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. 

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