This week is a discussion of the essay, "Death and Absence in James Joyce." And so here we are, discussing a book by a writer who is absent, dead now for more than six years and unknown to most of the literary world, talking about an essay about a writer who has been dead for more than 72 years but who lives on in endless literary discussions.
"Joyce, a man of timid courage, has seized the keys of hell [and] of death, by showing that the Ego dies more continually than we realize .... " page 103. Wilson is dead and we can't invite him to participate in this discussion but he is alive in all of our minds.
Dubliners, page 88, it's worth a quick reminder, perhaps, that anyone who wants to read the two stories Wilson mentions doesn't have to hunt up a copy in the bookstore or the library; it's on Project Gutenberg (as is Ulysses.)
"We are Hyperboreans" page 93, I think it is a fair observation that almost everyone participating in this blog discussion would be considered "far out" in the eyes of most people. Welcome, fellow Hyperboreans!
Page 99, thank heavens someone has finally explained the concept of "void" and "no-mind" in a way that I can understand. It is quite interesting to me how often Buddhism and quantum mechanics is invoked to explain Wilson's ideas; Wilson's interest in Buddhism helps explain why his Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth is one of my favorite RAW books. (From Eric Wagner's An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, the entry for CT2 in the "Books by Robert Anton Wilson" chapter: "Wilson has called this a Buddhist book which presents different sides of her personality.")
A particularly powerful moment in Wilson's essay points out that a pivotal point of Ulysses seems to be when Bloom takes a drunken and unhappy Stephen Dedalus home and feeds him (pages 93-94.) Nearly all cultures recognize the power of feeding someone as an act of friendship or love, as Robert Shea captures in his excellent novel, All Things Are Lights, in a scene in which the hero, Roland, and King Louis IX, are taken as captives before Baibars, a Muslim warlord:
“Before we speak of serious matters, please join me in a morning repast,” said Baibars. He clapped his hands and the blond boy Roland had seen waiting on Baibars at Mansura entered, bringing sliced melons, a plate of oranges and dates, and cups of cool, clean water. There was a small bowl holding ground-up salt and a tray of flat, round loaves of bread. The sight of the tray raised Roland’s hopes.
“He offers you bread and salt,” said Roland in French. “That means you are his guest. Once you have eaten his bread and salt, he is obliged by the Muslim law of hospitality not to harm you.”
“I shall eat at once,” said Louis with a smile, salting a slice of melon and biting off a chunk of bread. Baibars watched with a knowing grin, apparently amused that Louis so quickly ate the bread and salt. It relieved Roland to see both men in good humor.
I also liked the way Wilson invokes both Mozart and Bach in this essay, linking music to literature in a way that Wilson also liked to do.
As for HCE, I'll point out again the Hagbard Celine uses the initials.