Friday, June 12, 2009

"Over the motley slush" (Joyce, King, Whoever Helps Me)

Stephen Dedalus is presenting his eccentric theories about Hamlet in the stretch of James Joyce's Ulysses I am reading right now, but I am backtracking to old passages I had marked as fun to score as rock songs.

I really like this bit. Stephen is daydreaming about the horse races as Mr Deasy types out a commentary on hoof-and-mouth disease, to be delivered to the newspaper. It's a paragraph in the novel, but I will lineate it as lyrics, with a suugested hook offset as a chorus:
Where Cranly led me to get rich quick
Hunting his winners among the mudsplashed brakes
Amid the brawls of bookies on their pitches
And reek of the canteen

Over the motley slush

Even money Fair Rebel: ten to one the field
Dicers and thimbleriggers
We hurried by after the hoofs
The vying caps and jackets

And past the meatfaced woman
A butcher's dame, nuzzling thirstily
Her clove of orange
It helps greatly that I have a thing for horse racing, having grown up in the shadow of Fairmount Park, once played a Derby Eve party in Louisville, and later lived a short walk from Belmont Park in Queens.

By the way, in his lecture on Ulysses, Vladimir Nabokov cites this passage as a good example of stream-of-consciousness prose and connects it to other relevant moments in this difficult novel.

More in this series

"My childhood bends" (Joyce, King)
"Don't you play the giddy ox with me!" (Joyce, King)


Image of a French Steeplechase race from 1904 (the year in which the action of Ulysses is set, though here Stephen is remembering a day at the races from his childhood) from The Card Mine.

1 comment:

Difficult Books said...

That's a nice touch--breaking these sentences into lines of poetry. It scans well.

I'm trying to get through Ulysses too, but my blog is about Joyce's allusions ( The goal is to look up every...single...reference.

It can be tedious, but it's also fun watching how Joyce's brain worked.

Anyway, I was working on this page of Ulysses today, came across your blog, and wanted to say hello.

Haven't had the chance to listen to your mp3 postings yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Keep up the good work.