Miguel Cohen’s “Ulysses,” Part 2


TEXT: He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points. Chrysostomos. Two strong shrill whistles answered through the calm.

— Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch off the current, will you?

MIGUEL: First, we had peering down and calling up. Now we have sideways up. Is Joyce suggesting that Buck’s pining for multiple positions? The other day, I threw several quarters on the ground and picked them up so I could look up a few skirts. It was a trick I learned from Splash. One thing I didn’t do was offer a catcall like this Buck guy.

And Chrysostomos? Turns out I’m not as familiar with my Bible as much as I’d like to be. This guy says it’s a reference to Buck’s “gold-capped teeth” (duh, dude) and some Greek guy who liked to bandy about a lot of rhetoric. But I think this is the kind of nonsequitur thing you usually spout off after a curry and lager. But what’s with the long whistle and then the two short whistles? Morse Code?

Switch off the current? Okay, so Buck’s going to settle down finally?

TEXT: He skipped off the gunrest and looked gravely at his watcher, gathering about his legs the loose folds of his gown. The plump shadowed face and sullen oval jowl recalled a prelate, patron of arts in the middle ages. A pleasant smile broke quietly over his lips.

— The mockery of it! he said gaily. Your absurd name, an ancient Greek!

He pointed his finger in friendly jest and went over to the parapet, laughing to himself. Stephen Dedalus stepped up, followed him wearily halfway and sat down on the edge of the gunrest, watching him still as he propped his mirror on the parapet, dipped the brush in the bowl and lathered cheeks and neck.

Buck Mulligan’s gay voice went on.

MIGUEL: See, he’s getting off the gunrest. So he’s no longer sexually frustrated! But what’s the deal with the covered bowl? And if he’s looking gravely at Kinch, is he ashamed of his sexual energy? Loose folds. Yeah, Buck, it’s still ungirdled. But where’s the wind to save your lecherous ass now, padre? Also, he’s still plump, but he’s gone from “stately” to “shadowed.” So if Buck’s a randy bastard, the presumption here is that he’ll always be plump no matter what. Are we to imply here that plump people are more sex-obsessed than others?

There’s also the juxtaposition of age and higher status (prelate). But it doesn’t sound terribly sexy to me. Where then is this pleasance coming from?

And why is Buck jealous of his name? Or is he still drifting in abstractions?

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little worried about Stephen moving to the gunrest. If that’s where the “current” or the action’s at, then I fear that Stephen will succomb to Buck’s sexual frustration. Or perhaps it’s this whole Greek-themed Catholicism that’s at issue? Religion as the ultimate sexual current?

And, no no no! Don’t put the sticky ejaculate on your cheeks! Ewwww! And his neck! He’s been annointed!

TEXT: — My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls. But it has a Hellenic ring, hasn’t it? Tripping and sunny like the buck himself. We must go to Athens. Will you come if I can get the aunt to fork out twenty quid?

He laid the brush aside and, laughing with delight, cried:

— Will he come? The jejune jesuit!

Ceasing, he began to shave with care.

— Tell me, Mulligan, Stephen said quietly.

— Yes, my love?

— How long is Haines going to stay in this tower?

Buck Mulligan showed a shaven cheek over his right shoulder.

— God, isn’t he dreadful? he said frankly. A ponderous Saxon. He thinks you’re not a gentleman. God, these bloody English! Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know, Dedalus, you have the real Oxford manner. He can’t make you out. O, my name for you is the best: Kinch, the knifeblade.

MIGUEL: So it’s Buck and Malachi now. Just like it’s Stephen and Kinch. I see what’s going down. Now that Kinch has been annointed with the holy shaving cream/ejaculate, he’s now pining for his own Greek-like annointation. And we all know what sort of sex the Greeks were interested in, no? Will he come? Will he come? The loaded language! Lawrence of Arabia, eat your heart out!

And he’s shaving, presumably a reference to the whole tonsure thing. But it looks like the love might be one way after all. Yes, my love? Take a clue from Miguel, Stephen. This Buck guy is bad news. And is this whole hair thing some masculine indicator? Maybe Buck might be calmer with a mohawk.

And Haines? The underwear? English vs. Irish? More dichotomies! Miguel’s head hurts!

One Comment

  1. Birnbaum will say you chose this passage solely because it contains the word “jejune.” My money’s on “dactyls.”

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