With apologies for the long silence, occasioned by family obligations and much travel. In addition to the usual “post-show” round of bronchial woes, I’m deep in the throes of what Big Bill Gibson called “soul delay“: the nagging feeling that you’ve left part of yourself on the other side of the Atlantic, but you’re damned if you can recollect exactly where.
Until I’m back up to speed, I wanted to share with you a better-late-than-never Bloomsday post. To my delight, and with thanks to the University of Adelaide, I was able to keep up my tradition of reading my favorite chapter of Ulysses at the exact time of day it takes place, even while away from my library. People tend to be surprised when they find out which chapter I prefer above all others. Standard guesses include Nausicaa (number thirteen) or Penelope (the last of eighteen, otherwise known as Molly Bloom’s monologue). But no, it’s number four, the humble Calypso, with its lyrical odes to breakfast, domestic felines, and early morning perambulations on the north side of Dublin. I read it this year perched on the least rackety of the kitchen chairs in a splendid flat on the Boulevard Port Royal in Paris. The smell of white wine and mussels drifted up from the Academie de la Bière below, where the chef was getting a head start on the day’s mountain of moules marinières. (For the record, they also serve a mean croque flamand, which is like Welsh rarebit made by enthusiastic Belgians.) In the living room next door, The Sprite stirred briefly in the depths of the sofa and pulled the duvet more securely over her head. Somewhere nearby was a copy of The Odyssey, in Robert Fitzgerald’s masterful translation: a present from me, to mark her first trip across an ocean.
This is the story of a man who was never at a loss. I looked up and saw him stroll past my window, his Latin Quarter hat at its usual angle on his close-cropped head, precise in its carelessness. He swung his ashplant round three times in his hand, dared me to stoop to cliché, to dub him Chaplinesque. I declined; you’ve taught me too well, old artificer, I said. I like to think of him laughing, although I’ve never seen him pictured doing so. And so I watched him laugh his way down the boulevard, disappearing in the shafts of sunlight breaking through the plane trees.
It meant more to me than I could say, to rediscover him in a city where, as a wise man once said, he came to stay for a week and remained for twenty years.
— amrh / June 2013, Paris and Mougins