Why Molly Bloom Doesn’t Get Anything Done
by Shelley Costa
I admit it: I have never read Ulysses. I will probably never read Ulysses and I feel just fine about it, maybe because I’m now twenty-seven years past grad school. That’s like, like, a whole lifetime for people named Kylie. I can hardly remember those halcyon days of no money, posturing seminars, and scrupulously dancing around the U. question. I’ve had years to get beyond the sympathetic intellectual nod designed to imply deep connection to a novel I’ve never opened whenever someone at a snoozer cocktail party launches into the topic of Ulysses.
Considering Literary Modernism was one of my special areas, this non-Ulysses stance, this lack of Ulysses, is especially interesting. I learned artfulness, and like all seasoned students everywhere, how you can get the most bang for the buck. I found that bang in the novel’s final line, where Molly Bloom is lying awake in bed. After all the chapters, I hear tell, in which the characters wander in and out of Dublin pubs and brothels talking about a cheese sandwich and a scrotumtightening sea, what she says is
yes i said yes i will yes
While you scowl over your martini and swirl the olive around, and while your companion, who acts like he thinks he has a shot with you, adjusts his glasses with the earpiece held together by adhesive tape, here’s where you can mutter something about some final affirmation of life. Then slap a faraway look on your puss. That should do it.
But the problem with final affirmations of life like Molly’s is that it leads to trouble. Whenever Molly gets up in the morning, you can just bet she’s going to agree to throw all the Holy Name Society breakfasts for the next five years down in Donaghmede-Clongriffin-Balgriffin Parish.
One can only hope that Molly Bloom is not a writer. Because what we call an affirmation of life is
really a commitment to all the wrong things. The cheese and sausage sale for the PTA. Stuffing envelopes for some hopeless candidate running for political office. Making a rag rug out of the pajamas of dead relatives.
So maybe I’ve learned something, after all, from a book I’ve never read.
My tap shoes are gathering dust, since every week the choice seems to come down to getting another hour and a half written on my novel or confounding my feet with the riff, wing, pull back, cramp roll, and shuffle ball change. Ulysses should be so complicated.
And I recently resigned my very important responsibility at our local library: namely, the official driving of the quarterly newsletters to the post office where they are mailed bulk rate to 200 people. I count them. And fill out paperwork. And wonder how many hours it would take how many chimps to write Hamlet.
No, I say no, are you kidding me? NO.
Make no mistake: the real affirmation of life. The writing life.
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