Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Everybody eating everyone else" (Joyce, King, You)

Before this Bloomsday 2009 comes to a close I do plan to curl up with my nemesis, James Joyce's Ulysses, and try to make more headway into the headache.

In the meantime, I am amusing myself by plucking lyrical and quizzical bits from the novel and lineating them as rock song lyrics, for future reference whenever I get to sit down with my collaborators - or for anyone else to pick up and run with.

These lines form about half of a paragraph in the subsection titled "AND IT WAS THE FEAST OF THE PASSOVER" that is set in the print shop at one of the newspapers Bloom visits on his rounds as an ad canvasser.

And then the lamb and the cat
and the dog and the stick
and the water
and the butcher

and then the angel of death
kills the butcher
and he kills the ox
and the dog kills the cat.

Sounds a bit silly
till you come to look into it well.

Justice it means
but it's everybody eating
everyone else.

That's what life is after all.
Bloom (who, famously, is Jewish) is remembering and garbling fragments of "an ancient parabolical hymn sung by the Jews at the Feast of Passover," as The New York Times described Joyce's source material for this passage in 1901 - three years before the events narrated in Ulysses transpired.

Henry Roth also had some fun with this traditional material in his 1934 novel Call It Sleep.


Image of Marc Chagall's 1947 painting Flayed Ox from somebody's blog that has load of gorgeous Chagall.

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