“How can you own water really? It’s always flowing in a stream, never the same, which in the stream of life we trace. Because life is a stream.”—Thoughts of Leopold Bloom, James Joyce, Ulysses
So I’m rereading James Joyce’s Ulysses again, what, the fifth, sixth time? With an eye towards YouTube videos showing how wrong we’ve got it, how confused and beguiled we’ve become thanks to the so-called ‘experts’. And why it belongs on the very top shelf here at the Cafe as one of the truly profound works of the twentieth century.
Remember, as Joyce claimed, the idea underlying the works, no matter how difficult, complex they might appear at first glance, was always simple.
Alongside the reading I’ve been watching everything available on YouTube. Including the black and white full length movie I once watched alone in a dark viewing room of the Toronto Central Library. That was twenty-five years ago now, long before the Internet and YouTube.
Time flows, doesn’t it?
“Will you be as gods? Gaze in your omphalos.”—Thoughts of Stephen Dedalus, A.K.A. James Joyce, Ulysses
Oh my, it’s too much!
Anyway, watching all the videos, reading as much as I can get my hands on has motivated me to do a few videos, add my two cents to the discussion so to speak.
With that in mind the first video will be ‘The Ten Worst Misconceptions Hindering our Understanding and Enjoyment of James Joyce’s Ulysses.’
I guarantee if you’ve read, tried to read, or have contemplated reading Joyce’s monumental classic, especially if you’ve gone out and gotten some form of primer or watched YouTube for clues, my Ten Misconceptions will rock your world.
At number ten, an easy one, is the simple fact that:
Joyce is never ever wilfully, intentionally obscure. He is having fun, but he is NOT playing games.
Nine is also easy, or should be, although so many fall into its trap:
Ulysses is as much about ‘language and style’, at least ‘language’ in the English literary sense of the word, as Michelangelo’s David is ‘about’ marble or Beethoven’s Fifth is ‘about’ taut strings of steel vibrating over or within a resonant wooden box.
The point being, don’t be fooled, distracted by the rich play of language and style. Don’t lose the forest for the trees, as pretty much everyone does without exception.
Alright, not to spoil too many surprises, I’ll give you one more. A pretty big one, which is why it ranked as high as number three on my list.
Again, this might seem like it’s flying in the face of everything taught, everything discussed and debated concerning Ulysses, nevertheless, for a richer grasp of what’s truly at the heart of the book it is utterly indispensable:
At number three:
Molly, Bloom’s wife, is NOT ‘betraying’ him, nor ‘cheating’ upon him, nor being ‘unfaithful’ to him with the dandy Blazes Boylan.
Isn’t that what plagues Bloom the whole day through, the knowledge that Blazes and Molly have an assignation in the afternoon and that the program of the planned musical review is not the most important item on their agenda?
Come on folks, she is a thirty-three year old woman in the prime of life and the pink of health and her and her husband Bloom have not had sexual intercourse for ten years since of the death of their eleven day old son Rudy.
Molly is not being unfaithful to Bloom in taking on a lover, she is being ‘faithful’ to Life!
And I’ll just leave it at that for now.
“Because life is a stream,” ruminates Leopold Bloom.
Indeed it is….
And it is ALL there is….