Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Ulysses Support Group: Sirens

Big pats on the back all round as we realise we have a third of the book under our belts. This section produced some polarised opinions. Some felt it was unneccessarily inscrutable and that Joyce could have written something just as evocative but more accessible; others found that the onomatopeic style led to some innovative and telling descriptions. Claire wins the 'close reading award' for pointing out that Bloom's companion in the bar is the self same awkward Uncle that Stephen Dedalus refers to in the first section.

Bloom as 'outsider' is becoming more and more clear: from the jibes of the barmaids, to his stealthy progress to the back room of the bar (avoiding Blazes Boylan and his notorious squeaky tan shoes) and his pointed preference for offal over the pub staple steak and kidney pie. Stephen Dedalus' father by contrast is seen as popular - in spite of his lofty 'bard' son.

Casting the barmaids as Sirens offers Joyce great scope for some jovial preening and flirting - but ultimately these women are selling liquor and potentially leading men from sobriety and towards oblivion (and it was pointed out that again, Joycian women appear to be conniving and villainous whilst the men are hapless but blameless). The deaf barman Pat, appears immune from the fawning of the barmaids - perhaps because he understands it is all for show. In a clever reversal of the musical theme, it is the men that play and sing (and we all came away from the section feeling a need to seek out the songs mentioned). Every character has their own rhythm and set of sounds which are often repeated - mimicing the Greek aural tradition of qualifying characters with descriptive adjectives e.g. the resourceful Telemachus. The effect of repeated desciptors or syllables throughout the passage divided opinion and was either intensely annoying or very innovative!

Pubs, music, irreverant chatter and gossip - all very Dublin and perhaps why some of the group found this section so entertaining.

Also, it is perhaps the clearest parallel between the text and the Odyssey that we have come across so far and because the Sirens are so well known, there was less time spent poring over the notes (no musical pun intended) and more time enjoying the language and the scene itself.

The next section - Cyclops - is a meaty 50 pages and so we shall reconvene at the Salamander (around 6:45pm) on the 19th July.

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