Eugene Onegin Books 3 & 4 and a bit of Ulysses

So, still light and airy verse-wise, but not a lot going on.   Tatyana is introduced and Onegin likes her.   She falls for him WHOMP! and writes a letter having met him once.  He’s oddly sensible and tells her he’s a bad idea and would only make her unhappy.   This, of course, does nothing to dissuade her.  And there we are.  I have very little impression of either Tatyana or Olga, though a bit more of Tatyana, who seems to have spent her short life mooning about.  It seemed like not enough happened for two books, but there it is.   The nurse reminded me of Romeo and Juliet.

And Ulysses No-Longer-a-Read-a-long:  Having given myself permission to stop at the end of the Cyclops chapter, I did not.   I ordered several books of interpretation so I could maybe figure out what I’m missing.   Presume I’m missing a lot.   I bought Stuart Glbert, Anthony Burgess’ Re Joyce and Joseph Campbell’s Mythic Worlds, Modern Worlds in a fit of Joyce Will Not Defeat Me obstreperousness.   Now I’ve got ’em, I don’t know if I’ll read them.   If only I read faster or had more hours in the day.  All of these are going to take a lot of time.


At any rate, while waiting for these I started the Nausicaa chapter and was enjoying it, so perhaps it’s just that the Cyclops chapter wasn’t all that interesting.   I found the parodies dull for the most part, the anti-Semitism disturbing and sudden appearance of the anonymous narrator puzzling.   Maybe one of these will shed some light.

I really wonder a lot about the recommendation to read the simplest chapters first, moving on to the harder ones.  I think the book is tough enough without the added confusion of removing what little framework there is: that is, a single day in Dublin.   You certainly couldn’t read the Odyssey in some random order.  But then I don’t think Ulysses has as much in common with the Odyssey as it likes to pretend.  Then again, I’m probably missing it all.  I can see the guy at the end of the book throwing I forget what at Bloom resembling Polyphemus throwing rocks as Odysseus taunts him and I can see the pub as a sort of cave.   But really the parallels are pretty thin, I think.

The suggested order:

{ 10: Wandering Rocks, 13: Nausikaa, 2: Nestor, 8: Lestrygonians }
{ 4: Calypso, 5: Lotus-eaters, 6: Hades, 11: Sirens, 16: Eumeus }
{ 1: Telemachus, 7: Eolus, 12: Cyclops, 9: Scylla and Charybdis }
{ 15: Circe, 18: Penelope, 17: Ithaca }
{ 14: Oxen of the Sun, 3: Proteus }

If there were world enough and time, I might try reading it this way just for the hell of it.   It seems to me what little coherence the book has would be lost.   The opening two chapters are not all that difficult, but (again acknowledging that I’m probably completely missing a whole lot) you wouldn’t read the first chapter where they have breakfast and you get some idea who Buck is and who Stephen Dedalus is until you’d already read 9 other chapters.   Instead you would start with Father Conmee crossing town, Stephen Dedalus’ poor family, Blazes Boylan buying fruit…   Nah.  Starting with this would be madness.

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