Saturday, June 16, 2007


[Ulysses (1922), opening page of the 1961 Modern Library edition]
Today is Bloomsday, the 1904 Thursday on which most of the events of James Joyce's Ulysses take place. (The novel ends in the early morning hours of June 17.)

Ulysses begins:
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

Introibo ad altare Dei.

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:

—Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful jesuit.
The design of the Modern Library Ulysses (1934), with the first letters of the novel's three sections -- S, M, P -- filling whole pages, helped to elicit some wonderful if perhaps tenuous speculations about Joyce's art. S, M, P -- subject, middle, and predicate, the three parts of a syllogism. The letters have also been understood in terms of the novel's principal figures: S for Stephen Dedalus, the focus of Stephen Dedalus' section of the novel; M for Molly Bloom, to whom Leopold Bloom's thoughts always return; P for "Poldy," Molly's Leopold, to whom she said "yes I will Yes."

It may be no more than coincidence that the novel's first and last words reverse one another (s to y, y to s).
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