As I recently finished reading a survey of Joyce’s writings, it occurred to me that each of his four majors works could be compared to the four major acts of Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in order.
A critical care for presenting a realistic story gives us the first stage of the work. The inhabitants of this place are frustrated and stunted. The Kubrickian monolith is equivalent to the Joycean epiphany. Ironically, where the epiphanies of Joyce only instigate paralysis, the monoliths of 2001 catalyze a quantum leap in evolution.
= A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Here we see a truly new style (or, at least, a recent style perfected)–Joyce’s stream of consciousness and Kubrick’s special effects ballet. Each work is a seamless, totally integrated work of ambitious art, where every facet contributes to the whole united message. Each work, thematically and in its plot, is about man moving onward and upward.
I’m reading John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, and what impresses me most (besides how aggressively macho Milton makes every detail—perhaps how Ray Bradbury would write if he were on steroids) is how funny it can often be. Two scenes in Book 2 will demonstrate:
As the deposed demons discuss what to do about their infernal exile, Moloch (the John Wayne of the underworld) campaigns for another assault on heaven and an open war on God. The more pragmatic Belial worries that the risks of God’s further wrath outweigh the rewards in that course, and says:
What if the breath that kindl’d those grim fires [ 170 ]
Awak’d should blow them into sevenfold rage
And plunge us in the flames? or from above
Should intermitted vengeance arm again
His red right hand to plague us? what if all
Her stores were open’d, and this Firmament [ 175 ]
Of Hell should spout her Cataracts of Fire,
Impendent horrors, threatning hideous fall
One day upon our heads; while we perhaps
Designing or exhorting glorious warr,
Caught in a fierie Tempest shall be hurl’d [ 180 ]
Each on his rock transfixt, the sport and prey
Of racking whirlwinds, or for ever sunk
Under yon boyling Ocean, wrapt in Chains;
There to converse with everlasting groans,
Unrespited, unpitied, unrepreevd, [ 185 ]
Ages of hopeless end; this would be worse. [emphasis added]
That’s great—yes, infinite torture for eternity would be a mite bit worse than exile. Those last four words strike me as a supreme sort of understatement.
Later, they all agree to Satan’s plan to look into this new project God’s been working on—creating creatures called “humans” and settling them on a place called “Earth”—and see if there’s some way they can stick it to him by messing it up. Continue reading