Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Scotum Tightener pays me a visit

Late afternoon yesterday, after toiling upon my word processor like a peasant gold miner in the granite, I scootered off to my watering hole for a beer and to catch up on world news as reported in THE JAKARTA POST. I didn't notice the blue sky closing up with clouds, a storm roiling in from unknown horizons. A crack of thunder was immediately followed by a waterfall of rain pounding on the thatch, encircling me and trapping me.

Ah well, I thought, I'd wait it out, and picked a book at random from the bar's exchange shelf. I forget which title, but the words soon became much of a sameness, a weary drip drip drip within as the storm without continued unabated. Soon the lights of the bar struggled against the night gloom.

An explosion of lightning sliced the night, accompanied by a crack of thunder that left behind a stink of ozone. When my heart settled back into place and the waitress brought me a fresh beer, I noticed a gentleman in the corner shadows, staying out of the cone of light falling upon his table. Had he been there all this time? He wore elegant old-fashioned clothes and round rimmed glasses that glinted in stray light.

"Hello," I ventured.

"It's a dark and stormy night," he said softly.

I hoisted my glass. "Sounds like the start of a story."

He leaned forward into the cone of light. Under his right lens was a black eye-patch. With his hooked nose, the man looked rather luciferous. "Indeed," he murmured. "How shall I tell it, my dear Richard?"

"Excuse me?"

"You vowed to read ULYSSES within a year, and now the years have passed. Tell me, my dear man, how far did you read of it?"

"Well," I said uneasily. "I did get to the end, that whole yes yes yes bit."

"But did you read every single word as you vowed?"

"Has anybody done that?"

"A vow is a vow."

"It's the spirit of the law sort of thing," I protested. "Not the fundamentalist letter."

Another angry crack of lightning, another hard volley of rain.

"You vowed," the man said. "I have stayed my judgment to give you one more chance."

"And who are you?"

Those thin lips smiled grimly. "I used to cower at thunderstorms," he said. "Now I am the Word Thunderer," he said. "In short, I am hewhowherewhatwhylogospericleanmusemanartistportraituresummumbonumscrotumtightenerdoom!"

My blood thinned. I felt faint. "You!" I whispered.

"Me," His good eye glittered. His eye patch sucked the light, swirls of light falling inward into blackness. "One more chance to fulfill your vow, Richard. Or else…"

I could scarcely find my voice. "Or else what?"

"You'll have all of eternity…to read…FINNEGAN'S WAKE."

Another sear of lightning blinded me, and when my vision slowly returned, the storm was easing and the seat in the corner was empty.

What I experienced might have been a quirk of my brain, such as a minor stroke, or formaldehyde in the beer, but I dare not take any chances. I mean, FINNEGAN'S WAKE for eternity!

Hence, my good people, this much belated blog post.

I'm reading, I'm reading, I'm reading, and in case the scrotum tightener dude is listening in, I'm reading all over again from the very first words, "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan…"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

So, where did I last leave off reading?

Okay, so in Singapore I bought another masterpiece I haven't read, a great thick slab of a book called MOBY DICK.

So, before I start in on that one, I thought that I had better make one more serious, genuine, contrite, purposeful effort to finish ULYSSES.

However, I am not sure where I last left off reading.

Could it be this page?

Or this one?

Or maybe this was the page I last read?

I mean, there are pages and pages and pages of this dense text and, sigh, to be true to my vow (which is already broken, but that's no excuse not to read ULYSSES cover to cover), I suppose I have to start all over again at the beginning of this section, which is like starting Mount Everest again from, say, the Katmandu airport.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My copy of ULYSSES has moved to a different address.

It used to be by the toilet.

Now it's actually upon (and not beside) a stool in my writing office.

When I get tired of writing, I lay down on the sofa with ULYSSES and...snooze.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why I couldn't read ULYSSES today

I honestly had every intention.

As you know, though, from a previous post, I reserve my ULYSSES reading for a certain time and sitting postion.

But look who was there today. There is no way I can read ULYSSES with a cat looking on over my shoulder and reading as well (I am sure that ULYSSES is the one book thats cats are capable of reading--dogs read THE DA VINCI CODE). Yes, I know, I could have removed the cat, but I believe that waking a sleeping cat brings bad luck.

Monday, March 12, 2007

ULYSSES and hepatitis

I'm slowly recovering from acute hepatitis. I'd rather have malaria, where you get sicker, but better much quicker.

So, with hep, one is often prone in bed, lots of time on one's jaundiced hands to read.

Well,I can tell you, ULYSSES is not a novel for the sickbed. The effort of reading that deathless prose seemed to bring one closer yet to death's door.

(You know, if Dante had written his INFERNO *after* the publication of ULYSSES, he might have included a particularly fiendish torment...)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Wifeian thought on the Bloomian thought

This morning, waking up in bed, I quoted to my wife the Bloomian thought, "Always see a man's weakness in his wife." I kissed her and told her, "You have no weakness, so that makes me invincible."

She frowned. "You dolt, that's not what that means. What he is saying is that a man's weakness is evident in how he treats his wife."

I thought about that, hands clasped behind head. "Well, even so, I'm still invincible."

She sat up. "Is that so? Then what day is tomorrow?"

Oh-oh. I thought quickly, flipping through important dates I'd forgotten in the past. Not her birthday, that is September 17, or is it 19? Sort of dyslexic there. and not our anniversary, although which anniversary could be problematic, the one sometime in July when we had the home religious service or the one in September, at the civilian affairs office (actually, I think that one is in August.) But February? Apart from my birthday on the 24th? However, being the invincible husband type, I chuckled and said, "Do you think I'd really forget? You'll just have to wait and see."

So, I'd better go through our files and records of births, deaths, weddings, and maybe even Google.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Bloomian thought

This is just after the scene when our Bloom is jollified by young Miss Gerty displaying her knickers, knowing she's being watched by the aforementioned gent. Totally un-PC in this day and age, but that so far has been one of the novel's wonderfully readable scenes.

Afterwards, Bloom gets to his Bloomian musings and tosses out this thought: "Always see a fellow's weak point in his wife."

If that is so, then I'm invincible.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm back to reading ULYSSES again!

Thanks to much encouragement, pats on the back, and weird dreams, I'm back to reading ULYSSES. But only at certain times.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Broken vow pay back

He With the Glasses and Eyepatch is starting to pay me back for not fulfulling my vow to read ULYSSES in a year.

Publisher's Weekly just gave THE KILLING SEA an enema of a review.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I had a midnight visitor...

Late last night, something woke me up. Not a sound, for three temples were in full pre-dawn wail, (when I was a child, sometimes at night I would hear a soft and distant gamelan, mysterious and alluring--these days it's all loudspeakers). I lay awake in the warm darkness. And then I smelled it. Something cooking in the kitchen.

I padded down the stairs. There before the stove stood a spry old gentleman, peering through round glasses at a pan on the flame. "I do love a good kidney," he said. He had an accent soft as imported soap. "The faint tang of urine makes me particularly peckish. Have you any bread?"

I wordlessly brought out the loaf and butter. He lavishly spread a slice and then pointed the knife at me. "You vowed to read ULYSSES in a year, did you not?"

I nodded. He cackled. "The more fool you. Nonetheless, vows broken are the devil's delight. I've managed to secure an extension for you."

At last I found my voice. "For how long?"

A cut of kidney on the bread, a relish of bite. He chewed with reverence and then spoke. "As long as you wish. However, all your novels will be remaindered unless you fulfill your vow."

And then I woke up. It had all been a dream.

Except when I went down at dawn for my coffee, a pan was upon the stove, rimmed with oil, and emitting a faint stench of kidney and urine...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'll save it for my New Year's Resolution

I'm off to Germany in a few hours to attend an academic conference.

This will be the closest I've ever gotten to James Joyce territory.

I trust this will inspire me to continue reading. I honestly have every intention to do so.

But maybe I'll save that for my New Year's Resolution.

In the meantime, THE KILLING SEA: A Novel of the Tsunami that Stunned the World" got a favorable review from Kirkus, which you can read about here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I broke my vow to read ULYSSES in a year.

I have to start all over again, else cannibals will hunt me down and eat with Bloomian relish my grilled testicles.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Haven't read a word of ULYSSES in months

Life, you know.

It's short.

Plus lately it's been filled up with things like Las Vegas. (My wife attended a trade show and I tagged along).

Too bad Joyce didn't live long enough to send Leopold Bloom on a trip to Vegas. It's the most stream-of-conciousness place I've ever been too.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I'm starting to get this sense, as I plow on through the pages of ULYSSES, that thre's something else to this novel, that there's another, hidden message.

I'm even starting to have my doubts that James Joyce, or any mortal man, could have written this tome.

Consider the clues to be found in "ULYSSES James Joyce":



Very suggestive, these clues.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Synopsis of ULYSSES

Leopold Bloom: Blazes Boylan. He. My wife he. This very afternoon, he. My house, he. She. As I cruise around town. Must remember that soap. Kidneys taste of urine. Not a damn thing can I do about it. Yet her, my love still. You know.

Stephen Dedalus: My father is the meanest old man who ever lived, the meanest old man and oh my beloved mother died so tragic and oh curse the Church. Oh, hello, Leopold, how's it going and aren't I the most precious young man you ever did meet while strolling the streets of Dublin.

Molly Bloom: Yes, yes, oh yes.

(Note, I'm only on page 387 out of 783, so the above is adapted from a discussion in Jane Smiley's 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A NOVEL and wearing your eyeballs out if said novel happens to be ULYSSES)

The best time to read ULYSSES

Apart from when athwart the feckle throne and voiding alimentary products, that is.

When waiting for loooong Internet downloads to finish. Such as graphic novels. You know, easy to read stuff.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A momentous moment

Folks, this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for…after weeks of anticipation…the morning's agonizing wait...I've just received word Richard Lewis will any moment now enter...yes, the door opens and it's Richard, it's definitely Richard this time. He idles towards the desk...wait, is he going to the bathroom? Don't tell me he's going, no he's definitely approaching the desk, he stops and looks down at the book, and he’s…and he’s, he’s picking it up, he’s definitely picking it up. Not only that he’s actually flipping the pages! He’s flipping the pages, folks! Oh the tension is nearly unbearable and yes yes! he’s doing it, folks, he’s actually doing it, HE’S READING ULYSSES!!! HE’S READING ULYSSES!!!!!

My new novel. I promise you there isn't a single word in the text to confuse anybody, unless inadvertently. After all, I'm no genius like JJ.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Long time no post

Long time no read, either.

Me forgot how.

What, word?





Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This morning's meditational

In addition to ULYSSES, am also reading the Bible through in a year. I usually read my Bible quota first thing in the morning as I sip my first cup of wake-up coffee.

Yesterday I had searched for my copy for ULYSSES, which I found and bookmarked to my last read page and put by my reading chair.

This morning, after a bad night's sleep, I open my Bible and start reading through my yawns and steaming coffee. It took me a page to realize I was actually reading ULYSSES.

Monday, May 29, 2006

In another universe...

The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics says there's an infinity of alternate universes.

Which means there are an infinite number of Richard Lewis's who have actually finished ULYSSES by this time.

Infinity is both a simple and subtle concept--out of those infinite number of Richard Lewis's who finished the novel, there's also a subset of infinite Richard Lewis's who actually *understood* ULYSSES from the get-go.

Which disproves the many worlds interpretation.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What others say about ULYSSES

Snippets taken mostly from

"The paradox is that the book is a giant fart joke," says Diana Wynne.

"Ulysses could have done with a good editor," the acclaimed novelist Roddy Doyle recently told an audience of crestfallen Joyce fans. "You know, people are always putting Ulysses in the top 10 books ever written, but I doubt that any of those people were really moved by it."

Writer Stefan Sullivan in a recent Washington Times appreciation: "Ulysses is a pretty awful novel."

In the customer comments at "This is one of those classic novels that gives classic novels a bad name," writes Eric L. Sparling.

"Joyce is blind in one eye because he read Ulysses and then the eye hung itself," writes nebber1214. "For Ulysses to be any worse of a book, it would have to break into your house and defecate on your bed."

Writer, surfer and adventurer extraordinaire Richard Lewis says, "In ULYSSES, James Joyce has a way with words in the same manner that e. coli has a way with bowels."

(Actually, I'm sort of enjoying the verbal diarrhea of the bar section that follows the Siren singing. And I didn't know, as Joyce makes clear, that men executed by hangings often get an posthumous erection)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Im a baaad boy

I haven't read a word of ULYSSES in weeks.

I'm in good company, though.

I mean, have *you* read a word of ULYSSES in the past few weeks?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ULYSSES on tape

I think I'm going to switch to an audio tape of ULYSSES. I'll start from scratch if I do.

The audio version I'm thinking of getting has Michael Jackson reading most of Stephen Dedalus's sections, Bill Murray for Leopold Bloom, Steve Woodmore for big boring chunks (he's the world's fastest talker, clocked at 637 words a minute), and Paris Hilton for Molly Bloom.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

ULYSSES has inspired me!

To write a thriller, that is. One that uses ULYSSES as its template. My hero and villains will dash around Dublin with the same itinerary of Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom et al. The fate of the world is at stake.

Here’s the opening:

Plump, panting Tuck Corrigan trotted up the tower stairs, bearing a Glock 9 mm in his sweaty palms. If he had spare breath, he would have cursed the Father. Why the hell did the jejune Jesuit insist on saying his morning office up here in the heavens?

Tuck found Father Stephen Father leaning against the parapet, his moody gaze on the distant sullen sea.

Father Stephen's cassock rustled as he straightened and turned. “Do you remember the day, Tuck, when I pulled you out of the gutter?”

Tuck took several deep breaths and shoved the Glock into the Father’s hand. “Listen, you frightful Jesuit, stop counting your spiritual notches. There are milkmen downstairs, and they aren’t delivering cream. Go and shoot them, would you?”

By the way, I've copyrighted this idea. Anybody steals it, I'll Holy Blood & Grail you in court.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What my mind looks like now

I've reread the Sirens section, and this depicts my understanding:

Actually, I can see more of the hints that Seguro kindly pointed out to me in his comments, but I have to wonder about the first casual reader to read ULYSSES. How was he (or she) able to figure out what the heck was going on without having any guide books or helping experts?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Still alive, still reading

I had this dream last night.

God refused to let me die until I had finished UYLSSES.

Soooooo, me being a superstitious sort, I might start reading one word a day from now on.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A pictorial representation of my mind and ULYSSES

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I am coming to the conclusion...

...that ULYSSES is either the impregnable object or the irrefragable force. Or both.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

ULYSSES recommended reading for children.

The Royal Society of Literature Magazine has asked prominent children's authors which ten books children should read before they leave school. UK's poet laureate, Andrew Motion, believes that ULYSSES should be one of them.

In which case I suspect they'd never be leaving school