(GJ)Canto XLIV (p.15, ll. 8-32).

A starry snake has kissed me: a cold nightsnake. I am lost! -Nora!- 

The joke asks: What does the B. stand for in Benoit B. Mandelbrot? The punchline: Benoit B. Mandelbrot. Mandelbrot’s theory is that the part is the whole. About Giacomo Joyce, the estimable Fritz Senn says, “One girl is all girls.” This is also the stuff of Mandelbrot’s fractiled philosophy. Senn tells us that Amalia, Emma, and Annie are the “Dark Who” equally and together. Consider the shamrock, Paddy.

Ulysses perfected a confusion among names, mistaken identities, asynchronous time, shapeshifting, misunderstanding by perspective and parallax, and a mirror’s distorted image that might make both ordinary and extraordinary people reflect as Shakespeare (this last noted by Louis Armand). Joyce’s cavalcade of confusion parades through Telemachus, Hades, Lestrygonians, Wandering Rocks, Circe, and Eumaeus. These phenomena together indicate that Joyce and Mandelbrot would agree. In Ulysses, one ordinary individual embodies our entire species: man and woman, Jew and Gentile, homebody and wanderer, lecher and faithful spouse. This brand of “metempsychosis” began on Giacomo’s eight sheets of sketchpad.

Decomposing the one SHE into the components of Senn’s “all girls” allows that “WHO” can be alternately given the attributes of “pale face” and “olive oval face.” She can be at once “disdainful” and “small witless helpless.” SHE can be both “Rounded and ripened” and “frail” or “slim” with a “tendonous neck.” She is alternately a child-scholar and a young woman a year Joyce’s senior. SHE flies colors first yellow, then black, finally and tellingly green. Only Emma had a scar from an appendectomy, only Annie received a marriage proposal from Joyce, Amalia had the black basilisk eyes (McCourt), but all are conjoined into one.

If Joyce wrote Giacomo Joyce in 1911 or 1912 as is suspected, that would place the memoir of his domestic dissatisfaction in the year of his mythical seven-year itch. Some biological anthropologists would excuse changing mates to continue expanding the species. For the Barnacle-Joyces, 1908 was that year coinciding with the second year of Amalia Popper’s English lessons under the Maestro (good evidence seems to suggest that lessons were being conducted in November 1909 too). In that year, Giorgio was age three, Lucia a toddler, the Joyce household chaotic, finances precarious, and Nora suffered depression. Then Jamsey turned to the appreciation of young women who were unencumbered with responsibility.

Since dissolute Dublin days, Dedalus was indiscriminate with his attentions. Trieste didn’t pen-up sensuality as Dublin did in Monto, but Joyce found himself annoyed by the obligations that adulthood would place even on an artist. Joyce prowled up and down a buffet of lust, regretting that he has sworn to a diet beneath his taste. His appetite is stirred, but did he sample from the menu?

Giacomo Joyce is explicit that the pursuit of the WHO is successfully concluded: “…welcoming darkness of her womanhood my soul, itself dissolving, has streamed and poured and flooded a liquid and abundant seed.” With WHOm? 

This canto offers clues to the identity of his lover. WHO among his prim, upper-class debutants could be called a hairdresser? WHO would be the inspiration for the looking glass servant as a tool for self-reflection– personal, artistic, and racial– that emerged in Ulysses (“the cracked lookingglass of a servant being the symbol of Irish art”)?

The WHO has knobby knees. Joyce’s head nestles on knobby knees as he sobs in remorse. He regrets his wish that he held the woman in such low regard that he would now share her with other men. This is not the only time voyeuristic Joyce suggested: “Take her now who will!” He lusted for many in an “adultery of wisdom,” but one relentlessly coiled around “Jim love.” Whether from timidity or latent Jesuit training, he remained faithful to relentlessly loving – “Nora!” (until Martha Fleishmann).

don ward October 20, 2020

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