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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why Molly Bloom Doesn't Get Anything Done by Shelley Costa

Shelley's stories have been anthologized in The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories (Forge, 2004), nominated in 2004 for an Edgar® Award by Mystery Writers of America, and received an Honorable Mention in the 2006 Pushcart Prize Anthology.  She's had short crime fiction published in Crimewave (UK) and non-mystery stories published in The Georgia Review and The North American Review.  Her latest story was on the cover of the April 2010 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and her book, The Everything Guide to Edgar Allan Poe, was published in 2007. She has a Ph.D. in English, teaches creative writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and is currently at work on a YA thriller, The Golden Heliocrypt: A Pete D-Sat Adventure, which should be finished by the end of the year, as long as she continues to say "no."

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.


The Official Work Space

The Actual Work Space


2 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

Such a good reminder!

I have trouble saying no but I'm working on it...

Maryann Miller said...

Loved the post. I never read Ulysses, either, and I appreciate the affirmation. LOL

And I didn't believe the picture of your work space. Way too neat, until I saw the picture of your actual work space. Now I know.