Joyce's Ulysses: The only chapter worth reading.

Scrutinizing culture.
April 7 2011 2:50 PM

Is Ulysses Overrated?

All but one chapter—and not the one you think.

(Continued from Page 2)

Is there more to it, your interest in the catechism narrative method?
Well, to be honest I've only recently become fascinated by the catechism chapter and the way it uses Q&A as a narrative and meditative technique. But I love the way the form can both move things forward and also allow them to pause. To be endowed with unexpected and often surprising depth, detail, and dimensionality through the use of the interrogative (sometimes the interrogation) mode.

But that's not all, right?
Jeez, you're getting personal. If you must know, I've actually been experimenting with the catechismic method as a way of doing fiction, wondering whether an entire novel could be told that way.

What kind of novel?
A New York love story.

So what was the problem?
Well, the technical problem that besets me is my affinity for digression. I had resorted to using this catechismic technique to overcome my tendency to pile digression upon digression upon digression rather than moving the narrative forward.

Explain your epiphany in this regard.
In seeking to describe the Tribeca party where my protagonist met his new love, it took me so long to get past my many observations concerning the hors d'ouerves that I had finally out of frustration cap-locked: COME ON DAMMIT, AT LEAST DESCRIBE THE DRESS SHE WAS WEARING!! And I realized I heard an echo of the impatient catechismic Mr. Q, and suddenly realized why Joyce liked it. The way it cut through the endless possibility of digression and gets to the heart of the matter.

Are there any other reasons you want people to read the Ithaca episode?
Well, to name just one, I think it offers some of the most beautiful passages Joyce wrote in his entire oeuvre.

Like what?
The one that begins with Q asking, "What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?"


And A answers: "The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit."

And then the next three pages of transcendently beautiful prose consisting mainly of Bloom's meditations upon the constellations and the moon. Some of the most lyrical and spiritual writing in all Ulysses.

What is your advice to the reader of this column?
Don't die before you read these passages.

Describe her dress.
It was a short black sleeveless shift.

Anything else?
A Betsey Johnson.

Was there a special significance to that dress?
yes he said yes


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Business Insider
Sept. 23 2014 10:03 AM Watch Steve Jobs Tell Michael Dell, "We're Coming After You"
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 23 2014 9:01 AM Tristan da Cunha: Life on the World's Most Remote Island
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 9:42 AM Listen to the Surprising New Single From Kendrick Lamar
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand With Emma Watson
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.