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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ANOTHER TWO TRICK QUESTIONS ABOUT ULYSSES: I’M MELTING…..

I would like to add a bit more about the overall context of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz allusion I’ve discovered in Ulysses. I already claimed that the two instances where a character says "I'm melting" (first Buck, then Zoe) in Ulysses are part of an extended allusion to Baum’s Oz world.

However, I am not so foolish as to claim the Oz allusion to be the ONLY allusion implicit in "I'm melting". There are actually TWO MORE allusions hidden in that melting wax, one more amazing than the next, and all three of these allusions (i.e., including the Oz allusion) are connected to each other in an even more amazing web of intertextuality.

The first such other allusion is hiding IN PLAIN SIGHT in those two words "I'm melting". And, it’s an allusion which my quick search suggests I MIGHT very well be the first to detect, as is the case with the Oz allusion.

At the very least, I know it has never been mentioned in the history of the Joyce Ulysses group, because I just searched the archive to check.

So, think about it--isn't there a MELTING which is part of one of the stories which informs Ulysses at its deepest level? An actual physical melting of WAX, which Buck gives us an extra clue to, when he adds "said the CANDLE"? ……………

[SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANSWER IF YOU CAN’T GUESS]


[SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANSWER IF YOU CAN’T GUESS]


Of course some of you have by now guessed that I am referring to the WAX on ICARUS's wings!

That Joyce gave the surname “Dedalus” to the protagonist of several of his most famous and important fictions would suggest to the naïve observer that the myth of Daedalus and Icarus must have been pretty central in Joyce’s mind for a long time. It would probably be the first mythological allusion that a naïve reader of the novel would glimmer upon, after the most obvious one, i.e., The Odyssey.

And Buck’s dirty joke about the candle melting is not exactly an obscure passage in the novel. It is not only a very good dirty joke, it is also in the very first chapter. Given that Ulysses has probably been started by more readers who HAVEN’T gotten halfway through it than any other novel in history, that means a lot, because it means that a whole lot more people have read Chapter 1 than have read, say, Chapter 12!

So the upshot of the foregoing analysis is that a LOT of people would be likely BOTH to have read Buck’s joke, and ALSO to know Stephen’s surname and to have realized its mythological significance.

So how is it, then, that (as far as I could ascertain by a quick online search) I appear to be the first reader of the novel to notice that allusion---an allusion, which, once pointed out, is so obvious as to almost seem too obvious? It is the very epitome of hiding in plain sight.

I think it says a lot about the approach to the novel of many of its most dedicated devotees, which is that perhaps they are not going about it right. It should not be happening that a relative novice reading the novel can see things that the old pros don’t—doesn’t it suggest that all those rereadings may actually in some ways be ossifying old orthodoxies about what the novel means, making it even harder to see what is hidden six inches under the novel’s surface? And doesn’t it suggest that it requires a completely fresh perspective on the novel, coming from left field (as I do), in order to see certain things that apparently are (like Turko the Terrible) invisible to those who’ve “seen the show” many times before?

In that regard, I think I noticed someone make a recent, gratuitously nasty reference to “adolescent interpretations” and “obsessions” about Ulysses. Well, isn’t Buck’s penis joke the very epitome of “adolescent obsession”? I’m 58, but maybe I should be thankful that enough of the adolescent survives in me to still be able to see this novel with young enough eyes to see what is right under everyone’s nose.

And in case you were wondering, I do have ANOTHER allusion to alert you to…one which indicates that Buck’s penis joke was not only an allusion to the mythological Icarus--a “candle” who, like Norma Jean, burned out much too soon--- it was ALSO an allusion to ANOTHER source for Ulysses, another source which has its own very hidden-in—plain-sight penis joke?

Anyone want to take a crack at telling me what that other allusive source is, and prove it by also providing the first line of that earlier penis joke (which actually extends for a long while)?

Happy hunting, and when you put your hands on that other allusion, you will know you’ve found something which provides a very firm, unyielding foundation for a deeper understanding of Ulysses, one which will not melt away at the first onset of global warming. ;)

Cheers,
Arnie

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