Listening to U22 this week, I contemplate my rumored mortality. I can ignore it for days at a time, but the obscuring clouds are stratus now, not cumulus, so I rode in the carriage with Paddy Dignam’s mourners. Simon Dedalus was sufficiently decrepit and feared that the horses shook bells for him. Cunningham and Power could talk of death but, like those casting their pod upon the waters, could not really taste it yet. The podcast was crafted for the young, not for the over-ripe.
This “Centenary” episode (I love Dr. Flynn’s vocalization of the word) dealt not with death but with footnotes. An interesting rat, fat, superannuated, and successful in the Hades-trade scuttles across the podcast. Another commentary explores Irish political shades as Greek heroes. Death became a fleeting distraction in the interior monolog of Outsider Bloom. The dead, Rudy and Virag, threw a shroud over the vital infidelity of Mrs. Molly Bloom. There is the discussion of the trappings of death but without Dignam’s widow, his orphaned brood, Paddy’s wastrel life, or Macintosh.
This week I am reading and writing about the same mourners. They swirl in a vortex of identities from historical Edwardian Dublin into Joyce’s story “Grace,” again in Ulysses, and occasionally beyond. An incident from the life of John S. Joyce inspired “Grace.” The model for the “protagonist” better identifies with one-time Joyce neighbor and tea taster Dicky Boy Thornton. Kernan travels in another carriage but is spoken of with disdain by John S. He might as well be dead for, as the saying goes, “if we cannot speak ill of the dead, then whom?” Jack Power draws from the personage of Tom Devan. M’Coy is an unevolved Leopold Bloom, a canvasser for ads and married to an opera soprano. Another contributor to Bloom’s character is the Dubliner Alfred Hunter, who attended a funeral with Joyce and who, also like Bloom, showed him kindness during a Joycean drunken escapade. Charles Chance attended the retreat in the historical company that was to become “Grace.” Chance was married to the woman who modeled for Molly Bloom. Kane is everywhere. A real-in-death Paddy Dignam in the grave, a lost-at-sea corpse unrecovered, the organizer of the party to attend the actual retreat on Gardiner Street, and Martin Cunningham.
The overt subject of the Hades episode of Ulysses is Requiem, while “Grace” metes out Penitence. But the sub-rosa themes in each are simony and Jansenism. The mourners and penitents misunderstand the rites and fail the facts of the religious practice. They afford all top-hatted adherence to form without regard for substance. These “gentlemen” prove to have no better understanding of the rituals or history of their faith than does Mrs. Kernan in Grace. For her, “faith was bounded by her kitchen, but, if she was put to it, she could believe also in the banshee and in the Holy Ghost.”
It’s all genuflection, a coin, and a handful of soil exchanged for salvation.
I was thrilled to hear Amanda Greenwood comment on the affinity of the Korean people for the Irish. Her remarks on the shared buffeting of Ireland and Korea by imperial powers echos something I have often said. It is also true that the Koreans were responsible for curating written language in Asia as the Irish were in the Dark Ages of Europe. Furthermore, the imperial powers in the East and in the West are large populous, continental empires (China and France) and insular maritime powers (Japan and England).