OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter Lestrygonians, Scylla & Charibdis. After the food, food for thought as Stephen expounds his promised theory of Shakespeare. Joyce is said to have lifted this from the works of Frank Harris who had published before the First World War a book called The Man Shakespeare, in which the relationship between the bard and Ann Hathaway is examined. Frank Harris is an interesting character in his own right, played by Jack Lemon in the film Cowboy. Reputedly he kidnapped a Mexican heiress from her hacienda and eloped with her over the Rio Grande! He became a London editor, a friend of Oscar Wilde and a publisher of H.G.Wells and Bernard Shaw. His four volume biography, My Life and Loves was banned for a time due to its explicit sexual content. So, if Joyce did borrow from him, he would seem a suitable source for inclusion in the similarly racy Ulysses.

Scylla & Charibdis are passed between quite neatly. You might almost miss it:

‘A man passed out between them, bowing, greeting.’

This is Bloom, stepping between Stephen and Mulligan. ‘The wandering jew’, Mulligan calls him as he goes. This chapter is ending, The Wandering Rocks is about to begin, with Father John Conmee S.J. Giving us a neat time-check: ‘Five to three.’

We travel with the good father, observing what he sees, and noting what he thinks. He is our insight into the church that Joyce resisted so strongly.

The chapter, like Aeolus is made up of discrete sections, though this time without headings. In the second we catch a glimpse of Molly’s arm:

‘from a window in Eccles street flung forth a coin.’

And in the next: ‘A plump bare generous arm shone, was seen,

held forth from a white petticoatbodice and taut shiftstraps.’

And then, a couple of paragraphs on, Blazes Boylan, as H.E.L.Y.’S. Men file past, as they did for Bloom.

The more you read on in this novel, the more you will see; and with each reading that amount will increase. Like a face you meet repeatedly, its detail etches itself into your consciousness.

McCoy, at the Dolphin, says, ‘After three’ and then ‘Who’s riding her?’

and we know the answer to that.

Yet so much of what is in here to recognise, will depend on what you already know, for this novel does not so much create a world as represent one, and it is not only the world of Dublin in 1904. Joyce gives us the world of his own reading and education, and if you have not shared that then you will have a massive landscape of references to discover before you can begin to see the landscape that he is painting here.

I had a grammar school education, and not a successful one. They managed to put me off Homer for half a century, but not quite forever! With Shakespeare – due to a single teacher – they failed utterly to put me off, so the Shakespearean allusions, puns and references came a little easier; but in classical Greek I’m all at sea. It’s the Sirens, though, the Misses Douce and Kennedy, who dominate the next scene, where Bloom eats in the restaurant, while in the bar of the Ormond, Simon Dedalus, and Ben Dollard sing. Boylan has also been there. Again, Bloom sees him, but he doesn’t see Bloom. This scene has the delightful Miss Douce snapping her stocking elastic beneath her skirt to sound the hour. Four O’clock. Blazes is eager to be away, and why wouldn’t he be?

We hear throughout the chapter a ‘tap’ that might make us think of Boylan knocking on Molly’s door, or of the blind strippling, who has left his tuning fork in the bar, and will return for it. There is a tapping insistence too about Boylan’s approaching romp with Molly, and lots of references to jingling and jauntiness. In a nice juxtaposition Joyce calls Boylan the ‘conquering hero’, whereas Bloom is the ‘unconquered’ one. Pretending to be answering an ad, Bloom, as Henry, writes to Martha. Throughout it all, the satiny bosoms of the two misses, rise and fall.

As our little reading group enters its fourth week, we’re heading through to our appointment with The Cyclops, of which more next blog.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA