humor in the last three chapters (the Nostos).

I still have trouble with Sirens and Cyclops.  I have a better grasp of what Joyce is doing musically, but I don’t think I’ll be falling asleep to these chapters soon.  In Cattle of the Sun, I’ve become less intimidated by that tour-de-force of literary styles than in its commentary on the scene of ribald younger men and one respectful older men in the presence of women suffering the pain of childbirth.  No matter how clever Mulligan and Lynch wish to be, the narrative diminishes them.

Now I know why the chapter ends in incomprehensible jargon and patois.  We have descended, by the character’s debauchery, into the dreams and nightmares of the following Circe “play”.  As brilliantly as Norton handles the very many voices, I wish there were even more atmosphere and voices for a chapters that is almost four hours read aloud.

I never considered Ulysses as being as accessible as any radio broadcast that we keep in the background, and allow to grab our attention when we recognize anything interesting.  The thought of buying an audio of something that huge sounds too uninteresting.  But check out this paragraph from some anonymous reviewer on Amazon.com:

Ulysses is about language, but that makes it sound like it’s some godawful lumbering doorstop written by an English professor. (John Barth, come on down!) It doesn’t feel abstract at all; it’s full of sights (the band of old sweat inside Bloom’s hat), smells (restaurants, horse urine, flowers) and especially sounds (cats, printing presses, trams). I can’t think of any other book which transports you so completely to a different place and time. (It might’ve helped that I grew up in Dublin and knew most of the places that Joyce is writing about.) Borges described Joyce’s prose style, at least in the earlier half of the book, as “strong and delicate” and that’s a good description.

I’m happy to keep my Audible subscription for a few months, just in gratitude for this otherwise expensive spoken interpretation.  Thank you, Jim Norton and Marcella Riodan, for being anything other than dry.  Thank you for loving your characters, the narration, and Joyce.  Thank you also, Mr. Norton, for your pitch perfect interpretation of Joyce’s The Dead on Spotify.  I hope to hear your voice one day as I quietly read Joyce.


Step 2b: Maps & Digital Media

, , , the tower, the surrounding land and the awaking mountains

 I have high standards for maps.  Just click on the one at left. My background is in Geographical Information Systems.  Nothing could be so legible as my products, if they could be.  But I do not have the control over my blog maps that I could have otherwise..  Instead I tried to make my best product by emphasizing what would be important to the reader.

Above are four different Google Maps that I have spliced together in Snag-It! Image Editor.  This is much closer to the map I have in mind than a map that just lays down some pin or avatar representing some point of interest.  I’ve started now with one arrow for Telemachus at chapter 1.  Eventually, I might add another arrow for Dalkey, closer, by for chapter 2, Antinuous, and then a third for Sandymount in chapter 3.  This will eventually show Stephen’s walk into town.

Some might wonder why such a large expanse when all of chapter 1 barely leaves the tower, and then takes a few steps down to the Forty-Foot.  From the top of that tower, it might be difficult not to bless, three times, the tower, the surrounding land and the awaking mountains.  With little extra effort–and much benefit–I could change the extents to include Prospect Park (for Wandering Rocks), and then Ben of Howth (upon which Molly remembers in the last chapter).  By then, I probably can drop out markers for earlier areas.

Ben of Howth marks the northern end of Dublin Bay, where Leopold and Molly make love beneath the rhododendrons long ago.  The novel begins at the southern end and ends at the northern end.  I include the north of the Bay, where the drowned man might come to the surface.  The Kingstown Pier is just north of the Martello Tower, looking like an underfed crab.  It’s in chapter 2.  And all of Dublin, of course.  Tibradden Mountain and Two Rock Mountain rise just to the south of them.  That answered my questions about what mountains there could be on the island of Ireland.  Tibradden Mountain is the tallest.

However, we have enough.  I wish more apologists for Joyce would show those.  All the rest is easily explored.  I have a Google Map of every locations.  This becomes confusing with Wandering Rocks.  I haven’t figured out how to deal with this.

Very charming and informative is the Website Joyce Images.  It’s quite a scholarly accomplishment in my mind to have selected so many effective period images.  I hope to link some to the maps.  I hope also to link to some of the beautiful photos of Tibradden Mountain and of Two-Rock Mountain, two of the thrice-blessed awaking mountains.

Nothing provides context more quickly than a live maps with shaded reflief.  There might be a way that I could have the chapter sites reveal themselves one by one or two by two.  Once we reach the coastal plain of Dublin, the maps pointers of all chapters became dense.  I don’t believe they represent movement once they are crowded together.  An effective map might show the movement of dancing toward one another in the first five chapters, then away, then closer . . ..  In the case of Wandering Rocks, I would benefit from some better idea of how the characters move about.

Step 1b: Digital Workarounds

Not every idea, that I put forth, will work in the interface of the WordPress blog.  For those instances, I will insert screen captures–instead of relying on such devices as rollovers. Just click on a screen capture image.  It will then burst to life on a separate Web page.

At other times, instead of screen captures or html, I will rely on Scribd. Occasionally, I will ask you to simply view the text, with highlightings. This gives me more.  I can then embed the text in an iFrame, and it will look reasonably the same as the .pdf.  That’s easy enough. But, once again, this will be a flat file, with no pop-up rollovers. 

My greatest frustration is that the “underlinings” or “rollovers” do not work.  The text is flat.  Please do not bother to click on anything.  I could change some to hypertext in html, but I’m giving myself a lot fo work for only an approximation of the experience.  Please open up the .pdf and follow along for a great time.

Just to show you that I am game, I’ve taken the first half page and done it up with HTML rollovers. Just these four exhausted me. I can’t believe I “grew up” coding this stuff by hand.  If you “hover” your cursor over “this dogsbody to rid of vermin”, you will see a “hoverover” the way HTML does it.  But the meter is not respected at all.  This only increases the difficulty of reading the citation.  Grrrr!
Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coat-sleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.
―Look at yourself, he said, you dreadful bard!

Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft by a crooked crack. Hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too.

Step 1: A Gutenberg Copy

Page 1, Pre-1923 Edition

At left is the first page of chapter 1 of Ulysses, as published by the Gutenberg Project .  The Project is based the edition on pre-1923 texts, which would suggest that it is much closer in intent to the author’s wishes.  I love how the episodes are framed.  Above is the entirety of Mulligan’s part in the Black Mass.  The same will be true for each of Stephen’s internal monologue.  Each ends its page almost as a punchline (“omphalos” takes on a different meaning to me, on page 5.  Significant sounding elsewhere, framed here it is the last of dreary ideas.) And, in fact, this edition feels downright spacious compared to more modern editions.  Those look and feel like bricks.  Reading the digital copy, in its Arial size 12 font, is delightful, with all that margin space for my elbows.  Aaahhhh!

A clean unmarked page of Ulysses.  Some folks are highlighting and commenting like mad by page 1 above.  They are doing that on an analogue copy.  What if I saved you the effort?  And, at the same time, why don’t I try to be as unobtrusive as possible?

I have  chosen the first chapter for the project I’m describing.  I believe I have given just enough hyperlinks (one two three in this case), comments (147 or so), and my own personal approach to the Interior Monologue.  With Oxen of the Sun, Joyce goes completely wild.  In fairness, I hope to use these methods on the chapter Sirens.  I hope this will yield clarification to a ridiculously difficult chapter.

As with Burgess, I do believe that Ulysses is best tackled one chapter at a time.  The chapters do interconnect (we will see a good example of that), but not so much that the book has to be read in sequence.  If I’m offering the first chapter, then I believe you have the foundations for the next four or more.  Good luck to you!  I will explain my technique as we go along.

I love the thought of 18 or more “users” dividing their time to each of the 18 chapters.  This would be very rich for discussion, and any copy whole or in part would be infinitely duplicated.  Yes!  I like thinking about this idea.

Respect the Text

I must remember not to mark the text obtrusively.  There are three issues that I must address:

  • There must be at least one hyperlink, and hopefully only one.  Hyperlinks have become the faithful old horses of our digital lives.  However, too many and they can seem like the pieces of a piñata falling out of the sky.  For those in need of background, setting, a plot summary, etc.–could we make an agreement that one hyperlink beneath the chapter title–or else, at the first reference of a landmark–could lead to one special Web site, which could in turn lead to many?
  • We’ve now become accustomed to “rollovers”.  There are some great examples out there.  In Adobe Acrobat, rolling a cursor over a highlighted or underlined string of words will bring up a comment window.  Clicking on the string can bring up the entire text.  Very useful.  This is stealth commenting.  I must make these underlinings apparent, but I consider these lines to be no more obtrusive than penciled underlinings.
  • Finally, I desire to deal with Joyce’s Interior Monologue (or Internal Monologue) straightforwardly.  However, there are special advantages to the .pdf approach.  Adobe .pdf makes it quite clear that we are dealing with blocks of text, and not lines.  It’s how I believe the mind operates.  I mean to highlight, with a transparent gray, Stephen’s interior thoughts.  Some may believe this is intrusive.  I, on the other hand, believe that this is a useful tool for study.  Besides, why not do once and for all time what frustrated student have attempted manually for years?

As we will go along, I will be making some pretty obvious markings.  I will be able to justify them.  My markings obviate the inital confusion of encountering the interior monologue of Stephen and Leopold’s thoughts.  However, they do not turn the text into Cliff Notes.