Ulysses: Episode 8: The Laestrygonians: Earl's Court to Islington: 04/18/09
In the eight episode of Ulysses called "The Laestrygonians" takes its name from the giants who destroy most of the returning fleet of ships. Odysseus and the other captains had stopped at an island for supplies and repairs. Nine of the ten ships went into the harbor and Odysseus moored his ship on the rocks being a cautious man. From the rocks Odysseus and his crew watch smoke and dust rise up from harbor as the giants throw boulders onto the harbor-moored ships.
Now Bloom being a modern bloke living in Dublin doesn't run across any boulder wielding giants. Instead he spends his walk thinking about all the different things in life that consume a person's time and alter their perceptions along the way. The giants then in Bloom's life are responsibility and consequence. As he thinks about adult life he also thinks about the limitations of the human body: blindness, deafness and confusion.
During all this thinking, Bloom ducks into a number of places, the last one being a museum. That's when everything clicked for me: the "Earl's Court to Islington" episode of Neverwhere. Both episodes illustrate altered states of perception. Neverwhere manages to "mind the gap" between the two stories by having elements that are both mythical and metaphorical. In fact much of Richard Mayhew's journey hinges on his ability to sort the two out.
While Door needs to take advantage of their status as invisible to the people of London Above, Richard desperately wants to be seen and acknowledged as a member (or ex-member) of London Above. Bloom during his walk does a similar dance between hidden and visible as he only wants to talk to certain folks he knows and not others. His ducking into the museum at the end is a way to escape just as ultimately Richard and Door must escape from their pursuers through the museum (albeit through a door made by Door).
For all three narratives, this head on confrontation with perception altering experiences marks the halfway point. Now for Neverwhere the remainder of the series is a quest to return to the Angel Islington under false pretenses. The giants for Odysseus were a stumbling block. I will have to wait and see what this eye opening walk will bring for Bloom.
Next Saturday I'll discuss Episode Nine: Scylla and Charybdis. If you want to read along, Ulysses is available online at Read Print
books | fiction | James Joyce | 1918