Saturday, March 02, 2013

Another Sunny Day... so what went wrong? (Sundays With The Classics)

Today was a Ulysses day.  And as usual, not very much happened.  At the outset of today's segment, Father Conmee is getting over some racist thinking about how yellow and black people aren't going to heaven, and he glances out the window and sees a woman walking and muses to himself about how she is probably having an affair with her husband's brother but she won't really confess it -- she'll only half confess it -- and then he wanders around reading his Nones, which are prayers that are supposed to be read at 3 p.m.  As he walks around, musing about how great the day is, a young couple comes out of the hedge, and I'm pretty sure they were supposed to be having sex.

Joyce then does his usual "Everything good eventually leads to death" by abruptly cutting to Corny Kelleher, who is making a coffin lid.  It's not even very subtle, the sudden transition from "hey, here's a young couple snuck out of the hedges" to "Here's Corny Kelleher making a coffin lid," and for the rest of the time I read, the scene just jumped around: a mother and daughter complain about how the rag dealer didn't offer them anything for their rags and eat pea soup, the daughter (Boody) saying a prayer:  Our father who are not in Heaven as a complaint about how little food and money they have (and getting yelled at by her mother), a man buying a fruit basket to send to an invalid while he looks down the blouse of the girl who is putting it together and makes ribald (?) puns (asking to speak into her telephone when she catches him looking), some people talking about the news, a group of tourists going by, and so on.

Joyce does let us know that all this is happening at the same time through a bit of a literary trick: as Father Conmee is saying his nones and the couple is coming out of the hedge, Joyce writes that the woman picks a twig off of her skirt, and later in the chapter, after much comings and goings, Joyce writes that exact same sentence, which I took as a callback to the earlier part of the chapter; it's a neat little trick to say "This is all at once," without saying "This is all at once."

But that's really it, for this installment.  There wasn't anything remarkable, or even particularly poetic, or memorable, really.  The whole installment had a light, almost airy feeling to it, and even Joyce's constant reminders of death and poverty and the probable lack of a God couldn't really dampen the atmosphere of a pleasant afternoon just after lunch, and I suppose maybe that was his point.

He begins, anyway, with Father Conmee feeling benevolent, if not beatific, praying and even blessing the couple that was probably messing around and musing about how great life is, and moves through a series of people who are buying stuff for sick relatives or friends, or making coffins, or desperately wishing they could've sold some rags so they didn't have to subsist on charity-pea-soup from the nuns, and the entire picture is both one that is grim (people are sinning, and dying, and being poor) and amazingly bucolic -- so much so that the daughter's "prayer" about God not being in Heaven has a double-edge to it: a girl trying to get her mother's goat, and a girl reminding people that for all this apparent surface pleasantry, life is remarkably tough and that everything leads to death, even a pleasant afternoon.

Which, as I sit here on my own pleasant afternoon, is not a particularly fun thought to leave on.

Joyce isn't the only one to see a grim ending to a pleasant afternoon:

.
But I'm not letting Joyce, or Belle & Sebastian, bring me down.  I am going to eat some pizza, goddangit!

10 comments:

Andrew Leon said...

I have been told that today I may not have pizza...:(

Briane P said...

What??!?!??! Who is doing this to you?

Briane P said...

What??!?!??! Who is doing this to you?

Andrew Leon said...

My wife.
I have to go get pizza for my son and his friend in a bit here, and I was told in no uncertain terms to restrict my pizza buying to pizza -only- for them because I don't need it.
I is sad...

PT Dilloway, Grumpy Bulldog said...

I bet that stuff all happening at once would have been way more awesome in a movie.

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Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

I love your Ulysses posts.

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