Tag Archives: Ulysses

repost: review of “The Shortest Way to Hades”

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Title: The Shortest Way to Hades

Author: Sarah Caudwell

Series: the Hilary Tamar mysteries

Summary: A group of young London barristers, along with their former tutor Tamar, set out to investigate the suspicious death (deaths?) of one of their clients.  Half of the story happens in London, while the other half is in Corfu, Greece.

Once again, a fabulous and unique narrator.  Hilary Tamar is carefully written with intellectual language, elegant sentences, and a complete ambiguity about gender.  All of the other characters are clearly men or women, but Hilary is deliberately never defined.  Oh, there are clues, of course, but just when you think you have Hilary nailed down, something else slips in– and your ideas fold away.  People who review this book, like I am, often make a big deal about this, as it is so unusual, but I think the point that Caudwell is trying to make is that it doesn’t really matter to the story, so why include it?  And, she has a point. 

Ok, remember what I said a few posts ago about not like Literature ?  Well, I do like feeling smart about literature, I just don’t care, particularly, for reading it in my spare time.  The beautiful thing about Hilary, Cantrip, Selena, Timothy, Ragwort, and Julia is that they feel like an exclusive, academic club to which you, the reader, are also invited– meanwhile, you’re reading a mystery book.  I admit, I had to go back to my old copy of “The Odyssey” for a few of the more obscure references, but that’s what makes this worth the read– that plot elements of classical Greek literature play an essential part in the plot of the story.  Speaking of plotting– Caudwell’s plot construction is so tight, you don’t even realize what she’s done until the very end when every piece falls neatly into place.  If you don’t know your “Odyssey,” though, don’t worry.  The relevant passages are made clear enough without background reading.  Also, Caudwell thankfully DOES include a family tree at the front of the novel to help the poor reader keep track of the various members of the Jocasta clan.

Now, onto the dialogue, which is my favorite thing about this book & this entire series.  Each character speaks with a lovely, high-lettered way.  Other reviews have called their tone “ironic,” but I feel it is more Wodehousian– calling it irony takes away from the beautiful playfulness of the novel.  The interplay of each character’s speaking style, along with the “come on, gang!” element makes it feel like a more serious version of one of his best novels.  I actually read most of the dialogue aloud, just because it was fun to say. Cantrip’s speeches, in particular, stand out.  It’s a pity that Caudwell only wrote the 4 books in this series, a bit of short story, and one play.  We won’t get any more, either, because she died 9 years ago.  (I know, she was busy being a tax barrister and all, but it’s a shame).  For example, Hilary doesn’t want to grade final exam essays (I know the feeling).  She explains this as follows: “The suggestion had been made by some of my colleagues that I should participate in the marking of the summer examinations which in Oxford we refer to as Schools.  Much as I was honored by the proposal, I had felt obliged to decline: who am I to sit in judgement on the young?  Moreover, the marking of examination scripts is among the most tedious of occupations.  I had accordingly explained that the demands of Scholarship– that is to say, of my researches into the concept of causa in the early Common Law– precluded any other commitment of my time and energies.”  Now, don’t you wish you would write that way when turning down an assignment at work?

Overall: Anglophiles– you’ll love this series.  Nicely, too, you don’t have to read them in order. 

For more see below:

http://www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=4521

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books I read because of a book blog

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Here we go with another post topic from Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW).

Unfortunately, my pile of unfinished grading is mocking me from the corner, so this one will be a quick pic answer.

What books have I read because I discovered them on a book blog?  Who introduced me to them?

 Courtesy of Matthew Stukus at http://todayiwassoawesome.wordpress.com I was introduced to the amazingness that is Terry Prachett.

I was a Pratchett virgin, but now Im hooked!

I was a Pratchett virgin, but now I'm hooked!

 
“Ulysses” by James Joyce– yes, THAT “Ulysses.”  I was drawn into the idea just in time for Bloomsday by Wandering Rox http://wanderingrox.wordpress.com/
Now I’ve covered two sections for the collective, and we’re making slow but steady progress through one of the most infamous novels in English.
We aint afraid of no seminal Modernist text! We ain’t afraid of no seminal Modernist text!

Well, that’s it for the moment, but I’m sure there will be more in the future (especially now that I’ve discovered some great new book blogs through BBAW.)

 

BBAW meme

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Here’s my next post in our continuing celebration of Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  The instructions were to just pick a few or to answer them all in 5 words or less.  Yeah, not so much with the brevity, but I did my best.  Enjoy learning a bit more about how I read, and please leave comments sharing your own reading habits.  You should also check out the main site for 2009 BBAW: http://bookbloggerappreciationweek.com

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

I like to eat sweets when I’m reading, especially since most of my reading time these days is on Sunday evenings.  A few Oreos or brownies hit the spot.

 

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Oh, I’m a scribbler, as those of you who have been following my Ulysses graffiti know.  The more “proper Literature” the novel, the more likely it is to get this treatment.  I do, however, draw the line at writing in library books.  That’s just bad manners (ok, I’ve copy-edited one or two, but I couldn’t help myself… really…)

 

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?  Laying the book flat open?

I’m rough on my books– dogearring pages left, right, and center; laying books open flat for months at a time until I get back to them; underlining bits I really need to remember.  And yet, for all of my admittedly abusive behavior, I’ve only ever lost the spines on one or two. 

 

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Generally, I’m a Fiction girl through and through, but this summer I’ve strayed into Non-fiction and quite enjoyed “Julie and Julia.”  

 
Hard copy or audiobooks?

Hard copy is my bread and butter, but I do love a great audio book.  During my winter-time commutes (when I leave in the dark and come home in the dark), a rivoting audio book makes me actually wish for the traffic to be worse, so that I can listen to the end of the chapter.

 

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

I tend to read to the end of the chapter– wait, let’s be truthful here… I promise myself I will just read to the end of the chapter, and then I end up reading 3 more chapters before I absolutely MUST put it down and go and do real work. 

 

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

I’m a bit of a word collector, so I try to look them up and then, if I find it interesting, jot it down in my little book.
What are you currently reading?

I nearly always have multiple books going at once.  Currently, I’m reading “Watch Your Back!” by Donald E. Westlake, “The Code of the Woosters” by P. G. Wodehouse, and “A Beautiful Blue Death” by Charles Finch.  All of them are very good in distinctly unique ways.
What is the last book you bought?

“Lust, Loathing, and a Little Lip Gloss” by Kyra Davis– It’s going to be my new bath book when I finish with Wodehouse.
Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

As you can tell from my currently-reading list above, I’m a multi-book reader.  I have no trouble juggling plots and characters in my head– especially since I tend to have a bunch of very different books going, and pick them up according to the way I’m feeling at the moment.  I like to have a fluffy & fun “bath book,” a serious mystery, and a clever book going at any one time.

 

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? 

I really like reading a great mystery novel on a late afternoon during a rollicking thunderstorm.
Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

I tend to really fall in love with characters and stories, so series novels are usually how I roll.     
Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

I love recommending Laurie R. King’s work– every single one of them are delicious– to people who like mysteries and strong writing.  Then, of course, I have my sci-fi favorite of Douglas Adams.
How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

I organize my shelves superficially by author and genre, but most of the books are actually gathered into emotional groups– so that I can easily pick a book by what I Feel like reading at the time.  My dvds and cds are actually organized this way as well.

the 2nd flight of Aeolus

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Back again, bouyed by breezy comments from Aeolus’s margins, we fly.  If you missed the previous flight, catch it here.  This may be a bumpy ride, so please stow your luggage securely and put your trays in the upright positions.

 

“Practice dwindling.  A mighthavebeen.  Losing heart.”– such a sad fellow.

“Weathercocks.  Hot and cold in the same breath.”– are they Mary Poppins then?

“Is he taking anything for it?”– a good question.

“shite and onions”– such a disgusting phrase!  What did onions ever do to you?

onions are lovely.  leave them alone.

onions are lovely. leave them alone.

“Get a grip of them by the stomach.”– I agree.  good advice.  hopefully not using the shite and onions, though.  eww.

“The editor’s blue eyes roved towards Mr Bloom’s face, shadowed by a smile.”– Why, what does Secret Squirrel here know?

Is this really a picture of the Editor and Leopold Bloom?

Is this really a picture of the Editor and Leopold Bloom?

“My Ohio.”– ooooooo ooo hio– where North Cork won every time [sung to tune of “Oklahoma”]

“He took a reel of dental floss…”– ok, nice to see him flossing, but such poor manners!

“Who wants a dead cert for the God cup? he asked”– how are the odds on the choirboys handicap?  Bertie Wooster wants to place a bet with Pongo.

“There’s a hurricane blowing.”– listen, bub.  You don’t know nothin’  ’bout no hurricanes.

“We are the boys of Wexford…”– I’d rather have David from “Newsies” singing here: “Open the gates and seize the day…”

give me David anyday over random Ulysses urchins

give me David anyday over random Ulysses urchins

“He’ll get that advertisement”– why is Leo so motivated here?  does he work on commission?

“Lenehan promptly struck a match for them and lit their cigarettes in turn.”– according to Hanff, the English would light cigs only off of other peoples.  they would never ask for a match.

“Thanky vous”– well, aren’t we just too Gallic for words!

“Silence for my brandnew riddle”– booooogus!

“We mustn’t be led away by words, by sounds of words.”– Pah-lease!  That is all that J.J. does!

“The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his food… only his cloacal obsession”– Do you have a flag?

“First my riddle, Lenehan said.  Are you ready?”– Poor guy can’t get a word in edgewise.

“Youth led by Experience visits Notoriety”– sounds like a naughty poem by Blake.

“Lenehan said to all:”– Why is a raven like a writing desk?

“He comes, pale vampire”– is he sparkly?

“The bloodiest old tartar God ever made.”– Ah, She Who Must Be Obeyed.

“O’Rourke, prince of Breffni”– yes, yes, we’ve had all of this already.  get on with it!

“We were always loyal to lost causes.”– ah, like Evan Tanner.

“But the Greek!”– For all our faults, we loooove our Greeks.  [sung to a tune from Pirates of Penzance]

“Pyrrhus”– without Thisbe?

“LENEHAN’S LIMERICK”– I like Carl Kasell’s better.

“Myles Crawford crammed the sheets into a sidepocket.”– Those Blasted Sheets and Tissues!

“The Rose of Castille”– groan.  awful.  though, better than Stevie’s from earlier.

“YOU CAN DO IT!”– why does this remind me of those Python letters to the editor?

 

And I shall leave you, dears, with one of my favorite bits of flying humor.  Enjoy.

the nonsense is blowing in the wind

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 Why, hello.  Did you do your homework?  Have you listened to or read Aeolus? 

Good, good.

So, let’s review: Aeolus is the section of Ulysses that is roughly set as a newspaper, complete with bold titles and (mostly) uninterested reporting of events. 

this chapter is full of wind bags.

this chapter is full of wind bags.

The wind bags in this section have blown in these random bits of marginalia.

“The hoarse Dublin United Tramway Company’s timekeeper bawled them off”– Reminds me of Cosby’s subway routine called “Incoherency.”

Is the porter a Sontarian in disguise?

is the porter a Sontarian in disguise?

“All his brains are in the nape of his neck, Simon Dedalus says.  Welts of flesh behind him.”– Is that a probic vent I see? 

 “But will he save the circulation?”– He needs Jack, David and the Newsies (Let’s be honest– every one needs Newsies!)

“HOW A GREAT DAILY ORGAN IS TURNED OUT”– ok, that’s dirty.  Even for you, J.J!

“Monkeydoodle the whole thing.”– another excellent phrase that I wish to incorporate into my everyday vocabulary.

“his spellingbee conundrum…”– a cute puzzle.  He should send it to Click & Clack for the Car Talk puzzler.

“Time to get out.”– he knows a lambasting is coming.

“ONLY ONCE MORE THAT SOAP”– I’d forgotten about the soap.

“Wouldn’t it give you heartburn on your arse?”– Um… no?

“The pensive bosom and the overarsing leafage…”– I have to agree with them here; this is ridiculous doggeral.

“The right honorable Hedges Eyre Chatterton”– is he involved in the Eyre Affair?

“SHORT BUT TO THE POINT”– but what was the point?

“The doorknob hit Mr Bloom in the small of the back as the door was pushed in.”– Ouch!

not recommended by your chiropractor

not recommended by your chiropractor

I’ll leave you today with that painful memory.  Tomorrow– more hot air.

in which I regress to childhood

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LIZAANNE LISTENS TO AEOLUS

As you all know, I’ve been reading James Joyce’s “Ulysses” along with the Wandering Rocks team. 

Well, we have a new section this week– “Aeolus” [yup, it is full of wind bags]– and a new contributor– Brendan.  With all of this novelty floating about, I figured I would try reading this chapter in a retro way…

“You can read along with me in your book.  You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear the chimes ring, like this.*Ping*  Let’s begin now.” 

{ye olde Disney read-along books on records– anyone?  John–enough with the cricket noises already.  You just don’t know the glory of 45’s.} 

a disney record player-- I totally had one of these.  wonder what happened to it.

a disney record player-- I totally had one of these. wonder what happened to it.

Our Brendan doesn’t have any chimes, but he has read aloud “Ulysses” and made his recordings available as podcasts: the Joycecast.  Please go and have a listen. 

Brendan’s voice is lovely  {I have a thing for men with great reading voices.  Yum.}  His accents are generally quite good (and, as far as I know, he comes by them legitimately), and my favorite bit is that he keeps his little mistakes of pronunciation or inflection in.  Thus, his readings feel comfortable and friendly, instead of formal or stiff.  I put his “Aeolus” on my pretty purple ipod & read along with him in my book.  I managed to figure out when to turn the page all by myself.  I know you are proud.  I also made silly notes in the margins– you have come to expect nothing less, I know.

So, my darlings, go and have a listen; then come back tomorrow, when I will post my first batch of marginalia for this chapter.

 

my choice of reading material have grown up a bit, but being read to still rocks!

my choice of reading material have grown up a bit, but being read to still rocks!

p.s.  CeCe, my playmate, if you want to come out and play with me at Wandering Rocks, we’ll be jolly friends forever more.  Or, follow the page-by-page shenanigans on Twitter: WanderingRox

 

Hades is not a cheerful place

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Can you believe it?  Two posts in one day– this hasn’t happened in awhile.   For my second trick today, I’m giving you the rest of my marginalia for the Hades section of James Joyce’s Ulysses.  My margins are full to bursting! 

Part one comments reside here.  (If you’re new to this game, it’s great fun.  Click on the Ulysses category on my sidebar to find the rest of them.)

Picking up on page 92 of the Vintage edition…

The River Styx just isnt as fun as it used to be. 

The River Styx just isn't as fun as it used to be.

“The devil break the hasp of your back!”– Why is this funny?

“Well, nearly all of us.”– Ouch!

“As decent a little man as ever wore a hat, Mr Dedalus said.”– I like this phrase.  Finally Mr. D is not being a twat.

“Our.  Little.  Beggar.  Baby.”– how awful and sad!

“But the worst of all, Mr Power said, is the man who takes his own life.”– Now listen here.  You leave poor Leo’s dad alone.

“Martin Cunningham drew out his watch briskly, coughed and put it back.”– Take the hint, dude.

 You did WHAT? to the roast beef, Everton?  You shall die for this.

You did WHAT? to the roast beef, Everton? You shall die for this.

“Roast beef for old England.”– Reminds me of that episode of Chef!

“To heaven by water.”– Not one of your best advertising ideas there, Leo.

“Better for ninetynine guilty to escape than for one innocent person to be wrongfully condemned.”– Powers would have this reversed.

“Too many in the world.”– Well that’s depressing.

“I was in mortal agony with you talking of suicide before Bloom.”– You tell him, Mr. C!

“Condole with her…” — I don’t approve on hitting on recent widows, Leo.  At least you thought better of it.

“[Mr Bloom] dropped carefully his unfolded newspaper from his pocket and knelt his right knee upon it.”– cute.

“With a belly on him like a poisoned pup.”– eww!

“Makes them feel more important to be prayed over in Latin.”– well, yes.

“One whiff of that and you’re a goner.”– gruesome.  Sounds like something from Castle of Otranto or Poe.

“Mr Power took his arm.”– Ok- I feel sorry for old Mr. D now.

“The reverend gentleman read the service too quickly, don’t you think?  Mr Kernan said with reproof.”– yes, I do.

“Come forth, Lazarus!  And then he came fifth and lost the job.”– Harde har har

“What? Eh? Corny Kelleher said.”– Is our Corny a bit slow?

“A traveller for blottingpaper.”– Does he know the territory? [Wilson’s The Music Man]

“They tell the story…”– Why are all of their jokes about drunk men?

“Come on out and live in the graveyard.”– Probably not the most successful of chat-up lines.

“In the midst of death we are in life.”– reminds me of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

“Well preserved fat corpse gentleman…” — Listen, Leo.  Not everything is a business opportunity. 

“Nothing to feel on feed on themselves.”– eww!

“Every Friday buries a Thursday if you come to look at it.”– cheesy pun.

“It’s the moment you feel…”– What the moment of death may be like, as a Python sketch.

“Does he ever think of the hole waiting for himself?…”– It is a creepy feeling. 

“the gravediggers rested their spades”– “Tamp it down tight, Charlie.” [Disney’s A Christmas Carol]

“That one day he will come again.”– like King Arthur?  or was that Jesus?

“Eulogy in a country churchyard it ought to be that poem”– a good poem, that.

“Have a gramophone in every grave or keep it in the house.”– What a strange, yet tempting, idea.

“Cremation better…”– God, he is morbid here– yet practical.

“Back to the world again.”– Yes, please.

“that case I read of to get at fresh buried females”– ewww!

“Plenty to see and hear and feel yet.  Feel live warm beings near you.”– Now that’s the Leo that we know and love.

“John Henry Menton stared at him for an instant without moving.”– Ouch!  Cut him dead in true Regency style.

“Thank you.  How grand we are this morning.”– Are we sarcastic, too?

 

My, this was a cheerful and optimistic chapter!

My, this was a cheerful and optimistic chapter!

Wow!  I’d forgotten how long that section was– and we’ve got a longer one coming up.  I may well break these up into 3 or 4 sections for Aeolus section.

Are you all still enjoying these?  If so, drop me a comment and let me know, or share some of your book graffiti with me.