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Ulysses: Episode 15: Circe: Alice in Wonderland: 06/06/09
Episode 15 "Circle" of Ulysses is the longest episode, being two hundred pages of the book's eight hundred. It's written in the form of a play and covers a lengthy alcohol induced hallucination by Bloom.
The Circe of the Odyssey lived in a mansion by herself on an island. She turned trespassers into animals (wolves, lions and pigs) by way of potions who were then doomed to wander the grounds of her estate.
For Bloom though, there is no one Circe. Rather it's a bunch of different women who work in the red light district of Dublin. He's so full of booze that he's not seeing the women. Instead he is being visited by ghostly representations of his family: Molly, his parents but it gets weirder. He goes from being the elected leader "Bloomusalem" to being declared a woman at which point he spontaneously births eight children. There is more weirdness involving sex and zombies (in the form of Stephan's mother and Bloom's dead child).
Given all the sex and drugs and bad trips I thought of a number of possible connections: the two part conclusion of this season's House, the spicy chili pepper trip of Homer Simpson in "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer" and any number of Family Guy episodes. Instead, I decided to go with the grandmother of all trippers: Alice.
Like Bloom, Alice's trip through Wonderland involve many talking animals, disapproving authority figures (in the form of the Duchess, the red Queen) and some very odd drinking buddies (Mad Hatter, March Hare and the Dormouse). Like Bloom Alice finds herself suddenly in the position of a mother (with the Duchess' baby).
Alice continues to inspire artists in all sorts of genres. While I was reading "Circe" I was most reminded though of my two favorite musical interpretations of Alice: "White Rabbit" and "Don't Come Around Here No More." See below to watch the videos.
Alice being a child in a book written for a child in Victorian times doesn't partake in alcohol or mind altering drugs but she does drink the "Drink Me" and eat the "Eat Me" and have physical alterations; she grows and she shrinks and she later learns the secret of Wonderland's magic mushroom from the hookah smoking caterpillar.
Alice also learns that adults don't always act as prim and proper as her own family would like her to behave. They are often bizarre, rude, violent, selfish, crude, lazy and insane. Bloom in his trip has a similar experience of being thrust along a surreal and sometimes frightening path.
Circe ends the "The Odyssey" section of Ulysses. Part three (The Nostos) contains the remaining three episodes: Eumaeus, Ithaca and Penelope. My final post and summary review of Ulysses will be on June 26th.
Next Saturday I'll post my thoughts on Episode Sixteen: Eumaeus. If you want to read along, Ulysses is available online at Read Print.
"White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane