I have discovered the joys of audiobooks. As an Angeleno, who spends some time behind the wheel, an audiobook streaming on my Bluetooth stereo is a veritable boon. I always resisted them, as I didn’t want someone else’s voice in my head. But they’ve made the reading experience so much easier and efficient.
The first audiobook I listened to was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. A book aimed at his son, in the line of De adminstrando imperio, it is a tour de force, detailing what it’s like to be black and American.
OK, look, I was a weird child. My brothers were 10 and 12 years older than me, which had positives and negatives. They had already been through what I was going to go through, so I had an idea of what to expect. But they were also almost autonomous adults, so even though we were a household of two parents and three children, I was pretty much on my own.
But my oldest brother Tony acted as a surrogate father at times, and the one main thing he shared with me was a love of all things British. PBS—back when it was good and would show wonderful programming—was on constantly in my apartment. And this was a time when independent television channels were actually “independent”, and combed far and wide for programming to fill their schedules.
So of course I make my return to blogging on Bloomsday.
For those who don’t know what “Bloomsday” is: June 16, 1904, the date on which the story of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” takes place, starting with plump Buck Mulligan having his morning shave and ending with Molly Bloom’s mind unfolding in wonderful, ecstatic language. In between, the main protagonists—Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom—crisscross Dublin, missing each other, until near the end they come together, our 20th century Odysseus and Telemachus.
In high school I read “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. I held off on “Ulysses” until I took a seminar at UCLA. And then, I was hooked.
Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.
“Ulysses” is nothing short of life. The life of people. The life of a city. The life of a nation. The life of history. There had been nothing in the Western canon like it before it, and, aside from “A la recherche du temps perdu”, nothing like it since. (“Gravity’s Rainbow” comes close, but Joyce still pips Pynchon.) It is a meditation on history, destiny, the lies we tell ourselves, the lies we tell each other. It is a story of outsiders in a world made up of outsiders. (Even the people who think they are of the elect are in fact as exiled as the rest of us.) It is a story about finding your way home, or at least finding the beginning of the path towards home. It is a love story: of a love for humanity, and of a love for that other person without whom you cannot live. Its comedy is of the sort found in just living life. Its tragedy is of the same type. Continue reading “Bloomsday”→