6. Diatribe v. Epiphany

Molly Bloom lying on a dirty mattress for eternity

Structurally, or as Miller says, "archaeologically," the first act of Bloom's day out on the town is the same as the last before he returns home--the purchase of the gland is an overlay not only of Palestine but of the "orgy" Stephen and Bloom attend. Miller the reader knows this, and the writer leaps about Ulysses as if it were a single site--the unifying sight Joyce and Gilbert claimed for the vision of the text. Where Joyce carefully builds image upon image, Miller takes the resultant structure, but not its integrity, for granted. He moves through interstices and lapses, as he had "jumped halfway across Asia" while waiting on the artist/God Moldorf--"framing your words, your lips parted, the saliva gurgling in your cheeks."[28]

Miller's modulation from the anecdotal scene of the glandular orgy begins, not with image, but with the first surreal tremble of his voice, "Open his mouth with a button hook and drop a slug in the slot." But, before the "dream slides into artifice" once and for all, Miller returns to a lower register to begin a second wave of frenetic prose:

The girls have undressed and we are examining the floor to make sure that they won't get any splinters in their ass. They are still wearing high-heeled shoes. But the ass! The ass is worn down, scraped, sandpapered, smooth, hard, bright as a billiard ball or the skull of a leper. On the wall is Mona's picture: she is facing north-east on a line with Cracow written in green ink. To the left of her is the Dordogne, encircled with a red pencil.[29]

The chain of association is contingent and metonymic rather than synecdochic. The ass is "worn down, scrapped, sandpapered, smooth, hard" as must be the floor upon which it is placed. This chain is not elaborated. Miller begins again. The ass is compared to a "billiard ball or the skull of a leper." Posed in the alternative, these images of the billiard ball or the skull, freely circulate over the next ten pages, combining with other apparently gratuitous images. The potentially symbolic import of Mona's picture is subjected to the same sort of metonymic disruption. Mona is the "one," the woman for whom all others are metaphors. Hanging on the wall, somehow observant, Mona's picture frames and bounds the meaning of the scene. But her picture is also part of an incomprehensible mapping that violates the bounds of the room with lines and circles and mixed modes of directional indications--"north-east" and "left." The encircling "red" and "green" lines will later appear as part of yet another coordinate system. If Miller returns to Mona, to the "one" woman, it is by the most detourous route: "Cracow" becomes the "crack" in the "billiard ball" and the "crack in the sidewalk":

Suddenly I see a dark, hairy crack in front of me set in a bright, polished billiard ball; the legs are holding me like a pair of scissors. A glance at the dark, unstitched wound and a deep fissure in my brain opens up: all the images and memories that had been laboriously or absent-mindedly assorted, labeled, documented, filed, sealed and stamped break forth pell-mell like ants pouring out of a crack in the sidewalk[....][30]

I have already discussed this passage as a renarration of Miller's desire to poke a hole in the side of Moldorf/Joyce. Here, in the context of the passage from Ulysses, Miller's leap is to Joyce's final image of the "grey, sunken cunt of the world." The direct confrontation with the "mad mark" of Joyce's vision precipitates a further series of leaps, as Miller's narrative rushes "pell-mell" through modern painting, Ulysses, Catholicism, and the worldly aftermath of the First World War:

I see again the great sprawling mothers of Picasso, their breasts covered with spiders, their legend hidden deep in the labyrinth. And Molly Bloom lying on a dirty mattress for eternity. On the toilet door red chalk cocks and the madonna uttering the diapason of woe. I hear a wild, hysterical laugh, a room full of lockjaw, and the body that was black glows like phosphorus. Wild, wild, utterly uncontrollable laughter, and that crack laughing at me too, laughing through the mossy whiskers, a laugh that creases the bright, polished surface of the billiard ball. Great whore and mother of man with gin in her veins. Mother of all harlots, spider rolling us in your logarithmic grave, insatiable one, fiend whose laughter rives me! I look down into that sunken crater, world lost and without traces, and I hear the bells chiming, two nuns at the Palace Stanislas and the smell of rancid butter under their dresses, manifesto never printed because it was raining, war fought to further the cause of plastic surgery, the Prince of Wales flying around the world decorating the graves of unknown heroes. Every bat flying out of the belfry a lost cause, every whoopla a groan over the radio from the private trenches of the damned.[31]

Where Joyce engages similar fragments in a spiraling series of metaphoric associations that implicitly differentiate between levels of human experience and consciousness, Miller strings images together, laying end to end the jumble of things and ideological fragments encountered in the world.

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