Happy Bloomsday.

His heart astir he pushed in the door of the Burton restaurant. Stink gripped his trembling breath: pungent meatjuice, slop of greens. See the animals feed.

Men, men, men.

Perched on high stools by the bar, hats shoved back, at the tables calling for more bread no charge, swilling, wolfing gobfuls of sloppy food, their eyes bulging, wiping wetted moustaches. A pallid suetfaced young man polished his tumbler knife fork and spoon with his napkin. New set of microbes. A man with an infant’s saucestained napkin tucked round him shovelled gurgling soup down his gullet. A man spitting back on his plate: halfmasticated gristle: no teeth to chewchewchew it. Chump chop from the grill. Bolting to get it over. Sad booser’s eyes. Bitten off more than he can chew. Am I like that? See ourselves as others see us. Hungry man is an angry man. Working tooth and jaw. Don’t! O! A bone! That last pagan king of Ireland Cormac in the schoolpoem choked himself at Sletty southward of the Boyne. Wonder what he was eating. Something galoptious. Saint Patrick converted him to Christianity. Couldn’t swallow it all however.

— Roast beef and cabbage.

— One stew.

Smells of men. His gorge rose. Spaton sawdust, sweetish warmish cigarette smoke, reek of plug, spilt beer, men’s beery piss, the stale of ferment.

» photo of JJ is from the Réunion des musées nationaux.

Happy Bloomsday

June 16th is Bloomsday, the date that Leopold Bloom spends wandering the streets of Dublin in Ulysses.

The picture above is taken from Joyce Images, a site ‘dedicated to illustrating Ulysses using period documents’. And here’s a bit of Sirens:

Bronze by gold, Miss Douce’s head by Miss Kennedy’s head, over the crossblind of the Ormond bar heard the viceregal hoofs go by, ringing steel.
— Is that her? asked Miss Kennedy.
Miss Douce said yes, sitting with his ex, pearl grey and eau de Nil.
— Exquisite contrast, Miss Kennedy said.
When all agog Miss Douce said eagerly:
— Look at the fellow in the tall silk.
— Who? Where? gold asked more eagerly.
— In the second carriage, Miss Douce’s wet lips said, laughing in the sun. He’s looking. Mind till I see.
She darted, bronze, to the backmost corner, flattening her face against the pane in a halo of hurried breath.
Her wet lips tittered:
— He’s killed looking back.
She laughed:
— O wept! Aren’t men frightful idiots?
With sadness.
Miss Kennedy sauntered sadly from bright light, twining a loose hair behind an ear. Sauntering sadly, gold no more, she twisted twined a hair. Sadly she twined in sauntering gold hair behind a curving ear.
— It’s them has the fine times, sadly then she said.

The Plot Against America – Philip Roth

The NY Times ‘sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years”‘. You can see the list of works that got more than one vote here. I’ve read embarrassingly few of them; one that I have read is the most recent, Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, which I read in Spain.

Considering the glowing reviews I read, I thought it was completely ordinary. The historical aspect of it – the speculation of how the US could have wandered into fascism under a Lindbergh presidency – was quite interesting and convincingly done. But as a literary work it did nothing for me. It felt like it could have been written by a journalist or a historian to make a historical point. I was reading it directly after some Pynchon, which probably made the style seem a bit flat in comparison, but still, the characterisation and dialogue seemed unremarkable to me. Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood for it, and I’m pretty sure that if it had been set in, say, Surrey instead of Newark it would have been more immediate for me, but I still wonder how it would have been received if it didn’t have Roth’s name attached to it.

The Pynchon, on the other hand (Gravity’s Rainbow), clearly was a remarkable bit of writing, but I’m not sure it was more than the sum of its parts. I think that’s generally a problem, though, with these sprawling, disjointed modernist novels going right back to Joyce and indeed Sterne – can the diversions and oddities justify themselves.

Anyway, I’m now rambling. I think it’s probably a mistake trying to talk coherently about literature and listen to the cricket at the same time. Jayawardene and Maharoof are doing a good job at the moment settling down the Sri Lankans but

And at that moment Hoggard took Maharoof’s wicket, caught and bowled. Leaving Sri Lanka on 129/7 in reply to 551/6 declared, which, in translation for my American readers, means they’re almost certainly going to get thrashed.

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