Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Slouching, thin Blog Meridian . . . "

. . . wishes for his readers a happy Bloomsday. This particular June 16th, I'm filled with fond memories of my first-ever reading of something by James Joyce: those pages of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that conclude with the Christmas dinner scene. I was taking my first creative writing class in high school back in the long-ago '70s, and our instructor had passed this out to us for an assignment that I no longer remember. I just remember reading it. I had never before read anything that so vividly rendered the rather bright and fragmented and abstract way that a child begins to perceive the world. We perceive only what Stephen perceives and only in the way that he perceives--though, like parents listening their children, we're compelled to translate. Some things are clear and clearly understood, but most of the world is mysterious in a "Here there be monsters" kind of way.
And this sentence, which I remember reading over and over and over again:

Dante shoved her chair violently aside and left the table, upsetting her napkinring which rolled slowly along the carpet and came to rest against the foot of an easychair.

The way that napkinring becomes so present in the mind's eye--not just visualized but almost SEEN, and at the climax of that emotion-packed scene, no less . . . I would not have been able to make this comparison back then (not having heard of him before), but it's like Vermeer in words.
Of course, Ulysses is the reason for this post, so I'll get on with things. It's because I was so enthralled with Portrait that I bought Ulysses and tried to read it for the first time while I was still in high school. I gave up after foundering in "Proteus"--Stephen was too smart for me then, and remains so today. But I tried again a few years later and, this time, made it all the way through.
I've since read it a few times and taught it (that is, I tried to teach it) twice. I don't pretend to understand everything contained therein. But, as Hugh Kenner says somewhere, it's a novel that teaches its reader how to read it. The key is that the reader must be a patient student.

Other book stuff . . .
I've given up on All Consuming, the little whatever-you-call-it that allowed me to post images of the books I claimed to be reading at the time. By its webmaster's own admission, he just couldn't maintain it as it needed to be. He sold it to some other entity, and my account now seems to be missing. So, as the attentive visitor will note, I've now become an Amazon Associate. Lest you think all I want and hope for is that you'll click on the links and spend obscene amounts of money and in so doing let me benefit a little from your financially-profligate ways (well, okay: that IS a tiny hope of mine), let me attempt to assuage your fears somewhat: I really just wanted a way to post images of stuff that I'm paying attention to, egotistically assuming that you might be curious about what a person such as the Meridian might be reading. I don't have enough traffic here to make any sort of REAL money off your purchases from Amazon through this site; and in any event, look at what I have posted there now. Democracy in America?? Selling like hotcakes . . . the week-old, moldy kind. The most-popular thing I've posted there--and I really AM reading the first one now--is the His Dark Materials trilogy. And while I highly recommend it to you, I do so because it'll be more intellectually-enriching to you than it will prove to be financially-enriching to me.


Seeing good ol' House of Leaves posted there with the other books reminds me to mention here that soon the Blog Meridian empire will officially stake out another portion of the blogosphere with a concordance to it and The Whalestoe Letters. That site is still, most definitely, under construction: once I get chapter II Concordanced, I'll more publicly post its URL . . . and then, of course, keep on Concordancing and adding to the site. So: something to look forward to.

So: Happy Bloomsday. Read a book: say, Aquinas, or some soft-core porn. Go strolling about your city's streets and keep track of the random thoughts that cross your mind even as you try not to think about other, considerably more painful, things. Time the number of minutes it takes to walk from Point A to Point B and then write a passage in which it takes that amount of time to read about a person's passage between those two points. Meditate at length on Hamlet. Make up a fictional family and place them in a house with an actual, locatable address but which happens to be vacant at the time the novel is set. Be reminded that you really DO love your Significant Other, even though you've just been unfaithful to that person. Or, you can start to (re)read Ulysses, which contains all the above, and more besides. Few novels are so full of life as it is.

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