Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pages 129-131--The Riddles Continue

So this post will probably be briefer than the last, as we will only have a week in between. We're packing the meetings in since some of our members are traveling these next few months. The good news is that part of their trip will be to Dublin. We will of course expect a full report...

What did Joyce know and when did he know it? This in some sense was the "riddle" we posed ourselves at our last meeting. It's basically the question that comes up in discussions of authors all the time. How much of this was conscious and how much of it was accidental? My own position is that Joyce was at the intentional end of the spectrum. There might be some 'found' pieces in there, there could even be a multitude of them, but my sense of this is that if we think of them and make the connections, Joyce probably thought of them first.

But to get to the text. First just an odd coincidence which anyone who's reading the Wake will surely find life to be full of. At the bottom of page 128, Joyce  writes "piles big pelium on little ossas like the pilluls of hirculeads" At the moment I happen to be reading Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi and have just come across this part:

"Katsimbalis would take me on his monologues to Mt. Athos, to Pelion and Ossa, to Leonidion and Monemvasia".

Pelion and Ossa are both famous Greek mountains, and it turns out that in Greek mythology, the Aloadae are supposed to have tried to pile Ossa on Pelion (or as above, the reverse)  in order to storm Mt. Olympus and kidnap some goddesses.

But on to some of the things we picked out this last time. We liked "seven dovecotes cooclaim to have been pigeonheim to this homer, Smerrnion, Rhoebok, Kolonsreagh, Seapoint, Quayhowth, Ashtown, Ratheny", especially after we realized that "homer" referred not just to this homing pigeon, but that the cities just mentioned (or their proper variants) all claim to be the birthplace of Homer. Think that's over? Here's a little chamber of commerce type thing from Izmir formerly Smyrna, in the present day:

The first and the greatest poet of history and the poet of the legendary works named Iliad and Odyssey, Homer was born in İzmir. There is no other poet like Homer, who lived between 750-700 B.C. and affected all civilizations in the world. Seven cities claimed that Homer is their countryman. These cities are Salamis, Argos, Athens, Rhodes, Chios, Kolophon, and Smyrna. It is impossible for him to be from Salamis, Argos, Athens or Rhodos since he wrote his legends with a mixture of Ionian-Aeolian style that are particularly Anatolian dialects. He is said to be exiled to Chios. For this reason there is a place called Homer Rocks on the particular island. Moreover, the most favourite nickname of Homer was ‘Melesigenes’ which means ‘Child of Meles Brook’. It becomes obvious that Homer was born in İzmir since Meles Brook is located within the territory of the city.

Obvious-- right. Wonder what Rhodes would have to say...

We liked one true riddle here: "his first's a young rose and his second's French-Egyptian and his whole means a slump at Christie's." This sorts it self out as a.) Bud, b.) Nile or Nil  and c.) Null bid, which, as I don't think we quite got to, turns out to be and anagram of "Dublin". Or, as is common with Joyce, sort of.

And I liked, "the gleam of the glow of the shine of the sun through the dearth of the dirth on the blush of the brick of the viled ville of Barnehulme has dust turned to brown"

Twas purely for the sound...

Here's an interesting short article which I just found on the First Question, when I was trying to figure out what Barnehulme was (a Danish island, as it happens.)


  1. The question of "how much of this was conscious and how much of it was accidental" may be answered by Stephen Dedalus (whom one can take as the voice of JJ--at least the young one--much of the time), who says at p. 190 of Ulysses:

    "A man if genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery."

  2. It's an excellent "answer" to the riddle. I couldn't find it on page 190, but didn't you say at the meeting that it started with "Bosh!" or something like that?

    Because I liked that.

  3. Yes, I think it started with "Bosh, said Stephen." The p. 190 was what it said in the essay I was reading, but of course that would depend on what edition was referred to, and I couldn't find that reference anywhere.