Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oxen of the Sun

From Ulysses Oxen of the Sun episode:

Deshil Holles Eamus. Deshil Holles Eamus. Deshil Holles Eamus.

Send us, bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit. Send us, bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit. Send us, bright one, light one, Horhorn, quickening and wombfruit.

Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa! Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa! Hoopsa, boyaboy, hoopsa!

Universally that person's acumen is esteemed very little perceptive concerning whatsoever matters are being held as most profitably by mortals with sapience endowed to be studied who is ignorant of that which the most in doctrine erudite and certainly by reason of that in them high mind's ornament deserving of veneration constantly maintain when by general consent they affirm that other circumstances being equal by no exterior splendour is the prosperity of a nation more efficaciously asserted than by the measure of how far forward may have progressed the tribute of its solicitude for that proliferent continuance which of evils the original if it be absent when fortunately present constitutes the certain sign of omnipollent nature's incorrupted benefaction. For who is there who anything of some significance has apprehended but is conscious that that exterior splendour may be the surface of a downwardtending lutulent reality or on the contrary anyone so is there unilluminated as not to perceive that as no nature's boon can contend against the bounty of increase so it behoves every most just citizen to become the exhortator and admonisher of his semblables and to tremble lest what had in the past been by the nation excellently commenced might be in the future not with similar excellence accomplished if an inverecund habit shall have gradually traduced the honourable by ancestors transmitted customs to that thither of profundity that that one was audacious excessively who would have the hardihood to rise affirming that no more odious offence can for anyone be than to oblivious neglect to consign that evangel simultaneously command and promise which on all mortals with prophecy of abundance or with diminution's menace that exalted of reiteratedly procreating function ever irrevocably enjoined?

Seriously, am I supposed to understand what the hell this means? I can't figure out if Joyce really wants/intends readers to get what he's writing about, or whether it's some elaborate trick he played on us all...making us believe that somewhere in there, there is meaning, when in fact there isn't. And we...or, people who like Joyce, or want to like Joyce or something, have been wasting the last 80+ years trying to decipher this monster, when there is nothing to decipher.


Robby Virus said...

Oh God. Ulysses is on my reading list, and I've been dreading it, and reading this passage has affirmed for me why. Sigh. So should I read Ulysses first, or The Ambassadors?

Kristin said...

Oh, the 2 evils: Ulysses and The Ambassadors...yikes!

The Ambassadors made no sense. Check out Doug Shaw's review ( is what made me realize I wasn't just stupid. It was the book that was stupid.

Ulysses on the other hand, teases you. Pretty much every "episode" is written in a different style. One episode will allow you to mosey along, sort of understanding it, and then BAM - it doesn't make sense again. It's definately easier when you read a summary of the chapter first...becasue then you think maybe you are actually getting what is happening, even though you are probably not. It takes dedication to get through. I'm down to reading about 10 pages a day...I'll be done in October.

I keep reading reviews that say the trick to Ulysses is to remember that it's supposed to be funny. Funny how stupid it makes you feel? Funny at the laugh Joyce must have had about how he fooled everyone so well that people believe this is the best book of the 20th Century? I'm not sure. I guess there's humor in there somewhere.

If I had to choose, The Ambassadors or Ulysses, (I can't believe I'm going to say this) I would chose Ulysses. Yes, The Ambassadors somehow made it to #27 on the Modern Library List, and some consider it James's best, but in my opinion, that isn't saying a whole lot. On the other hand, Ulysses is considered THE GREAT WORK OF THE 20TH CENTURY! People have FESTIVALS and CELEBRATIONS of it! If nothing else, it will give you the ability to say, Yes, I read it, and to have an opinion about it one way or the other because you actually read it, unlike most other people. It's kind of like those t-shirts people get after hurricanes or riding a roller coaster or something: I survived Ulysses. They should make badges that say that.