Back Stage Chatter

A running commentary by our Brave Cast about their trials & epiphanies as they prepare unique Twitter renditions of Ulyssesfor Bloomsday 2011.

[16 June 11]  @fenlandgent — Tweeting Ulysses and Cod Suppers: I’ve been worrying about this all day. I have a habit on twitter of tweeting something (eg “I’m cooking cod for my tea”) and then later tweeting something about that first tweet (eg  “Nice cod” ) where the second tweet makes no sense if you haven’t seen the first tweet. This is a mundane example of what I found difficult in trying to reduce 6 pages of the Circe chaper of Ulysses down to 6 tweets. In the chapter Circe Joyce makes us see what people are thinking – thoughts appear as characters.  The existence of these characters/thoughts draw strength from all that has happened (sometimes barely noticed) in the novel up to that point. So the difficulty in tweeting these 6 pages is that the appearance of these characters/thoughts only make sense  in reference to things that have happened before in the book – and if you don’t  know what has already happened to the characters there is the possibility that my 6 tweets  will make as much sense as my tweeting “nice cod” 6 times about a cod supper I hadn’t mentioned earlier. (PS. There is no way I could have ever got through Ulysses on my own. I used 4 guide books to help me – which I have just written about at my own blog.)
[12 June 11]  @marcus_speh – Once I had selected about 20 different parts of the text, I realized that a number of them brought up instant, strong images for me. These were not necessarily the pieces that I would have selected in the end if I hadn’t even thought of images. But over the past few weeks i’ve been involved in an experiment with drawings & text as part of a 100 day project and so drawing came to me easily. I ended up doodling six sketches around and containing my text excerpts, culminating in what is, for me, the central message of the Aeolus episode (VII), the need for focus on your art. At the same time, I felt that Joyce, had he lived today, may have liked to make use of the media available today and the ease with which we mix media on the screen.
[9 June 11]   @dr_flugenpunkt — I’m racked with bewilderment re these tweets. Each trial I undergo, the closer and closer I get yet I can’t help but bemoan the ineluctable expurgation of the text-body. It’s like a virtual castration. The tweets I’ve come up with are devoid of spaces, of coherent punctuation. Perhaps it’s a question of NOT fashioning a painstaking narrative continuity, but rather enhancing its magnificence with the most memorable words and phrases? Even if the barebones of the text remains, it still seems impossible to include all the best bits. Also, what about transmuting words such as ‘policeman’ into ‘cop’? What of abbreviations? I’ve had no other choice but to abbreviate and modify certain words in order for the text to present itself as efficiently as possible. I’m just at a total loss and am trying my utmost to stay afloat amid this sea of trouble.
[8 June 11]  @Chrisx5x5 — The section I chose is #73, the ending of Circe.  To me this is not only the thematic climax of the novel; it is one of the towering high points of all literature in English. Does any of it make sense when boiled down so aggressively?  We shall see.  What I know is that it was a great luxury to spend several days thinking hard about just a little slice of Joyce’s novel: great works of art reward all the attention you can afford to give them.  I’ve been reading Ulysses for thirty-seven years and I love every minute I’ve spent with it.
[7 June 11]  @rachelcp — Started with 6 but then it seemed 4 was better for this section. For one of them, I wanted to express what Bloom would tweet at that moment. He’s walking the streets with Stephen, planning and scheming. What would he text to twitter? What would he want to tell his followers.
[6 June 11]  AndrewSimonDuck — About compiling tweets: My approach will be to view the section as a piece of independent prose, unlinked to the rest of the book. I’m not planning to use the tweets to sum up equal areas of the section, athough maybe that makes sense. Hard to be sure at the moment. I’m sure something will crop up. Rules don’t really come into it with Joyce, which is why this is such an appealing enterprise.
[6 June 11]  @syntaxed — I’ve been to a few Bloomsday readings at the Rosenbach in Philadelphia and I’ve taken a few graduate courses on Joyce. I tried to combine the elements in my Nausicaa section that interested me as a scholar with those that amused me as a Bloomsday attendee. My section is exclusively meditative as Bloom’s mind cycles through his encounter with Gerty MacDowell. He muses, and ponders, and lists, and remembers, and all his memories, musings,  and sensations lead back to Molly. So I tried to create a pastiche of Joyce’s visceral phrases in this section, and just like Bloom’s memories and musings, each tweet is haunted by Molly Bloom.
[5 June 11]  @stuartnuttall — Read Stuart’s tale of twittering agony on his blog: Heavy Hangs the Anxious Influence of Bloomsday’s Architect.
[4 June 11]  @TheOtherReader — This has been a really intriguing project.  I spent a solid week struggling to find the best approach (so much pressure trying to translate my favorite episode, Oxen of the Sun!). At first it seemed impossible to stick close to Joyce’s language. How could that approach produce anything but a choppy, arbitrary, pale imitation of the original, devoid of all its rich context and texture? I thought the only satisfying approach would be to somehow re-write my section in a way that was faithful to the spirit of the original text and yet also fully committed to all things Twitter.  I spent days trying to condense Stephen’s amazing  speech (p. 320-323 in my edition) into a string of snarky phrases and hashtags: #wtf_Ireland. A part of me still believes that this is not a wholly inappropriate reimagining of the text, but I absolutely did not want to be seen as being disrespectful to Joyce’s work. And then last night it clicked.  I’ve returned to Joyce’s words in a way that I *think* works, creating little moments that highlight some of the important elements of the section without feeling too forced or contrived.
[3 June 11]  @harryfiddler — I took a different approach to some of the previous posters. I decided, for better or worse, to outline the plot in this passage and to stay with Bloom’s clipped inner monologue. The poetry is still there, I hope, its sheen just catching the light every so often. My biggest regret is not giving Bald deaf Pat a tweet. Here is his big moment. It’s unadulterated joy-ce: “Bald deaf Pat brought quite flat pad ink. Pat set with ink pen quite flat pad. Pat took plate dish knife fork. Pat went.” Gotta love bald deaf Pat.
[2 June 11]  @IsobelGlenelg — Procrastination is my middle name so, hyper-motivated after volunteering, thought it wise to just get on with it. The 8-page segments seemed a little artificial and, for me, it was easier to think across a whole episode and construct accordingly. So much has to be pared down, this way, effects I’d choose for one segment could be excised and transferred to next. Reasonably comfortable with efforts across whole sequence, but suspect in single segment too much is lost. Never mind, decided now to turn the book into tweet-sequence single-handedly. Shouldn’t imagine I’ll ever tweet it, but it’s an interesting exercise routine for old saggy brain.
[2 June 11]  @wadelinebaugh — i have found plot relatively easy to skim by and i am electing to be closer to the language. the best way i’ve found to do this is very small-scale. Joyce’s bizarro-Homeric-epithets for people are a good place to start and then words that have a lot of force in the text (either by repetition or placement) get a hashtag – #tooraloom #usurper #yes & so on. i like how this twitter-specific feature indicates precisely what Ulysses itself does: that words have importance through change & repetition (or something like that).
[2 June 11]  @peterbarkla — What’s giving me the most pause is balancing stringing recurring strong key words, themes, and images along with making sure that the nuggets of narrative that anchor the plot don’t get left out. I feel a strong tendency to write out what I have chosen as poetry, and that’s how it looks at the moment!
[1 June 11]  @lawrnceSjohnson — I’m re-reading Ulysses before constructing my tweets; I want to be able to effectively continue the story & be true to the characters. As I read, I notice (relish) Joyce’s language games & am collecting/creating tweeting techniques that will enable me to write more in less space & at the same time make some genuinely twitterish experimental lit-flourishes. My list has compounds, rebuses, abbreviations (“f u cn rd ths, u cn gt a gd jb”), telegraphese, and  slang. I’m blogging this on, where I’ll report progress more or less daily.
[1 June 11]  @AllStevie — Yesterday I wrote my tweets, then tweeted that i felt “dirty & sad” afterwards. What i meant was that to get 8 pages down to 6 tweets i had to make a decision: try to fit in everything, or just try to get in the “best parts” (imho). i went for the former, out of a sense of duty. trying to cover everything from the section meant losing rhythms, humor — the JOYCE of it all. So i put the question to the rest of you: should i redo my tweets & just revel in the beauty of a few select pieces, or keep them as is?
[7 Feb 11]  @dr_flugenpunkt — Si può? Meseems that this member inaugurates this space. Fellow Bloomers, acutely aware are we all of our collective concern: not knowing if we’ll be doing proper justice to this megamasterpiece by condensing it into mere tweets. In effect will it be an egregious expurgation, yet we are indeed paying adulation to JJ and his Ulysses. We may well contend that this somewhat perverse experimentation is but an irresistable exercise in further developing the whole lifeforce revolving around Ulysses. The very act of applying ourselves to the text, adoring it, and translating our overall impressions of it into tweets is in itself an act of Love. As far-fetched as this proposition may be, I do believe that we can succeed at reinforcing the import of Ulysses as not only one the greatest work of art ever conceived, but also one of the greatest art-FORMS ever conceived.. Best love unto all ye Bloomers x

10 Responses to “Back Stage Chatter”

  1. @marcus_speh … i’ve lately been re-obsessed by joyce in the most curious way. i lived in trieste once where joyce is present to this day partly because there is relatively little that would make triests noteworthy otherwise, being as close to venice as this small town is. i wrote an account of my own time there – “in the nude“. it is full of anxieties, which i hope to channel onto the page as part of this peculiar project, this mission into the depth of the collective unconscious where joyce has long arrived to stay.

  2. In what ways is Tajikistan (where I am now living) like Joyce’s Dublin? 1. High birth rate. 2. Women in long dresses nonetheless ogled by curious men a la Mr. Bloom, eager for a glance of calf. 3. Tea consumed at a frightful rate. 4. Alcohol simultaneously popular and condemned. 5. Religious conflict brewing. 6. Strong strain of thoughtless and often laughable nationalism, streaked with the occasional flash of anti-semitism.

  3. Reading about @Stevie’s quandry about whether to revise tweets to be more Joyce-like, I suspect @Stevie is getting unconscious messages that _try[ing] to fit in everything_ is not delivering the whole Joycean message. _Reveling in the beauty_ suggests using art to present images and associations from below the surface, from the unconscious, enriching the message with more feeling & deeper meaning. So I counsel _redo the tweets_ .

  4. to me what is so magick is the idea that joyce imagined twitter and theonewordkindofthing that we enjoy on the twitterverse ref the universal soul will it be it will be glorious

  5. @dr_flugenpunkt, I understand your dilemma. When composing my tweets for section #72, I eventually threw away any attempt at linear narrative and just tried to use some of Joyce’s magnificent phrases (“the awful rebel” and “whores screech”). On one hand, Twitter goes against my nature for grammatical correctness, but on the other, it forced me to take (and preserve) only the most significant and most Joycean terms. In my first couple of passes, I tried to break down the section into 6 separate sub-sections, then re-worked the subs, looking for tweet-worthy bits, all the time conscious of preserving Joyce’s wordplay. I can only hope I succeeded. Good luck to you.

  6. Reading this now as the task at hand is finished…is amazing! What an amazing group of thoughtful people!

  7. I’m curious about this event of Joyce’s masterpiece that will be held on june 16th. Please tell me the details

  8. I stayed up to read the first tweets then checked in a few more times during the night — a lovely disturbance. Was excited to awaken to my own! Hoping to make it to the Hammer Museum tonight to celebrate.

  9. Great day yesterday – great tweets… Does anyone know how I might be able to download them all and print them out to read again?

    thanks in anticipation.


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