Sunday, February 19, 2012

The End of Book One

Although we met last Wednesday, I've been kind of holding off on writing up the meeting (or can pretend this was the reason, anyway) to see if Leslie would have time before her Arctic Lights tour to put up her blog post of the dinner she so deliciously put together for us. And just as I was thinking that I should get a few other items out of the way, lo, it has come to pass! So hie thee on over to eat.sing.ride to get the recipe of that fine repast. You can also get a sense of the group members as three of them are photographed there. (Not me, fortunately.)

So Leslie was inspired to make stew, Cathy was inspired to make blancmange for dessert--this was partly due to the not so Irish Downton Abbey, but also to the fact that she learned the Irish also make blancmange from an Irish seaweed called carrageen moss. I had first thought that she had found this as one of the gifts in the section we just finished, but in fact it was due to her own research into the matter. She duely found some of this stuff in town, popular here because it is a vegetarian thickener that can be used instead of gelatin, and proceeded to make a light and delicious dessert. (I should mention that not out of diligence, but in a hunt to remember where she had got this idea, I can attest that both blancmange and carrageen moss can be found within the universe that is Finnegans Wake.)

And I got a blog post for another blog I do on what was one of the gifts--pig iron , though Joyce has it as one word. "A brazen nose and pigiron mittens for Johnny Walker Beg".

Many gifts to us, then, and let us hope that these are not so ruinous and indicative of destiny as ALPs to her children. I asked in this meeting if we had talked the last time about ALP as Pandora, and no we hadn't--although we had talked about HCE as Gulliver. In any case, the feminine that looses the troubles of the world on us is also one of Anna Livia's aspects, according to one of the online sources I use here.

The 'official' part of the meeting began with Tom reading to us from a letter Jung wrote Joyce about Ulysses, congratulating and thanking him for it, while at the same time saying what a cursed struggle he'd had with it. It was not so much a damning with faint praise as it was a praising with faint damns.

And an  amusing and encouraging thing for  me was a rare quote he had from Nora Joyce, "Oh, Jim never understood women at all." This is a statement I tend to concur with.

We had only one short passage to read before we were able to have the rare treat of the master reading his own work, an audio recording that had been set to a strange youtube, dug up by the ever resourceful PQ of A Building Roam . I'll add the video here:

PQ also has a very meaty post on Robert Anton Wilson as his latest entry--which of course has some passing reference to Joyce as well.

As to the recording, we found among other things that it was easier to differentiate the two washerwomen in Joyce's reading of the conversation. It was actually very beautiful.

We finished up our evening with Tom reading Joseph Campbell's synopsis of the first book, with some recognition and some puzzlement on our parts. The general consensus is that we are getting better at this as we go along.

Let's hope so...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

page 208-?

That's right--it's almost two weeks since our meeting and I have no idea where we left off. I have a handful of almost indecipherable notes, which I am hoping will be some kind of clue to memory. Luckily I also have an annotated online version of the text, which should help jog a few thing out of the closets.

Oh, yeah. So where we are is that the washerwomen are commenting to each other about the spectacle of Anna Livia Plurabella, bedecking herself to leave the house--and HCE--to face the public on his behalf. One of the ingenious things that Joyce does here is to make ALP both a woman and river, and who better to comment on both than the washerwomen on the shores of the Liffey?

An example is couple of short sentences: "In whelk of her  mouths? Was her naze alight?" A whelk is both a pimple and a mollusk. Which of her mouths refers to her deltas, in the river sense but also presumably in a sexual sense, but also "in which of her mouths" may refer to at that time not entirely sanctioned sexual practices--if I read the footnotes right. As to the second sentence, a naze is a headland and "alight" makes it illuminated. But it also refers to the human Anna Livia, and is simply the question Is  her nose all right?

Anyway. Anna Livia has come out to distribute gifts to her children. In the section we read, they are listed. Most were somewhat opaque to us. As we came to realize that these gifts were not so much gifts so much as destinies, we wondered, do they get what they want, or what they need?

We got very involved in thinking about what Joyce was doing with language. As Tom pointed out, pretty much every word has  at least one other meaning, and all these words function as a portal to synchronicity. (We speculated on what would happen to us if we went through the book a few times-- that we would probably end up getting caught up contemplating each word, somewhat stoned by it, I suppose, thereby rendering ourselves unable to communicate with anybody other than other group members.) We also talked about language as that which gives us the possibility of memory and how language is a limit to the realization that everything is contemporaneous. And Joyce's attempt was to break through that limit.

I mentioned a scene from Philip Roth's American Pastoral, where something so slight happens that then brings up incestuous guilt in the mind of the narrator, even though anyone outside himself would view it as innocent. But the problem blossoms from this odd half innocent, half guilty moment, and I think we all got suddenly that this was also HCE's dilemma, and why he is not entirely able to fend off the accusations of the town's people. And yet, the event that happened is already gone, and only exists imperfectly in memory. And we pondered awhile on the waves that sprang out from that memory.

All of space and time, really, I'll add now. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jim the Penman!

James Joyce with Sylvia Beach

The S.C. Wakers had a rather exhilerating meeting last night and I should have a new post up before too long. But meanwhile, the day requires a tip of the hat to the master. Not only would Joyce himself have been 130 today, but his undisputed masterpiece (I call the Wake the disputed one) was published, or born 90 years ago. Two good pieces today--one from our roving correspondent, PQ, which is very well written and includes a link to Joyce reading from FW, and a tribute to Ulysses itself from none other than the Oxford University Press, which has a selection from the text.

In our group, we're used to thinking of Shem the Penman as something of a stand-in for Joyce, but last night our text actually referred to Jim the Penman, who was apparently a famous Victorian forger. I am sure that amused Joyce no end.