Chapters 7 & 8 are officially known as "Aeolus" and "Lestrygonians" but could also be known, in Friends parlance, as "the one about the newspaper business" and "the one about food".
This is essentially a chapter that continues to play with language and the use of language, especially in the context of the newsroom. The text is broken up by sub-headings which resemble headlines. Here's an example:
GENTLEMEN OF THE PRESS
Grossbooted draymen rolled barrels dullthudding out of Prince's stores and bumped them up on the brewery float. On the brewery float bumped dullthudding barrels rolled by grossbooted draymen out of Prince's stores.
What I like about the above quote is that it says the same thing in two different ways, and anyone who has been a reporter will know all the different permutations one set of facts can present when you are trying to write a story for publication. Of course, journalists should always write proactive sentences, rather than passive ones, so I prefer Joyce's first sentence, as opposed to the second, for obvious reasons. But seeing them adjacent to one another in this way delighted me. As did much of this chapter.
And, similarly, I loved chapter 8, mainly because the streets that Bloom wanders down -- O'Connell Street, O'Connell Bridge, Westmoreland Street, Grafton Street, Duke Street, Dawson Street and Kildare Street -- are fresh in my memory from last month's tootle around Dublin, where I managed, for the first time, to make sense of the city's layout and imprint a map inside my head. Oh, and the constant mention of food made me feel quite hungry.
Summary of narrative
Chapter 7 is not a straightforward read. There's a lot going on here, and I'm sure some of it went over my head, but essentially it's about Leopold Bloom visiting a newspaper office to place an advertisement for a friend.
Image courtesy of Three Potato Four
What I liked most about this chapter was the sense of the hustle and bustle, noise and atmosphere of the printing works, of ink-covered men laying out typefaces in a skillful, efficient manner.
He stayed in walk to watch a typesetter neatly distributing type. Reads it backwards first. Quickly he does it. Must require some practice that. mangiD. kcirtaP.
And this is contrasted with the pontification of the editorial staff, who seem to spend most of their time talking about this, that and the other, without seeming to do any real work, apart from answer the telephone. And then, of course, they make a mass exodus to the pub!
Meanwhile, poor Bloom is put through the mill and runs around the city like a chicken with his head cut off. This is mainly because he is having the ad for his friend redesigned ("—Like that, see. Two crossed keys here. A circle. Then here the name Alexander Keyes, tea, wine and spirit merchant. So on."), but the head printer stipulates that the ad must run for three months, not two as requested. Bloom dashes out to discuss the matter with Keyes, who is at a local auction house, to see if he agrees to a three-month run.
While all this is going on, Stephen Dedalus arrives to pass on the letter to the editor that his boss, Mr Deasey, has written for publication -- and which we first heard about in chapter 2.
Chapter 8 is more forthright and easy to understand. It follows Bloom on a stroll through the streets of inner-city Dublin. He meets a family friend, Mrs Breen, and stops for a chat.
Perched on high stools by the bar, hats shoved back, at the tables calling for more bread no charge, swilling, wolfing gobfuls of sloppy food, their eyes bulging, wiping wetted moustaches.
He goes to nearby Davy Byrne's pub instead ("Moral pub. He doesn't chat. Stands a drink now and then."), where he bumps into several more acquaintances, and orders that (infamous) gorgonzola cheese sandwich -- which he cuts into slender strips and studs with yellow blobs of mustard -- and a glass of burgundy.
It's while here that Bloom goes into a particular food reverie, thinking about the strange things that people eat.
His eyes unhungrily saw shelves of tins, sardines, gaudy lobsters' claws. All the odd things people pick up for food. Out of shells, periwinkles with a pin, off trees, snails out of the ground the French eat, out of the sea with a bait on a hook. [...] Yes but what about oysters? Unsightly like a clot of phlegm. Filthy shells. Devil to open them too. Who found them out?
Afterwards, he departs for the National Library, where he hopes to collect a Keyes advertisement. En route he helps a blind man across the street, but then he sees someone he doesn't want to see and swerves off course to prevent being spotted. My reading guide tells me this is Blazes Boylan, but he is not named in the novel.
What do I think so far?
I'm enjoying it. I like the use of language, the playfulness and the humour. For instance, I love this line, which is a description of a wan-looking man (the brother of the late Charles Stewart Parnell) passing by Bloom:
Eaten a bad egg. Poached eyes on ghost.
And I tittered through the bit in chapter 7 when the editor plays hardball after Bloom insists that Keyes only wants to run his ad for two months instead of three. Keyes also wants a "little puff" (a small mention by editorial, or what, today, we would call an "advertorial") as well as a slight redesign of the logo. The editor's response?
—Will you tell him he can kiss my arse? Myles Crawford said, throwing out his arm for emphasis. Tell him straight from the stable.
And this, a bit further on, when Bloom leaves to relay the message:
—He can kiss my royal Irish arse, Myles Crawford cried loudly over his shoulder. Any time he likes, tell him.
There have been some bits that have bored or confused or frustrated me, because I can't make sense of them, but I want this to be as natural a reading experience as possible, so I'm not getting too het up about it. I can't expect to understand/like every single line in this book, but, for the most part, I'm finding it an enjoyable read.
Now onto chapter 9 and beyond!