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Ulysses: Episode 3: Proteus: Georgia Nicholson: 03/14/09
The third episode of Ulysses called "Proteus" ends the first part (The Telemachiad) of the novel. Proteus is the Greek shape-shifting "Old Man of the Sea" who can see the future but will only answer to whomever can catch him.
In Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus having had a shitty day at work goes to sea perhaps to find answers but mostly just to throw a hissy fit and cuss at life until he feels better. The entire fifteen page episode is written as stream of consciousness that blips between languages and mixes up literary allusions and is peppered with swearing and observations of the life happening around him as he storms down to the seaside.
What this episode reminds me of more than anything is one of my all time favorite young adult diary writing characters: Georgia Nicholson. She first appeared in Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (1999) which lead to sixteen more books. The books are written as diary entries in a stream of conscious flow with a similar (albeit more juvenile) mixture of slang, mangled allusions, foreign languages (bad French and German mostly) and funny observations of her day to day life.
The first book has also been adapted into a film (which I haven't seen) and the title cleaned up to Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. I'm including the poster to the film just because it's a perfect illustration of stream of consciousness except perhaps that Georgia looks much too calm. She and Stephen are more high strung than that poster implies.
The stream of conscious diary is such a common literary technique in British young adult fiction I found it (perhaps unintentionally) amusing to be reading the same thing in a classic. Then I start imagining young budding authors being forced to read Ulysses in school and drawing on the stranger parts of the novel in the future when they are bringing their own characters to life.
Next Saturday I'll discuss Episode Four: Calypso. If you want to read along, Ulysses is available online at . For more information about the novel, check out these wikipedia articles: Ulysses (novel) and Proteus, and Louise Rennison