Compared with the end of part 1, this section is quite coherent – and also wonderfully enjoyable; Bloom can be found once again restlessly roaming the streets (in much the same way as Ulysses/Odysseus travelled the seas).
If Virginia Woolf is painterly in her approach, the Joyce is filmic. Little escapes his eye – from the billboards and advertising slogans of ‘the Belfast and Oriental Tea Company,’ ‘Cochrane’s Ginger Ale (Aromatic)’ and ‘Plumtree’s Potted Meat.’ Commercials are haphazard poetry of the streets, part of the living language. He hears snatches of street talk from boys outside pubs ‘Come home to ma, da.’ Dublin comes to life through Bloom’s senses.
There is an encounter with an acquaintance and the originality of Irish conversation is in full evidence, despite the fact that Bloom would rather not be bothered: ‘How’s the body?/Fine, how are you?/Just keeping alive.’ This is the sort of thing you imagine Joyce overhearing in the next snug while in the pub working at his notebook.
The tenuous thread of the impending funeral is what keeps this narrative going – but it’s still easy to get lost. Joyce continues to mix Bloom’s always amusing unspoken thoughts monologue (‘curse your noisy pugnose’) with his observations and the narrative switches without warning between these and reported speech.
There are continued ruminations about money – Bloom recalls the story of the man who cashed a seven figure cheque. Envious, Bloom works out how much porter a million pounds would buy him (a million barrels) It’s a beautifully inane thought.
Upon reaching the church, there are more of Bloom’s garrulous, cynical musings, this time on Catholicism – including the idea that they drink wine rather than porter in church simply because it’s ‘more aristocratic.’ He also muses on the pleasant life of religious orders: ‘They had a gay old time while it lasted. Healthy too chanting, regular hours, then brew liquors.’ He can only think in terms of his own pleasure centric universe.
His irreligious thoughts aside, he ruminates on the pleasures of perfume, Turkish massage, for which alas there is no time and we leave him in delicious anticipation of a bath, which is described in such immaculate poetry, I won’t try and paraphrase here – or indeed spoil your enjoyment when you come to read it.