Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To whom can I be responsible, and why should I be, when you refuse to see me?

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
This is the story of how a man comes to find himself invisible (that is to say, unseeable) to the world around him. It chronicles the steps that lead to this conclusion, and illuminates the path he takes upon his enlightenment. It is not a story of romance, or a comedy, or even a traditional coming-of-age story. It simply explains how a man once visible can cease to be so.

The main character has a name, but we never learn it. We know only that he is a young black man living in what seems to be about the late 1920s, early 1930s, but in a sort of timeless period. He is a promising student and makes a speech at graduation, receiving a scholarship to attend the local 'negro college'. He does well at college, but while serving as chauffeur for one of the trustees for a week, he leads the man to an unsavory part of town without realizing it, and after a series of misadventures on this trip, he is eventually sent away from school. Dr. Bledsoe, the school president, leads him to believe that he can go to New York and stay through the summer, and if he makes enough money to pay his way, he can return the following semester.

After presenting the letters of introduction that Dr. Bledsoe gave him to various trustees in New York City to no avail, however, he finally learns from the receptionist at the last trustee's office that the letter actually states he has been expelled, and under no circumstances should these men hire him. Lost and without options, he takes the receptionist's advice and looks for work at a paint factory, but after more misadventures and discrimination from many angles, he is in an accident at the factory. He is healed and then sent out on the street, and he lives on the compensation money from the accident with a kind-hearted older woman named Mary in Harlem for a time.

While witnessing an eviction of an elderly black couple and their rude treatment by two white cops, he makes an extemporaneous speech and unexpectedly rouses the group to a small riot. He is invited by a man on the street to join "the Brotherhood", which is a political group that ostensibly supports people's rights. They indoctrinate him in their teachings, and he seems successful there, but another black Brother in the movement plots against him, and he is sent to lecture downtown on "the Woman Question". He is moderately successful there, but begins to feel that he's on the outs with the Brotherhood. They hold meetings without him, and he is sent back to Harlem. Harlem has changed, however, and they feel he is a traitor, and that the Brotherhood no longer cares for the woes of the black people.

When he confronts the Brotherhood, they claim that Harlem is "a reasonable sacrifice" for the good of the movement. Another brother, Tod Clifton, one of the few other Brothers who was also black, goes missing. The main character finds him selling degrading Sambo dolls on the street, and as Clifton runs up the street, he is arrested, and the main character witnesses Clifton struggling with the cop, and then suddenly fall as the cop shoots him in the chest. Horrified and outraged, the narrator decides to mobilize his remaining Brotherhood members in the district and plans a large memorial and march for Clifton. After the memorial, the tension is palpable in Harlem, but the Brotherhood berates the narrator for having spoken and acted based on his personal feelings, rather than on the greater movement's political stances. They are eventually appeased, and the narrator decides to just be a yes-man and let Harlem simmer while they think he's brought it back into the brotherhood fold.

Harlem erupts into a violent state of looting and rioting in the streets, and Ras the Exhorter, a leader in the black community who despises the Brotherhood and thinks the narrator is a traitor for working with them, tries to incite a small group within the mob to attack the police. The narrator hears of the riot and travels up from downtown to try to reach the district office of the Brotherhood, but he is caught in several scuffles and schemes along the way. He realizes as he travels through the mob that this is exactly what the Brotherhood wanted -- the people are committing an act of self-sacrifice unknowingly -- because the police will overpower them and eventually instead of being a battle of men against stores, it will become a battle of men against men, and he sees they are easily outnumbered. He eventually falls into a manhole full of coal while running away from some attackers, and at first he stays there comfortably, safe at last from violence. After a time, he realizes he has no source of light and no way of escaping. He realizes his true invisibility both literally and metaphorically at this point, and when he makes it above ground, he begins to live off the grid, stealing electricity and holing up in the basement of a building designated only for whites. He concludes by suggesting that perhaps his hibernation will come to an end one day, and contemplates what role an invisible man can play in the course of history.

Spoiler Over: Continue Here

This book is definitely a classic; it's an incredible work of fiction, and I absolutely think that everyone should read it at some point in their life. It's a hard book to read, and I can't say it was a pleasure to read it really, because it's tough and heavy and it weighs you down, in a way. But it made me think and challenge myself and I think it will continue to have that effect on every person that reads it until the end of time.

A few parts that stood out to me:

--It's one of the best (and most difficult to stomach) scenes in the book, and I don't want to give it away here, but the Battle Royal scene in the beginning is incredibly written and deeply disturbing.

--The narrator is looking at the statue of the Founder of his college with a veil pulled over his face --
"I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding."

--"I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed."
- My heart stopped for an extra instant when I read this. It's 100% amazing and so eloquently stated.

"I felt a shudder of nameless horror. I had never been so close to a white person before."
-- I forget (as I think many of us are wont to do) that there was a time in the not-so-distant past when people of different races, and particularly blacks and whites, did not share spaces, schools, water fountains, restaurants, the same parts of the bus. I think it's always worth remembering our missteps and ensuring they are never repeated. Fiction is one of the best ways to make sure we do not forget.

"Here beneath the deep indigo sky, here, alive with looping swifts and darting moths, here in the hereness of the night not yet lighted by the moon that looms blood-red behind the chapel like a fallen sun, its radiance shedding not upon the here-dusk of twittering bats, nor on the there-night of cricket and whippoorwill, but focused short-rayed upon our place of convergence; and we drifting forward with rigid motions, limbs stiff and voices now silent, as though on exhibit even in the dark, and the moon a white man's bloodshot eye."
-- Ellison is weaving a tale that is at many times political, racial, and often identity-driven. But in addition to creating this brilliant study of man, he throws in the most fantastic imagery and his prose is just breathtaking.

No name - disembodied voice
- The main character's name is never revealed to us. I thought at first it was some sort of accident, but then he would reference someone asking his name, and then just write something like, "I gave her my name." And I thought, "Which was.....?" Heh heh. It contributed to the everyman feeling and an identification with the narrator (at least for me) but it also made it feel a bit more polemic and less like a story, which I found sad.

When the narrator is tossed out on the street after recovering from his accident at the factory, he bumps into an older woman named Mary Sambo. This is their exchange.
Narrator: "I didn't want to be trouble to anyone,"
Mary:   "Everybody has to be trouble to somebody."
-- Adorable. Mary was one of the nicest characters in the book, and one of the few characters that never confounds, confuses, abuses, or accosts the narrator.

"Then I relaxed a bit; work had to be done and I would play the waiting game. And despite my guilt and uncertainty I learned to forget that I was a lone guilty black Brother and to go striding confidently into a roomful of whites. It was chin up, a not too wide-stretched smile, the out-thrust hand for the firm warm hand shake. And with it just the proper mixture of arrogance and down-to-earth humility to satisfy all."
-- I think frequently about not just how much discrimination minorities/people of color have to deal with but also how much work they have to put into certain interactions to assimilate, or to blend, or simply to exist.

"Where were the historians today? How would they put it down? We who write no novels, histories or other books. What about us? Was this all that would be recorded?"
-- I'm painfully aware that this is the first novel (of the now 49 that I've read for this blog) written by a black author, and only 1 of 2, out of 100 classics. We must remember to ask ourselves when we study history, who are the historians? Who dictated those events to me? When we think of a classic, who had the time/ability/privilege to write and to be published?

Striking sentences/passages:
--"I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones."
--"I'm convinced it was the product of a subtle magic, the alchemy of moonlight; the school a flower-studded wasteland, the rocks sunken, the dry winds hidden, the lost crickets chirping to yellow butterflies."
--"You have looked upon chaos and are not destroyed!"
--"I recall the sudden arpeggios of laughter lilting across the tender, springtime grass."
--"In the hereness of dusk I am moving toward the doomlike bells through the flowered air, beneath the rising moon."
--"They smelt that old obscene stink of darkness, that old slavery smell, worse than the rank halitosis of hoary death."
--"You're black and living in the South - did you forget how to lie?"
--"All it takes to get along in this here man's town is a little shit, grit, and mother-wit."
--"I'll teach you some good bad habits." I love this line.
--"If only all the contradictory voices shouting inside my head would calm down and sing a song in unison, whatever it was I wouldn't care as long as they sang without dissonance; yes, and avoided the uncertain extremes of the scale." (Wouldn't that be nice?)
--"We do not shape our policies to the mistaken and infantile notions of the man in the street. Our job is not to ask them what they think but to tell them!" (Finally, a true statement from the Brotherhood)
--"If I couldn't help them to see the reality of our lives I would help them to ignore it until it exploded in their faces."
--"I had no longer to run for or from the Jacks and the Emersons and the Bledsoes and Nortons, but only from their confusion, impatience, and refusal to recognize the beautiful absurdity of their American identity and mine." (I won't get overly political here, but recent immigration arguments bring to mind the "beautiful absurdity of your American identity and mine")
--"Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat." (This reminds me of the line Atticus says in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout asks him if they'll win the court case, and he replies, "No, honey. But simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win.")
--"Why should I be the one to dream this nightmare?"

I hope that the nightmare of undesired invisibility is one that can fade over time, if not eventually be eradicated. It's certainly a goal I think we can strive for.

Onwards to France, the longest novel ever written, and The Finding of Found Moments. Or was it The Forgetting of the Future? Something along those lines...

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's like a wonderful nightmare.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
The Sun Also Rises is a story of partying, drinking, suffering, laughing, and life outside the norms of daily existence. It follows Jake Barnes, a returned soldier made impotent in the war, and his group of friends on excursions and outings in Paris, San Sebastian, Burguete, and Pamplona. He and his companions enjoy fishing trips, dance parties that continue well into the early hours, running with the bulls in Pamplona, and numerous bull fights. Jake has an intimate connection to a woman named Lady Brett Ashley; they seem as if they could be a couple if he were not impotent. They never date, but he serves as her friend and rebound between men, and their link lingers throughout the tale. Robert Cohn is Jake's "friend" and acquaintance, and he has a fling with Brett (as do Mike and Romero, the star bull-fighter) but Brett is over him quickly and everyone is mostly annoyed that he's with them. Things escalate until Robert punches Mike and Jake because they let Brett run off with Romero (and Robert was a boxer, so Mike and Jake get pretty knocked around) and Robert finds Romero and beats him up as well, then finally he leaves the group and returns to Paris to his wife, Frances (or perhaps they never were married and she's his lover. Can't quite recall if that was made clear.) The group disassembles after the weeklong fiesta of the bull-fights and ensuing celebrations, at which point Jake returns to San Sebastian alone and relaxes. After a few days, Brett sends him an urgent telegram telling him she needs him. He travels to Madrid where he finds that Brett has sent off Romero, realizing that their affair will never work (she's 34, he's 19, he wanted to marry her, she was all, "get in line/go enjoy your youth", yadda yadda yadda.) She sent the telegram when she wasn't sure Romero would agree to leave, but he left in the time it took Jake to get there by train. Brett tells Jake she will probably go back with Mike, and the novel ends with the two of them side by side in the back of a car, driving through Madrid and contemplating if they would have made a good pair.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

I found this book more interesting than I thought I would. It took me a while to get into Hemingway's prose, but I found that I really liked it by the end, and his no-frills, stark narration got to me. If you haven't read any Hemingway, I'd definitely recommend that you pick one of his novels up. (I haven't read the others, but I just checked my list and the big guns are all on there -- For Whom the Bell TollsThe Old Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms -- so I'm looking forward to reading them.) The writing isn't challenging in the way that Joyce or many of the other classics can be, and there's a dynamic quality to his dialogue if you can get into the rhythm of the book. This book felt a bit like riding a horse that I didn't know well (or what I would imagine that would feel like) -- when I started it, we were moving forward, but sort of jerkily, and there was an unsure quality to the movement. As I settled in and continued reading, the ride became smoother, and the hesitancy started to fade away. As I finished the novel, I realized I'd been enjoying the ride for quite some time without thinking about it anymore. I guess some novels are a joyful ride all the way through, but I've found that many of the best ones (or at least the ones I enjoy the most) I have to work for a little in the beginning and the middle.

This post is going to be a long one (I can feel it!) so you might want to save it for a lunch break or a lovely stolen hour at that coffee shop you love if you're pressed for time when you come upon it. ;)

My thoughts, in no particular order:

-- This book had an "out-of-time" quality to it. I feel like I could read it all over again and Jake and Brett would be in the same place, no further forward or back. Do you know how sometimes when you finish a book you really like (or a series) you imagine the lives of the characters moving forward, either explicitly or just in a sort of dreamy emotion? Harry Potter, for instance, is still out there, continuing to enjoy married life with Ginny and being pals with Ron and Hermione, and the magic world is thriving and advancing, whether J.K. Rowling writes it or not. With Jake and Brett, I felt like they started out of time and ended out of time and so they'll always be rolling back and forth in this limbo. It makes me think of when I watch a new movie and I really like a moment and I want to just STOP and not let the movie go on, because I want to exist in that moment and think of the movie as being in that moment but then Whoosh - all of a sudden the moment is over and the movie is rolling and you can't quite ever have it back the same way because now things have happened after it and you remember them and you can't unremember them. Make any sense? Maybe that's just me.

-- Jake sits down to read the papers and remarks, "They would both have the same news, so whichever I read first would spoil the other." I think this every morning when I contemplate whether to read the Washington Post or the New York Times first. They often even have the same photo on the front page. I like to alternate so one doesn't get preferential treatment (although I must admit I'm partial to the Times).

-- Jake's concierge at his apartment in Paris likes to sort his guests for him -- "She kept an eye on the people of the pesage, and she took great pride in telling me which of my guests were well brought up, which were of good family, who were sportsmen...The only trouble was that people who did not fall into any of those three categories were very liable to be told there was no one home, chez Barnes.  One of my friends, an extremely underfed-looking painter, who was obviously to Madame Duzinell neither well brought up, of good family, nor a sportsman, wrote me a letter asking if I could get him a pass to get by the concierge so he could come up and see me occasionally in the evenings." hilarious! Which of your friends would be kept from seeing you if you had a concierge?

-- A Count (one of the many men that Brett spends time with in the book) shows off his arrow wounds to her. It's crazy to think that a book that feels so current in many ways can have a man talking about wounds from a war made with actual arrows. I mean, how many people get arrow wounds these days? Not many in this country, I'd think. Mostly from hunting accidents, probably.

-- A sampling of how Hemingway creates an image that's clear as crystal in your mind with no-nonsense strings of unassuming sentences:
"The train stopped for half an hour at Bordeaux and we went out through the station for a little walk. There was not time to get in to the town. Afterward we passed through the Landes and watched the sun set. There were wide fire-gaps cut through the pines, and you could look up them like avenues and see wooded hills way off. About seven-thirty we had dinner and watched the country through the open window in the diner. It was all sandy pine country full of heather.  There were little clearings with houses in them, and once in a while we passed a sawmill.  It got dark and we could feel the country hot and sandy and dark outside the window..." and you're there! you can almost touch it it's so real.

-- I love this scene with Jake praying. It feels exactly like any time (a) I've tried to pray for more than 2 or 3 minutes (b) I've sat through a full-length quartet concert, or (c) I've spaced out playing a full-length quartet concert.
"I prayed that the bull-fights would be good, and that it would be a fine fiesta, and that we would get some fishing. I wondered if there was anything else I might pray for, and I thought that I would like to have some money, so I prayed that I would make a lot of money, and then I started to think how I would make it, and thinking of making money reminded me of the count, and I started wondering about where he was, and regretting I hadn't seen him since that night in Montmartre, and about something funny Brett told me about him, and as all the time I was kneeling with my forehead on the wood in front of me, and was thinking of myself as praying, I was a little ashamed, and regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time."

-- Exchange between Bill (another friend of Jake's) and Jake during their fishing trip:
Jake: "Come on. Get up."
Bill: "What? Get up? I never get up."
He climbed into bed and pulled the sheet up to his chin.
"Try and argue me into getting up."
I went on looking for the tackle and putting it all together in the tackle-bag.
"Aren't you interested?" Bill asked.
"I'm going down and eat."
"Eat? Why didn't you say eat? I thought you just wanted me to get up for fun. Eat? Fine. Now you're reasonable. You go out and dig some more worms and I'll be right down."

he he he he he. this reminded me of when a certain SOMEONE decided it was a good idea to wake another person (aka DISTURB HER SLUMBER) and throw her on the back of a bicycle and send it FLYING down the streets of San Francisco. up? did you say, UP? next time someone might just be TOO SLEEPy to get up and go on adventures. nasty things. make you late for tea.

-- During a fishing break, Jake reads a book and describes where things are left off:
"The book was something by A.E.W. Mason, and I was reading a wonderful story about a man who had been frozen in the Alps and then fallen into a glacier and disappeared, and his bride was going to wait twenty-four years exactly for his body to come out on the moraine, while her true love waited too, and they were still waiting when Bill came up." hilarious. When I'm interrupted in the middle of a book, I often feel guilty that I've left a character in a difficult or unpleasant situation, and hurry up my intervening activity so that I can leave them in a better place next time I pause.

-- Jake and Bill make friends with a man named Harris (but they call him Wilson-Haris because they're so fond of him ;) ) and when they part ways, Harris gives them a packet of flies he's handmade himself. When Jake tries to thank him, Harris interrupts, "No, no! They're not first-rate flies at all. I only thought if you fished them some time it might remind you of what a good time we had." So adorable.

-- Jake goes to a store to buy some leather wine casks (the better to drink their wine with, of course - it's FIESTA after all!):
"Inside it smelled of fresh tanned leather and hot tar. A man was stencilling completed wine-skins. They hung from the roof in bunches. He took one down, blew it up, screwed the nozzle tight, and then jumped on it."
"See! It doesn't leak."
Fantastic. The next time I buy something, I'm going to ask if I can jump on it at the store before I buy it.

Passages I particularly enjoyed (aren't you just loving this new section of my posts? i know I AM!)
  • "I can't stand it to think my life is going so fast and I'm not really living it."
  • "It's awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing."
  • "There are people to whom you could not say insulting things. They give you a feeling that the world would be destroyed, would actually be destroyed before your eyes, if you said certain things."
  • "I had the feeling as in a nightmare of it all being something repeated, something I had been through and that now I must go through again."
  • "I read the Turgenieff. I knew that now, reading it in the oversensitized state of my mind after too much brandy, I would remember it somewhere, and afterward it would seem as though it had really happened to me. I would always have it."
  • Speaking on fiesta -- "Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences."
  • Jake explains the bull fight to Brett -- "I explained to Brett what it was all about...so that it became more something that was going on with a definite end, and less of a spectacle with unexplained horrors."
  • "The fiesta absorbed even the Biarritz English so that you did not see them unless you passed close to a table."
  • "Mike lay on the bed looking like a death mask of himself."
Also, a nod of farewell to the recently deceased Ray Bradbury, a pioneer of writing and author of what is now one of my all-time favorite books, Fahrenheit 451. If you haven't read it (in a while, or ever) go grab a copy and enjoy it. Like Hemingway says, you'll always have it. (Unless you don't read it, in which case you WON'T! and you never know, maybe one day you'll WISH you had! Maybe you'll become the Book of Ecclesiastes instead! Or something else you read that's not as good as Fahrenheit that will stick up ooey-gooey parts of your brain and take up residence where something better could live!)

Well, it's late and I have a tennis date tomorrow morning. Onwards to the Eminently Seeable Woman. Yes. Remembered the title perfectly this time. Sure of it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

This race and this country and this life produced me. I shall express myself as I am.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Portrait is a story of a boy's journey from childhood to adolescence to manhood; in brief, it is a tale of becoming an adult. It follows Stephen Dedalus from his boyhood days at Clongowes Academy (a Jesuit school for boys) to his eventual decision to leave his family and friends and set off on his own. Stephen is a smart, shy boy, and we learn of his various torments and triumphs at school, as well as his family's struggle with poverty and a continual downward class spiral. Stephen lives in Ireland, spending some time in a small, idyllic town called Blackrock, and then a great deal of his adolescence in Dublin. He goes through a period of darkness during which he spends a lot of time visiting with "ladies of ill repute", shall we say, after which he goes through a spiritual cleansing and even contemplates becoming a priest. He changes his mind, though, and moves away from pure religion to religious-influenced schooling once again. He goes to university (all the while living with his family, who continue to downgrade living spaces and sell off valuables along the way) and has many philosophical and aesthetic debates and discussions with his mates. In the end, his questioning of religion leads to a disagreement with his mother and his eventual departure to discover life on his own.
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

I read this book for "Introduction to Literary Theory" in college, and I despised it then. I liked it a little more this time around, although to say that I enjoyed it would be a stretch. I can see why Joyce fans like it, and why people who enjoy both his style and the whole microcosm of Ireland that he presents would go GAGA for it (what do you wear to cause a ga-ga at ze go-go? a toga full of LONG BEAUTIFUL HAIR!) but as I am neither a Joyce enthusiast nor an ardent lover of obscure Irish references, the book was merely average for me.

- One of the first conversations that Stephen has with his classmates gets him trapped in a question with no apparent right answer. The boys ask him if he kisses his mother before he goes to bed, and he answers yes (they laugh) and then no (they laugh again) and he asks himself "What was the right answer to the question?" I felt bad for little Stephen, and I also marveled that these silly entrapment question games have been around as long as they have. (Would you like your muffin buttered?)

- When Stephen is sick and gets sent to the infirmary at Clongowes, he writes an imaginary letter to his mother:

"Dear Mother,
         I am sick. I want to go home. Please come and take me home. I am in the infirmary.
                                                                                                             Your fond son,

 (a) This is adorable. (b) This reminded me of when I got a stomachache in elementary school and Mrs. DePoff (Poff?) called my mother; the militant, unfriendly nurse who insisted on announcing my weight OUT LOUD even when I asked her not to in front of other students called my mother and asked her to come and pick me up because I had a "tummy ache."

- At Clongowes, they use corporal punishment frequently, mostly "pandying" which is a series of sharp hits on the hand with a stick, sometimes "flogging", which seems to be a more severe form of spanking that may or may not involve a cane. Stephen is usually able to fly under the radar and he's a good student, but when another student knocks him over by accident at the playground, Stephen breaks his glasses, and while he's waiting for his parents to send another pair, his teacher exempts him from schoolwork for a few days. When a prefect comes in and finds Stephen not doing his work, he accuses Stephen of being a schemer and pandies him even after Stephen explains he's been exempt. He describes his hands: "To think of them beaten and swollen with pain all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they were not his own but someone else's that he felt sorry for."
-- This episode stung me both because of its injustice and because, as a life-long glasses wearer (since I was kindly told by SAME nurse above that I had FAILED the eye exam in 5th grade (nonsense! i've never failed a test in my life!)) I can identify with the difficulties presented when you're waiting for a new pair. I once had to wear prescription sunglasses to my Western Civ. class in college, and my professor deManded that I remove them and insisted on insinuating to the entire class that I was simply trying to dramatically cover a very bad hangover.

- The many references to Saint Ignatius of Loyola (v. important to the Jesuit order) reminded me of our "identifications" section on the Western Civ. final. We had read a very small paragraph on St. Ignatius amidst the several thousand pages we covered in studying 300 BC to the early 1900s, and when his name popped up on the final, I puzzled for a few minutes, then, stumped, I happily scribbled: "St. Ignatius -- Friend of Jesus. They were definitely close pals." (Just in case you were wondering, Ignatius was born in the late 1400s. Ahem. Whoops!)

- Stephen reads The Count of Monte Cristo during the book, and fantasizes about turning down Mercedes. I loved this, both because CoMC is one of my favorites and because I first read it at about the same age as Stephen did.

- Two shoutouts to my mom --
(1) In one scene after the many moves, Stephen asks his mother, "How much is the clock fast now?" To which she replies, "An hour and twenty five minutes." If you've ever been to my mother's house, you'll know that it's rare for any two clocks to say the same time, and some get slower throughout the week while others get faster. It keeps you in a constant state of guessing; why indeed should you divine the time so easily?
(2) Stephen and his classmates frequently quote Latin and often talk in what they refer to as "dog Latin", which seems to be a bastardized form of Latin. While I'm sure you would enjoy this, Mom, I found it mostly esoteric and annoying. ;)

- When Stephen tries to have a serious discussion with his friend Cranly, Cranly promptly starts to stuff a fig in his mouth, to which Stephen interjects, "Don't, please. You cannot discuss this question with your mouth full of chewed fig." Hilarious.

- One of my favorite lines in the book is a discussion between an old man and Stephen's father Simon:

- 'And thanks be to God, Johnny,' said Mr. Dedalus, 'that we lived so long and did so little harm."
- 'But did so much good, Simon,' said the little old man gravely. 'Thanks be to God we lived so long and did so much good.'
-- I think we can all aspire to earn this phrase at the end.

Passages I particularly enjoyed:
  • What was after the universe? Nothing. But was there anything round the universe to show where it stopped before the nothing place began?
  • And from here and from there came the sounds of the cricket bats through the soft grey air. (Haverford had a cricket team, and I used to love the sound of the bats cracking into the balls on Saturday mornings.)
  • But when he had sung his song and withdrawn into a snug corner of the room he began to taste the joy of his loneliness.
  • He recalled his own equivocal position in Belvedere, a free boy, a leader afraid of his own authority, proud and sensitive and suspicious, battling against the squalor of his life and against the riot of his mind.
  • The sunlight breaking suddenly on his sight turned the sky and clouds into a fantastic world of sombre masses with lakelike spaces of dark rosy light.
  • Only the morning pained him with its dim memory of dark orgiastic riot, its keen and humiliating sense of transgression.
  • The stars began to crumble and a cloud of fine star-dust fell through space.
  • Perhaps they had taken refuge in number and noise from the secret dread in their souls.
  • There was a lust of wandering in his feet that burned to set out for the ends of the earth.
-- Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

I'm off to enjoy some Hemingway with The Orb, too, ascends. Yes, I'm quite sure I got that one exactly right.