The Ulysses Diary – Day 1 part 2

by christopherjamespoet

Perhaps by way of encouragement, in my edition page 1 is actually page 9, so it already feels like we’re off to a flyer. It goes something like this. There are these two students who live a bookish, penniless existence in a tower. One is a loquacious medical student (Mulligan) the other a slightly more reticent, but you suspect, cleverer, school teacher (Dedalus). Both know a fair smattering of Latin. Today they would be living on ProPlus, Red Bull, cheap lager, beans, while watching Australian soap operas, possibly children’s daytime TV. There is a third lodger, an Englishman (‘a ponderous Saxon’) called Haines who appears to be a little outside the club, but is fascinated by their witty, surreal banter. He likes it so much he wants to make a book about it.

It’s eight in the morning, the day is beginning and like true students, they’re already thinking about lack of money and beer:  ‘The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue of Dedalus,’ chides Mulligan. Dedelas is in need of drink. He is mourning his mother, although receives no sympathy from Mulligan who mocks him as a fearsome Jesuit. Food and drink in fact are deliciously decribed throughout: strong tea, thickly buttered bread, drizzled honey, mouthfuls of fry. The characters like, Joyce himself are aesthetes and decadents – they delight in the surface pleasures – their own fruity turns of phrase; at one point Mulligan says ‘I remember only ideas and sensations.’ Ideas and sensations are a good description of the book itself. Joyce is the third player in this literary bandiage. His own prose is flowery, poetic – almost deliberately purple in places; in their ‘gloomy domed livingroom . . . two shafts of soft daylight fell across the flagged floor.’ The memory of Dedalus’ mother is ‘muskperfumed.’ Throughout there is a tension between the virility of life – the freezing sea, the greasy food, the shouts and shadows vs. the sterily of death. Mulligan isn’t really mocking Dedelus, he’s affirming the many pleasures of life.