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by James Joyce

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Mining The Classics For Laughs (Even 'Moby Dick')

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Summer Books from Utah's Remote Librarian

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Ulysses



Copyright © 2002 James Joyce
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1404336877

Chapter One

    Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl oflather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown,ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He heldthe bowl aloft and intoned:

    — Introibo ad altare Dei.

    Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:

    — Come up. Kinch. Come up, you fearful Jesuit.

    Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He facedabout and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and theawaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towardshim and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking hishead. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of thestaircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equinein its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.

    Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered thebowl smartly.

    — Back to barracks, he said sternly.

    He added in a preacher's tone:

    — For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul andblood and ouns. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, gents. One moment. Alittle trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all.

    He peered sideways up and gave a long low whistle of call then pausedawhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there withgold points. Chrysostomos. Two strong shrill whistles answered throughthe calm.

    — Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch offthe current, will you?

    He skipped off the gunrest and looked gravely at his watcher, gatheringabout his legs the loose folds of his gown. The plump shadowed face andsullen oval jowl recalled a prelate, patron of arts in the middle ages. A pleasantsmile broke quietly over his lips.

    — The mockery of it, he said gaily. Your absurd name, an ancientGreek.

    He pointed his finger in friendly jest and went over to the parapet,laughing to himself. Stephen Dedalus stepped up, followed him wearily halfwayand sat down on the edge of the gunrest, watching him still as he proppedhis mirror on the parapet, dipped the brush in the bowl and lathered cheeksand neck.

    Buck Mulligan's gay voice went on.

    — My name is absurd too: Malachi Mulligan, two dactyls. But it has aHellenic ring, hasn't it? Tripping and sunny like the buck himself. We mustgo to Athens. Will you come if I can get the aunt to fork out twenty quid?

    He laid the brush aside and, laughing with delight, cried:

    — Will he come? The jejune jesuit.

    Ceasing, he began to shave with care.

    — Tell me, Mulligan, Stephen said quietly.

    — Yes, my love?

    — How long is Haines going to stay in this tower?

    Buck Mulligan showed a shaven cheek over his right shoulder.

    — God, isn't he dreadful? he said frankly. A ponderous Saxon. He thinksyou're not a gentleman. God, these bloody English. Bursting with moneyand indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know. Dedalus, youhave the real Oxford manner. He can't make you out. O, my name for youis the best: Kinch, the knifeblade.

    He shaved warily over his chin.

    — He was raving all night about a black panther, Stephen said. Whereis his guncase?

    — A woful lunatic, Mulligan said. Were you in a funk?

    — I was, Stephen said with energy and growing fear. Out here in thedark with a man I don't know raving and moaning to himself about shootinga black panther. You saved men from drowning. I'm not a hero, however. Ithe stays on here I am off.

    Buck Mulligan frowned at the lather on his razor blade. He hopped downfrom his perch and began to search his trouser pockets hastily.

    — Scutter, he cried thickly.

    He came over to the gunrest and, thrusting a hand into Stephen's upperpocket, said:

    — Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor.

    Stephen suffered him to pull out and hold up on show by its corner adirty crumpled handkerchief. Buck Mulligan wiped the razorblade neatly. Then,gazing over the handkerchief, he said:

    — The bard's noserag. A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen.You can almost taste it, can't you?

    He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fairoakpale hair stirring slightly.

    — God, he said quietly. Isn't the sea what Algy calls it: a great sweetmother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton.Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in theoriginal. Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look.

    Stephen stood up and went over to the parapet. Leaning on it he looked downon the water and on the mailboat clearing the harbour mouth of Kingstown.

    — Our mighty mother, Buck Mulligan said.

    He turned abruptly his great searching eyes from the sea to Stephen's face.

    — The aunt thinks you killed your mother, he said. That's why shewon't let me have anything to do with you.

    — Someone killed her, Stephen said gloomily.

    — You could have knelt down, damn it, Kinch, when your dying motherasked you, Buck Mulligan said. I'm hyperborean as much as you. But tothink of your mother begging you with her last breath to kneel down and prayfor her. And you refused. There is something sinister in you ...

    He broke off and lathered again lightly his farther cheek. A tolerantsmile curled his lips.

    — But a lovely mummer, he murmured to himself. Kinch, the loveliestmummer of them all.

    He shaved evenly and with care, in silence, seriously.

    Stephen, an elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm againsthis brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coatsleeve. Pain,that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream shehad come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose browngraveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that hadbent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across thethreadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfedvoice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass ofliquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the greensluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loudgroaning vomiting.

    Buck Mulligan wiped again his razorblade.

    — Ah, poor dogsbody, he said in a kind voice. I must give you a shirtand a few noserags. How are the secondhand breeks?

    — They fit well enough, Stephen answered.

    Buck Mulligan attacked the hollow beneath his underlip.

    — The mockery of it, he said contentedly, secondleg they should be.God knows what poxy bowsy left them off. I have a lovely pair with a hairstripe, grey. You'll look spiffing in them. I'm not joking, Kinch. You lookdamn well when you're dressed.

    — Thanks, Stephen said. I can't wear them if they are grey.

    — He can't wear them, Buck Mulligan told his face in the mirror. Etiquetteis etiquette. He kills his mother but he can't wear grey trousers.

    He folded his razor neatly and with stroking palps of fingers felt thesmooth skin.

    Stephen turned his gaze from the sea and to the plump face with itssmokeblue mobile eyes.

    — That fellow I was with in the Ship last night, said Buck Mulligansays you have g. p. i. He's up in Dottyville with Conolly Norman. Generaparalysis of the insane.

    He swept the mirror a half circle in the air to flash the tidings abroad insunlight now radiant on the sea. His curling shaven lips laughed and theedges of his white glittering teeth. Laughter seized all his strong wellknit trunk.

    — Look at yourself, he said, you dreadful bard.

    Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft bya crooked crack, hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this facefor me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too.

    — I pinched it out of the skivvy's room, Buck Mulligan said. It does herall right. The aunt always keeps plainlooking servants for Malachi. Lead him notinto temptation. And her name is Ursula.

    Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen's peering eyes.

    — The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. IfWilde were only alive to see you.

    Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness:

    — It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.

    Buck Mulligan suddenly linked his arm in Stephen's and walked with himround the tower, his razor and mirror clacking in the pocket where he hadthrust them.

    — It's not fair to tease you like that, Kinch, is it? he said kindly. Godknows you have more spirit than any of them.

    Parried again. He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his. The coldsteel pen.

    — Cracked lookingglass of a servant. Tell that to the oxy chap downstairsand touch him for a guinea. He's stinking with money and thinksyou're not a gentleman. His old fellow made his tin by selling jalap to Zulusor some bloody swindle or other. God, Kinch, if you and I could onlywork together we might do something for the island. Hellenise it.

    Cranly's arm. His arm.

    — And to think of your having to beg from these swine. I'm the onlyone that knows what you are. Why don't you trust me more? What haveyou up your nose against me? Is it Haines? If he makes any noise here I'llbring down Seymour and we'll give him a ragging worse than they gaveClive Kempthorpe.

    Young shouts of moneyed voices in Clive Kempthorpe's rooms. Palefaces:they hold their ribs with laughter, one clasping another, O, I shallexpire! Break the news to her gently, Aubrey! I shall die! With slit ribbonsof his shirt whipping the air he hops and hobbles round the table, withtrousers down at heels, chased by Ades of Magdalen with the tailor's shears.A scared calf's face gilded with marmalade. I don't want to be debagged! Don'tyou play the giddy ox with me!

    Shouts from the open window startling evening in the quadrangle. Adeaf gardener, aproned, masked with Matthew Arnold's face, pushes his moweron the sombre lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms.

    To ourselves ... new paganism ... omphalos.

    — Let him stay, Stephen said. There's nothing wrong with him except atnight.

    — Then what is it? Buck Mulligan asked impatiently. Cough it up. I'mquite frank with you. What have you against me now?

    They halted, looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on thewater like the snout of a sleeping whale. Stephen freed his arm quietly.

    — Do you wish me to tell you? he asked.

    — Yes, what is it ? Buck Mulligan answered. I don't remember anything.

    He looked in Stephen's face as he spoke. A light wind passed his brow,fanning softly his fair uncombed hair and stirring silver points of anxiety in hiseyes.

    Stephen, depressed by his own voice, said:

    — Do you remember the first day I went to your house after my mother'sdeath?

    Buck Mulligan frowned quickly and said:

    — What? Where? I can't remember anything. I remember only ideas andsensations. Why? What happened in the name of God?

    — You were making tea, Stephen said, and I went across the landing toget more hot water. Your mother and some visitor came out of the drawingroom. She asked you who was in your room.

    — Yes? Buck Mulligan said. What did I say? I forget.

    — You said, Stephen answered, O, it's only Dedalus whose mother isbeastly dead.

    A flush which made him seem younger and more engaging rose to BuckMulligan's cheek.

    — Did I say that? he asked. Well? What harm is that?

    He shook his constraint from him nervously.

    — And what is death, he asked, your mother's or yours or my own?You saw only your mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Materand Richmond and cut up into tripes in the dissecting room. It's a beastlything and nothing else. It simply doesn't matter. You wouldn't kneel downto pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Becauseyou have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only it's injected the wrong way.To me it's all a mockery and beastly. Her cerebral lobes are not functioning.She calls the doctor Sir Peter Teazle and picks buttercups off the quilt.Humour her till it's over. You crossed her last wish in death and yet you sulkwith me because I don't whinge like some hired mute from Lalouette's.Absurd! I suppose I did say it. I didn't mean to offend the memory of yourmother.

    He had spoken himself into boldness. Stephen, shielding the gaping woundswhich the words had left in his heart, said very coldly:

    — I am not thinking of the offence to my mother.

    — Of what, then? Buck Mulligan asked.

    — Of the offence to me, Stephen answered.

    Buck Mulligan swung round on his heel.

    — O, an impossible person! he exclaimed.

    He walked off quickly round the parapet. Stephen stood at his post, gazingover the calm sea towards the headland. Sea and headland now grew dim.Pulses were beating in his eyes, veiling their sight, and he felt the fever of hischeeks.

    A voice within the tower called loudly:

    — Are you up there, Mulligan?

    — I'm coming. Buck Mulligan answered.

    He turned towards Stephen and said:

    — Look at the sea. What does it care about offences? Chuck Loyola,Kinch, and come on down. The Sassenach wants his morning rashers.

    His head halted again for a moment at the top of the staircase, level withthe roof:

    — Don't mope over it all day, he said. I'm inconsequent. Give up themoody brooding.

    His head vanished but the drone of his descending voice boomed out orthe stairhead:

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery
For Fergus rules the brazen cars.

    Woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from thestairhead seaward where he gazed. Inshore and farther out the mirror ofwater whitened, spurned by lightshod hurrying feet. White breast of the dimsea. The twining stresses, two by two. A hand plucking the harpstrings mergingtheir twining chords. Wavewhite wedded words shimmering on the dimtide.

    A cloud began to cover the sun slowly, shadowing the bay in deepergreen. It lay behind him, a bowl of bitter waters. Fergus' song: I sang itabove in the house, holding down the long dark chords. Her door was open:she wanted to hear my music. Silent with awe and pity I went to her bedside.She was crying in her wretched bed. For those words, Stephen: love's bittermystery.

    Where now?

    Her secrets: old feather fans, tassled dancecards, powdered with musk, agaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunnywindow of her house when she was a girl. She heard old Royce sing in thepantomine of Turko the terrible and laughed with others when he sang:

I am the boy
That can enjoy

    Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.

And no more turn aside and brood.

    Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys. Memories besethis brooding brain. Her glass of water from the kitchen tap when she hadapproached the sacrament. A cored apple, filled with brown sugar, roastingfor her at the hob on a dark autumn evening. Her shapely fingernails reddenedby the blood of squashed lice from the children's shirts.

    In a dream, silently, she had come to him, her wasted body within itsloose graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath bentover him with mute secret words, a faint odour of wetted ashes.

    Her glazing eyes, staring out of death, to shake and bend my soul. On mealone. The ghostcandle to light her agony. Ghostly light on the torturedface. Her hoarse loud breath rattling in horror, while all prayed on their knees.Her eyes on me to strike me down. Liliata rutilantium te confessorum turmacircumdet : iubilantium te virginum chorus excipiat.

    Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!

    No, mother. Let me be and let me live.

    — Kinch ahoy!

    Buck Mulligan's voice sang from within the tower. It came nearer up thestaircase, calling again. Stephen, still trembling at his soul's cry, heard warmrunning sunlight and in the air behind him friendly words.

    — Dedalus, come down, like a good mosey. Breakfast is ready. Haines isapologising for waking us last night. It's all right.

    — I'm coming, Stephen said, turning.

    — Do, for Jesus' sake, Buck Mulligan said. For my sake and for all oursakes.

    His head disappeared and reappeared.

    — I told him your symbol of Irish art. He says it's very clever. Touchhim for a quid, will you? A guinea, I mean.

    — I get paid this morning, Stephen said.

    — The school kip? Buck Mulligan said. How much? Four quid? Lendus one.

    — If you want it, Stephen said.

    — Four shining sovereigns, Buck Mulligan cried with delight. We'll havea glorious drunk to astonish the druidy druids. Four omnipotent sovereigns.

    He flung up his hands and tramped down the stone stairs, singing out oftune with a Cockney accent:

O, won't we have a merry time,
Drinking whisky, beer and wine,
On coronation
Coronation day?
O, won't we have a merry time
On coronation day?

    Warm sunshine merrying over the sea. The nickel shavingbowl shone,forgotten, on the parapet. Why should I bring it down? Or leave it there allday, forgotten friendship?

    He went over to it, held it in his hands awhile, feeling its coolness,smelling the clammy slaver of the lather in which the brush was stuck. So Icarried the boat of incense then at Clongowes. I am another now and yet thesame. A servant too. A server of a servant.

    In the gloomy domed livingroom of the tower Buck Mulligan's gownedform moved briskly about the hearth to and fro, hiding and revealing its yellowglow. Two shafts of soft daylight fell across the flagged floor from the highbarbacans: and at the meeting of their rays a cloud of coalsmoke and fumes offried grease floated, turning.

    — We'll be choked, Buck Mulligan said. Haines, open that door, will you?

    Stephen laid the shavingbowl on the locker. A tall figure rose from thehammock where it had been sitting, went to the doorway and pulled open theinner doors.

    — Have you the key? a voice asked.

    — Dedalus has it, Buck Mulligan said. Janey Mack, I'm choked.