Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 16 Bloomsday

June 16 is Bloomsday, the day when the action takes place in James Joyce's novel Ulysses in 1904. Leopold Bloom the main character doesn't have much work to do so he spends most of his day wandering around Dublin doing errands. He leaves his house on Eccles Street, walks south across the river Liffey, picks up a letter, buys a bar of soap and goes to the funeral of a man he did not know very well. In the afternoon he has a cheese sandwich, feeds the gulls on the river, helps a blind man cross the street and visits a couple of pubs. He thinks about his job, his wife, his daughter and his stillborn son. He muses about life, death and reincarnation. He knows his wife Molly is going to cheat on him that afternoon at his house. In the evening he wanders around the red light district of Dublin and meets up with a young writer Stephen Dedalus who is drunk. Leopold Bloom takes Stephen to his home and offers to let him spend the night. They stand outside looking at the stars for a while and then Bloom goes inside and climbs into bed with his wife. It is one of the best novels ever written in the English language.

One reason Ulysses was banned from coming into the US was Molly Bloom's soliloquy (or interior monologue) at the end of the book. It consists of eight enormous "sentences," with only two marks of punctuation. Molly accepts Leopold into her bed, frets about his health, then reminisces about their first meeting and about when she knew she was in love with him. The final words of Molly's reverie, and the very last words of the book, are:

"...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "

Joyce noted in a 1921 letter to Frank Budgen that "[t]he last word (human, all too human) is left to Penelope." (Molly Bloom is modeled on Ulysses Penelope) The episode both begins and ends with "yes," a word that Joyce described as "the female word" and that he said indicated "acquiescence and the end of all resistance."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Trails Plowed Under

A Few Words About Myself
by Charles Russell

The papers have been kind to me - many times more kind than true. Although I worked for many years on the range, I am not what the people think a cowboy should be. I was neither a good roper nor rider. I was a night wrangler. How good I was, I'll leave it for the people I worked for to say - there are a few of them living. In the spring I wrangled horses, in the fall I herded beef. I worked for the big outfits and always held my job.

I have many friends among cowmen and cowpunchers. I have always been what is called a good mixer - I had friends when I had nothing else. My friends were not always within the law, but I haven't said how law-abiding I was myself. I haven't been too bad nor too good to get along with.

Life has never been to serious with me - I lived to play and I'm playing yet. Laughs and good judgment have saved me many a black eye, but I don't laugh at others tears. I was a wild young man but age has made me gentle. I drank but never alone, and when I drank it was no secret. I am still friendly with drinking men.

My friends are mixed - preachers, priests and sinners. I belong to no church, but am friendly toward and respect all of them. I have always liked horses and since I was eight years have always owned a few.

I am old fashioned and peculiar in my dress. I am eccentric (that is a polite way of saying you're crazy). I believe in luck and have had lots of it.

To have talent is no credit to its owner; what man can't help he should get neither credit nor blame for - it's not his fault. I am an illustrator. There are lots better ones, but some worse. Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I'm that. Any time I cash in now, I win.