Last week Paul Andruss posted a follow up – Molly Bloom – to the According to the Muse two part series that explored poetry in all its glory and sometimes misfortune…
A finale to the dialogue: According to the Muse by Paul Andruss.
Years ago, when writing Finn Mac Cool, I discovered James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Joyce’s novel was based around Homer’s Odyssey: the story of a ten year journey home by the Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses in Latin) after the Trojan War.
Joyce used characters and incidents from Homer’s epic, like Ulysses’ imprisonment by Cyclops, Circe’s enchantment, the Locus Eaters and his seduction by Calypso, as tangential and often surreal starting points to relate his hero Leopold Bloom’s odyssey around Dublin within a 24 hour period.
Written over 7 years, the book was initially serialised from 1918 to 1920, before being published in Paris as a novel, in 1922. As with many modernist masterpieces of the time (pushing acceptable boundaries) Ulysses ended up banned for obscenity in England and the United States and was proscribed in Ireland until the 1960s, by which time Ulysses was recognised as one of literature’s most significant and brilliant works.
I was attracted to Ulysses because Finn Mac Cool dealt with myth, in this case Irish myth. Finn Mac Cool was difficult to write because the different Irish myth cycles span 1,000 years of history. Like Joyce I wanted to use myth as a starting point rather than write a simple retelling.
Poster Finn Mac Cool with Erin & Dermot
In the end I did not take Joyce’s route. Although I wanted something new, like Joyce, Ulysses is not an easy read. Each of its 18 episodes has a different theme and uses a different literary approach, with one episode written as a play, another as nineteen short character vignettes, a third as literary analysis. All are interspersed by long passages of musings, and stream of consciousness prose-poetry soliloquies, involving puns, parodies, philosophy and deliberate untruths inseparable from empirical fact.
Joyce admitted he wanted academics to argue over his opus magnum for centuries. He got his wish. Despite being one of the greatest literary works in history, scholars have yet to produce a definitive text. Every edition is met with derision and acrimony from another viewpoint’s fervent partisans.
I was fully aware I lacked Joyce’s facility with language. As a first novel I wanted to appeal to a wide readership. Masking Finn’s dark moral themes with outrageousness, jokes, cartoon violence and reckless adventure, I plumbed for a linear narrative, hoping it stood a cat’s chance in hell of being published.
O sweet naivety!
But this is not about Finn Mac Cool, nor Ulysses, or even Joyce’s Leopold Bloom. It is about his wife Molly Bloom: a flower of the mountain. The last episode of Joyce’s Ulysses is called Penelope and consists of her monologue.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses’ wife Penelope has faithfully awaited his return for 20 years. Her house is overrun by suitors each wanting her hand, and the kingdom that goes with it. As a delaying tactic Penelope tells the suitors she will not choose one until she has woven a burial shroud for her husband’s elderly father. She weaves the shroud each day and each night unpicks what she wove so the task never ends.
The name Penelope means ‘cover her face’. Scholars suggest Penelope was originally the moon goddess. The fact a kingdom comes with her hand, even though she has a grown son, points to early matrilineal societies under the Goddess of Old Europe, where inheritance passed from mother to daughter. The custom continued in Celtic societies, where women inherited and retained property in marriage, and took it away with them after divorce. Women were free to have children out of wedlock to different men. This scandalised the classical Greeks and Romans who considered wives and daughters property.
Molly’s monologue starts in the wee small hours, when lying next to Bloom, asleep besides her. The 50,000 word stream-of-consciousness is divided up into 8 sentences without punctuation. It reminds us of something we might write when our ambition exceeded our skill: although without the genius, obviously!
Joyce based Molly on how his wife spoke and wrote. The novelist Anthony Burgess said ‘sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a chunk of one of Nora’s letters and a chunk of Molly’s final monologue.’
Homer’s Penelope is model of constancy, despite Ulysses’ frequent, if sometimes reluctant, affairs – like his 7 year dalliance with Calypso. The same cannot be said for Molly.
Molly, a renowned opera singer, is having an affair with her manager Hugh ‘Blazes’ Boylan. Bloom, or Poldy as Molly calls her husband, knows about the affair but never comments.
Molly is sexually attracted to Boylan and finds their lovemaking very satisfying. As Molly says, (actually it is one of the least of the things Molly says about her lover): I never in all my life felt anyone had one the size of that, to make you feel full up*
It is not clear if Molly actually likes Boylan. She finds him coarse. Perhaps that is part of the attraction: No manners, nor no refinement, nor no nothing in his nature. Slapping us behind like that, on my bottom, because I didn’t call him Hugh, the ignoramus…
…One thing I didn’t like, his slapping me behind…. Though I laughed, I’m not a horse*
Bloom is no saint: Not that I care two straws now, who he does it with, or knew before that way, though I’d like to find out. So long as I don’t have the two of them under my nose all the time, like that slut that Mary we had in Ontario terrace, padding out her false bottom to excite him. Bad enough to get the smell of those painted women off him once or twice*
The husband and wife have not had sex for 10 years since their son died at 11 days old. As this is a catholic country in the 1900s, they never thought of divorce. Besides, Molly still loves Bloom, in her own way; still feels tenderness, if not the surge of passion she felt when he proposed:
The sun shines for you he said, the day we were lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head, in the grey tweed suit and his straw hat: the day I got him to propose to me. Yes, first I gave him the bit of seedcake out of my mouth, and it was leap year like now, yes, 16 years ago. My God after that long kiss I near lost my breath, yes. He said I was a flower of the mountain, yes. So we are flowers, all a woman’s body, yes. That was one true thing he said in his life… and the sun shines for you today. Yes. That was why I liked him, because I saw he understood or felt what a woman is and I knew I could always get round him.*
(*all punctuation mine)
To read the rest of the post please head over to Paul’s.. don’t miss out: http://www.paul-andruss.com/molly-bloom/
©Paul Andruss 2018
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
Connect to Paul on social media.
There are two directories for Paul in the menu – Writer in Residence posts: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/
and his new Gardening Column: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-gardening-column-by-paul-andruss/
Thank you for dropping by… thanks Sally