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“Love, yes”

January 10, 2007

One of my more delightful RSS feeds is James Joyce’s Ulysses: One Page Every Day. The idea is simple: you receive a page from the Project Gutenberg version of Ulysses in your reader every day. The chunks are very small, and only take a minute or two to read.

It’s not a good way to read Ulysses for the first time, but since I’ve read it through intensely once, and have been dipping in and out ever since, it works great. Often a conversation is cut off in the middle, but never a paragraph. Sometimes you’ll get an absolute gem, a masterpiece of stream-of-consciousness.

Today’s selection (page 217) was one of the best yet: the slice of conversation can stand alone sufficiently, and it contains one of the book’s best lines. It comes from the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode, which takes place in the Royal Library. Stephen is conversing with other literary types about Shakespeare, Ireland, and any number of other matters. Specifically in this snippet, the topic is Pericles. The themes speak to the main thread of Ulysses: that of father (Bloom) and son (Stephen) seeking one another. Here it is:

HOW MANY MILES TO DUBLIN? THREE SCORE AND TEN, SIR. WILL WE BE THERE BY CANDLELIGHT?

–Mr Brandes accepts it, Stephen said, as the first play of the closing period.

–Does he? What does Mr Sidney Lee, or Mr Simon Lazarus as some aver his name is, say of it?

–Marina, Stephen said, a child of storm, Miranda, a wonder, Perdita, that which was lost. What was lost is given back to him: his daughter’s child. MY DEAREST WIFE, Pericles says, WAS LIKE THIS MAID. Will any man love the daughter if he has not loved the mother?

–The art of being a grandfather, Mr Best gan murmur. L’ART D’ETRE GRAND …

–Will he not see reborn in her, with the memory of his own youth added, another image?

Do you know what you are talking about? Love, yes. Word known to all men. Amor vero aliquid alicui bonum vult unde et ea quae concupiscimus …

–His own image to a man with that queer thing genius is the standard of all experience, material and moral. Such an appeal will touch him. The images of other males of his blood will repel him. He will see in them grotesque attempts of nature to foretell or to repeat himself.

The benign forehead of the quaker librarian enkindled rosily with hope.

–I hope Mr Dedalus will work out his theory for the enlightenment of the public. And we ought to mention another Irish commentator, Mr George Bernard Shaw. Nor should we forget Mr Frank Harris. His articles on Shakespeare in the SATURDAY REVIEW were surely brilliant. Oddly enough he too draws for us an unhappy relation with the dark lady of the sonnets. The favoured rival is William Herbert, earl of Pembroke. I own that if the poet must be rejected such a rejection would seem more in harmony with–what shall I say?–our notions of what ought not to have been.

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