Weather Report

Gardening: We've been having alternating days of sun and rain, which has been good for the stuff growing in the yard -- both the stuff we want growing there and the stuff we don't -- but I've been finding the cool rainy weather a little depressing as I begin to recover from the Upper Respiratory Infection, i.e., cold, From Hell. But today it's sun and I'm feelin alright, as the old Joe Cocker song has it. Yesterday during a break in the rain I hauled all the bonsai and indoor plants outside and put them in their summer quarters. Today I ought to pull weeds and put a few herbs I bought last week into pots. Reading: I read The Idiot in Hanoi and I'm trying to write an essay about it that works with the idea of being beside one's self. When I got home and had the bad cold, I plunged into the last three novels in Patrick O'Brian's Aubury-Maturin series, which I've now completed over the last three summers, though I think maybe I missed one volume somewhere in the middle. I'll probably read through the series again at some point, but not for a while. I read O'Brian's books the way Carole watches certain kinds of HBO shows, because they are respectable, intelligent entertainment that still don't demand complete concentration. Then -- and this is weird -- last night -- without even realizing that today would be Bloomsday -- I picked up Ulysses and began to read it for perhaps the fifth or sixth time. I've never gotten more than 100 pages into it, but I think this time I've caught the music. Stephen's symbol for Irish art, "the cracked looking glass of a servent," strikes me as an appropriate metaphor for modernist art in general, including Dostoevsky's novel. The image in the glass is doubled and displaced; that it belongs to a servent might at first seem to devalue it, but we know that servents are often more free of illusion that their masters. Update: There was a good short essay by Colum McCann about Ulysses in yesterday's NY Times.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

5 thoughts on “Weather Report”

  1. I picked up Ulysses last night too. I’ve read it through four times because I can hear the voices. I grew up in a neighborhood full of Dubliners. But I realized I couldn’t square the time for it now. I have other things to read, indexing and copyediting to do, yenure file stuff, and a couple of essays to revise. It made me terribly sad. “Next summer,” I said to myself like a vow.

  2. Well, Chris, I guess I’ll have to read it for you this summer. It’s funny — I have a great tolerance for rich, dense texts, but I’d never caught the tone of Ulysses until yesterday. I read another fifty pages last night and now I think I get it.

  3. I’ll live it vicariously through you, but it would have been better to read it together. I’d love to hear your reaction to the poetry of Molly.

  4. Ulysses is one of those books that, even if you haven’t read it, you know a lot about. I’ve heard parts of Molly’s section performed, but it will be interesting to see how I respond to it on the page.

  5. I saw that Ulysses essay. It actually came up in our Faulkner discussion group on Wednesday evening. Family is everything, like it or not.

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