Now I’m in the middle of chapter 15 of Ulysses, and while it’s one of the densest, more incomprehensible sections, it’s also one of the funniest yet.
Written as a dramatic script, it’s largely a record of daydreams rather than conscious thoughts. As such, Bloom’s imagination runs freer than before, and the rambling fantasy, plus a growing penchant on Joyce’s part for whimsical puns, makes this chapter a delightful bit of foreshadowing for Finnegans Wake.
Maybe the best part of the chapter so far is the following, where Bloom’s delusions of grandeur–as contrasted with his almost pathetically meek actual self; an Irish Walter Mitty, as it were–find him presiding over a ridiculous bureaucracy. Joyce lists some mundane minutia in gloriously pompous detail (we’ve all seen government events and publications that take themselves this seriously–begging to be mocked), shares some clever wordplay, and even adds a pure joke at the end.
BLOOM My beloved subjects, a new era is about to dawn. I, Bloom, tell you verily it is even now at hand. Yea, on the word of a Bloom, ye shall ere long enter into the golden city which is to be, the new Bloomusalem in the Nova Hibernia of the future. (Thirtytwo workmen, wearing rosettes, from all the counties of Ireland, under the guidance of Derwan the builder, construct the new Bloomusalem. It is a colossal edifice with crystal roof, built in the shape of a huge pork kidney, containing forty thousand rooms. In the course of its extension several buildings and monuments are demolished. Government offices are temporarily transferred to railway sheds. Numerous houses are razed to the ground. The inhabitants are lodged in barrels and boxes, all marked in red with the letters: L. B. Several paupers fill from a ladder. A part of the walls of Dublin, crowded with loyal sightseers, collapses.) THE SIGHTSEERS (dying) Morituri te salutant. (they die) (A man in a brown macintosh springs up through a trapdoor. He points an elongated finger at Bloom.) THE MAN IN THE MACINTOSH Don't you believe a word he says. That man is Leopold M'Intosh, the notorious fireraiser. His real name is Higgins. <*page*> BLOOM Shoot him! Dog of a christian! So much for M'Intosh! (A cannonshot. The man in the macintosh disappears. Bloom with his sceptre strikes down poppies. The instantaneous deaths of many powerful enemies, graziers, members of parliament, members of standing committees, are reported. Bloom's bodyguard distribute Maundy money, commemoration medals, loaves and fishes, temperance badges, expensive Henry Clay cigars, free cowbones for soup, rubber preservatives in sealed envelopes tied with gold thread, butter scotch, pineapple rock, billets doux in the form of cocked hats, readymade suits, porringers of toad in the hole, bottles of Jeyes' Fluid, purchase stamps, 40 days' indulgences, spurious coins, dairyfed pork sausages, theatre passes, season tickets available for all tramlines, coupons of the royal and privileged Hungarian lottery, penny dinner counters, cheap reprints of the World's Twelve Worst Books: Froggy and Fritz (politic), Care of the Baby (infantilic), so Meals for 7/6 (culinic), Was Jesus a Sun Myth? (historic), Expel That Pain (medic), Infant's Compendium of the Universe (cosmic), Let's All Chortle (hilaric), Canvasser's Vade Mecum (journalic), Loveletters of Mother Assistant (erotic), Who's Who in Space (astric), Songs that Reached Our Heart (melodic), Pennywise's Way to Wealth (parsimonic). A general rush and scramble. Women press forward to touch the hem of Bloom's robe. The lady Gwendolen Dubedat bursts through the throng, leaps on his horse and kisses him on both cheeks amid great acclamation. A magnesium flashlight photograph is taken. Babes and sucklings are held up.) THE WOMEN Little father! Little father! THE BABES AND SUCKLINGS Clap clap hands till Poldy comes home, Cakes in his pocket for Leo alone. (Bloom, bending down, pokes Baby Boardman gently in the stomach.) BABY BOARDMAN (hiccups, curdled milk flowing from his mouth) Hajajaja. <*page*> BLOOM (shaking hands with a blind stripling) My more than Brother! (placing his arms round the shoulders of an old couple) Dear old friends! (he plays pussy fourcorners with ragged boys and girls) Peep! Bopeep! (he wheels twins in a perambulator) Ticktacktwo wouldyousetashoe? (he performs juggler's tricks, draws red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet silk handkerchiefs from his mouth) Roygbiv. 32 feet per second. (he consoles a widow) Absence makes the heart grow younger. (he dances the Highland fling with grotesque antics) Leg it, ye devils! (he kisses the bedsores of a palsied veteran) Honourable wounds! (he trips up a fit policeman) U. p: up. U. p: up. (he whispers in the ear of a blushing waitress and laughs kindly) Ah, naughty, naughty! (he eats a raw turnip offered him by Maurice Butterly, farmer) Fine! Splendid! (he refuses to accept three shillings offered him by Joseph Hynes, journalist) My dear fellow, not at all! (he gives his coat to a beggar) Please accept. (he takes part in a stomach race with elderly male and female cripples) Come on, boys! Wriggle it, girls! THE CITIZEN (choked with emotion, brushes aside a tear in his emerald muffler) May the good God bless him! (The rams' horns sound for silence. The standard of Zion is hoisted.) BLOOM (uncloaks impressively, revealing obesity, unrolls a paper and reads solemnly) Aleph Beth Ghimel Daleth Hagadah Tephilim Kosher Yom Kippur Hanukah Roschaschana Beni Brith Bar Mitzvah Mazzoth Askenazim Meshuggah Talith. (An official translation is read by Jimmy Henry, assistant town clerk.) JIMMY HENRY The Court of Conscience is now open. His Most Catholic Majesty will now administer open air justice. Free medical and legal advice, solution of doubles and other problems. All cordially invited. Given at this our loyal city of Dublin in the year I of the Paradisiacal Era. PADDY LEONARD What am I to do about my rates and taxes? <*page*> BLOOM Pay them, my friend.