Joyce

James Joyce's "Ulysses" (abridged)


by Jess Winfield

As published in New York Newsday on Bloomsday, June 16, 1995

My publicist calls me. New York Newsday, he says, would like to see an abridged version of James Joyce's Ulysses. Yeah, well, who wouldn't?

They want you to write it, he says, it's part of their Bloomsday coverage. Why me?, I wonder. A thought flashes through my mind: am I the only person who's ever finished Ulysses ? But then I realize that there are some real freaks out there, some even freakier than I, like all those people who watch "Home Improvement." Why, I bet there's even some masochist who's read Ulysses twice.

So why have they chosen me? Newsday figures that because I have co-written and directed The Compleat Works of Wllm Shakespeare (abridged), I'm some sort of expert on cutting classic works of literature down to size. Jess Winfield, professional iconoclast. Literary luminaries bastardized and bowdlerized while-U-wait. Dial 1-800-HACK right now for a free estimate.

They'll pay, says my publicist...

Ding-ding! In this corner, the challenger, a literary lightweight, a sophomoric from the University of California... Jess Winfield. Smattered boos; a panicked mother screams no, no, don't let them kill my baby! And in this corner, the literary heavyweight champion of the world, weighing in at a incredibly dense 718 pages, (the hometown announcer booms) James Joyce's Uuu-LYSS-SEEESSSS!

My knees quiver as I rise from the stool in the corner. I can't just run at the book like Quixote at a windmill, flailing wildly, hoping to score a sucker simile, land a lucky leitmotif. I need a strategy. A literary equivalent of Muhammand Ali's Rope-a-Dope. What's the book on this book? The last thing it'll expect? What foul currents flow through its stream-of-consciousness mind--

Stream-of-consciousness, that's it! Beat it at its own game. Joyce practically invented the technique, he'd never expect it to turn against him like Werner von Braun against the Germans. A stream of consciousness Ulysses Abridged. Here goes. Joyce purists, run and hide.

"Stately, plump Buck Mulligan..." Mulligan stew, Irish stew. Meet Stephen Dedalus, a walking head, Deadalus Headalus, all intellectualus. "The ineluctable modality of the visible." Right, whatever. And eke Leopold Bloom: Irish Jew, drinking his Jew's Harp lager.

So far, so smooth. I'm perfect for the job, this Bloomsday fete of an Irish Jew, a Celtic Jew Like Me. Celtics vs. Jews, what's the line? I'll take the Jews plus Ten Commandments, unless the Celtics have the home Cork advantage.

Bloomsday. A day in the life, just like the Beatles song. Woke up, got out of bed. "Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked liver slices fried with crustcrumbs..." Even a Liverpool connection. Liver Pool... like a Blood Bank. Mickey Mantle took a refreshing dip in the Liver Pool. He winds, de-livers, and Mantle hits it hard, knocks it back, way back, it's a goner!

Molly Bloom, in her bloomers, looming moonily in her womb-like room. Good golly Mrs. Molly, she gets around town, and when I say she gets around -- no, James Joyce didn't rhyme all the time. Stop that!

Dignam's funeral, dig'n'im into the ground. Cheese sandwich at Davy Byrne's pub (The Talking Head?), where I've been, by the by. Had a moldy-'poldy cheese sandwich and contemplated a statue of Joyce on the sidewalk outside. Very lifelike. Maybe metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls.

"Met him pike hoses."

Mets: them pikers, them hosers.

1904: A Dublin Odyssey. Peristaltic perambulation through Dublin, then Dublin back the way he came, allusions, extrusions, allusions to extrusions in the loo shunned by the Moral Majority or whoever it was with a bug up there.

But at the time, it was racy material, book-burning up the Middle of the American road. Cyclops, Sinn Fein, Ithaca, the IRA... it's all Greek to him, Irish to me, I wonder if I'm running out of room here how many words was this meant to be?

Dedalus and Bloom (WIFE: The dedalus are in bloom, dear. HUSBAND: Mm-hmm.); they meet, walk, and hold onto your cap, Paddy MacMorris O'Grady O'Leary and sons, here's the big climax...

They get stinking drunk.

It's Dublin, after all.

Why did James Joyce use a completely different writing technique -- such as question and answer -- in each episode of Ulysses?

Because he was a show-off.

How does James Joyce's Ulysses end?

Thus: finally home, Bloom abed, Molly is coddled and uh-oh gotta do that monstrous Molly monologue thats so famous well not as famous as to be or not to be but still pretty famous the pressures on gotta do something brilliant with it its the last scene the big boffo ending and very famous because its got a lot of frank sexual references as in references to sex with Frank go askin for him at McBells in the Village a nice Irish pub good place to read Ulysses in fact with Guinness on tap which really is better in Ireland just like they say and great burgers now where was I oh right the big Mollylogue its two or three run-on sentences with no punctuation over twenty pages of femininity and my California blood aside I dont know if Im really that in touch with my anima so I think Ill just bail out and quit while Im ahead since nobodys still reading by now anyway I mean I made more sense than the bloody book but will I get any credit for that I seriously doubt it I should probably try to get back to that boxing analogy somehow oh forget it but I hope Newsday will pay me yes Id better just fade out quietly yes I hope the checks in the mail thats why I said yes I will yes I did it okay now please pay me Yes.