This year’s online Bloomsday seminar via Facebook was a global conversation in the privacy of our own screens. Each of the eighteen short films, released online by Bloomsday in Melbourne at the hour set for each episode, were treated as the ‘papers’ to prompt online discussion. Episode 11 included contributions by Steve Carey, Sian Cartwright, Carly Ellis, Frances Devlin Glass, Sabia Mac Aodha, Margaret Newman, and Carol O’Connor, whose initials appear where their thoughts are represented in these analecta.
In the beginning, or very soon after, there was a sound poem. We are still listening to the flow and fragment and feel of that sound poem. These particles of sentences and words and letters are but the compression of the sound poem into our present. We hear them in the city, in some crowded space, or anywhere like a woodland, an iso-bar, and can hardly believe our ears.
Joyce signals in unusual ways things that will be described more fully later. Buck’s send-up of Stephen’s Shakespeare theory early in the story heralds the complete exposition of the theory itself, later in the Library. Inexplicable noises that we meet at the start of the bar scene at the Great Ormond Hotel are found in their full context as the full scene unfolds. They are everywhere, expanding and fluttering through the windows. By the time of the brothel scene and then Molly’s monologue, this pointed connection of words and sounds works in retrospect, as we hear the connections again, but from a different vantage point and with changing tones and inflections.
The word ‘jingle’ is used in relation to Blazes Boylan earlier in the story. (FDG) We hear it in Molly’s bedroom scenes. It is one of a number of words in the novel that are carefully used to signal resonances in the reader and connections of meaning. The happy word ‘jingle’ connotes anything but happiness for Bloom at this juncture. Sad song for a ‘jingle’.
The refrain “Sweetheart, goodbye” picks up on Bloom’s fears of cuckoldry. (Sian) Song lyric turns that way. What was discovered in bloom as a delight may, by a simple turn of time, become cause for sorrow, the song now a reminder of that which is lost.
Every episode pushes the boundaries of readers’ expectations a bit more, but if we had to identify where push comes to shove, so to speak, it’s the Great Ormond Hotel. The author gives no signs, no explanations about what’s happening. It’s the point where Bloom is really starting to crack, but it’s the most musical (literally) of moments, full of music. Inexplicable, the sound poem opening must have surprised in 1922 and even today is both beautiful and somewhat formidable.
Bloom’s own response is the word music going around in his head, making him dizzy with love words and love of words. Oh, the language of love. (CO)
‘Flood of warm jamjam.’ Bloom’s nostalgic love, resistant. Bloom in musical prose and syncopation, with singing elements. He never lost for she’s not gone. Meanwhile, an engagement in hypnotic revelry, rich allusion, and comfort. (MN) Yes, he never lost for she’s not gone. His love proves resistant to the present predicament, the immediate sense of loss. For even now, Bloom is already moving circuitously homeward. Homeward still, for he never lost for she’s not gone.
‘He smiled at bronze’s teabathed lips, at listening lips and eyes.’ The senses pervade, they swap roles and act as servants for each other, alive in the verisimilitude that Joyce would have us know as the Great Ormond Hotel.
Musemathematics. At which point on any given page do we say there is more Joyce than Bloom in that sentence? One scoffs at the literary critic who calls Bloom uneducated. There sits Bloom, in a crowded bar, far from the rooms of isolation, musing on the connections between music and mathematics, even as he absorbs the narcotic known as music to soften his own pain. Uneducated, indeed.
Musemathematics. We ponder the connections between music and mathematics, even as we resign ourselves to being hopeless at both. They are both languages guided by patterns and rules. (Sian) Music is not just time and rhythm, but understanding that the possibilities are endless: infinity, imagination, an ever-expanding universe. (SMA)
Musemathematics. But then wonder how much is the recorded thoughts in plain English at work in his mind. How much the passing sign, the glimmer of what goes on in his mind, made temporarily visible by words alone on the page of the novel. How much is Joyce’s words of what Joyce wants us to think is Bloom is thinking amid the sensuality of the present.
Musicians: a cupboard of instruments and a mad sketchbook of video plans. (CE) Photographers: a space between and chosen angles that will revisit their undarkening room. Actors: a closet of use-by finery and a dialogue of loose-fitting closeness. Writers: a ghost of vocabulary and a whole landscape of incorruptible syllables. Sculptors: a backyard of unrefused refuse and an installation of volcanic innuendo. &c.