Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yes I will finish 'Ulysses' this time Yes


I am gearing up for Bloomsday (June 16) by taking another, no doubt futile, stab at reading James Joyce's novel Ulysses all the way through - or, for that matter, appreciably past the sparkling opening section, which holds my attention so much better than anything that comes after it does.

I picked up my battered, old 1984 reprint of the Penguin Modern Classics edition, the one with Lawrence Mynott's Cubist portrait of the author on the cover. This thing has been everywhere with me. I can see it even has been to a Sun Dance ceremony on a Lakota reservation, because the flyleaf bears the signature and address of a man I met there.

I sat down this morning to tell his story - it's an amazing story; a terrible story - but now I'm thinking that it's not mine to tell.

For this morning, as I was looking up the word "flyleaf" to make sure that is the right word, my web browser froze. When I restarted it, we had lost internet and phone service. When we got service back this evening and I returned to finish this post, I saw that none of my friend's story, which I had started to tell, had been autosaved before the web connection was lost.

It was probably just a coincidence, but one never knows. I met this man at an ancient, sacred ceremony, and we shared some remarkable, indeed unearthly, experiences. I am just respectful enough of spiritual power - or "superstitious," if you'd like - to take a hint when I think a hint has been given.

I will tell a different story, however, about Ulysses and my first trip to a Sun Dance ceremony. I got religion at this ceremony, which was the last thing I expected to do (I attended simply to drive someone else home). I had a number of experiences on the reservation I had to classify as "spiritual," never having had any experiences anything like them.

I ended up, soon after the ceremony, on the eastern end of Long Island, at the summer house of a friend. I was still living in a strange private world, tinged by what I had experienced on the reservation, and it wasn't allowing me to sleep much. One long fitful night in the Hamptons, I found myself wishing I had not left my copy of Ulysses (which, once again, I was trying to finish) back at my friend's apartment in the city.

Only partly joking, I asked the spirit world to go fetch my copy of Ulysses and bring it out to East Hampton. "If you are really still with me" (as I had reason to believe), "and you are so powerful ..."

I drifted off to sleep feeling ridiculous, and woke up feeling even more ridiculous. Though I admit I did look around the room for my copy of Ulysses. No surprise: No spirit courier had come to my rescue.

My friend ran an errand to the post office that morning, and I tagged along. As I was walking into the post office, someone was walking out and he almost ran right into me. I remember the man's large, shy smile as he apologized. Then, I saw what was printed on his T-shirt:

I said yes I will Yes
This is the last line in Ulysses.

2 comments:

Tony Renner said...

great story except for you last line... anyone who's read that far knows the last line of "ulysses"....

once upon a time my girl and i sat on the grass at the opera theatre of st. louis and i started to read "ulysses" but we were interrupted by friends... darned friends....

Confluence City said...

I don't hesitate to spoil the last line of "Ulysses," because it was world-famous when I came along and was spoiled for me. I know lots of people, like me, who have read the first few pages of the book and the last few pages of the book and not the middle 650!