George V. Reilly

Ulysses 2009: Circe

Circe and the Friends of Ulysses

It’s time to start thinking about this year’s reading of Ulysses for the Wild Geese Players of Seattle. The next chapter to be tackled is Circe, the nightmare scene in the brothel.

Most chapters require a lot of work to tease apart into a staged reading, to make sense of the different threads of Bloom’s inner monologue, or to attribute fragments of con­ver­sa­tion to different characters, for example. This chapter is written in the form of a play; at­tri­bu­tion is easy.

But Circe is also enormously long: some 60,000 words. For comparison, many novels are in the range 80–100,000 words. Last year’s chapter was 20,000 words and I cut 5,000 words off. It took us the best part of two hours to read those 15,000 words. Clearly, we cannot read the whole chapter. Even if we had the stamina to read for six or seven hours, no audience would put up with it.

My task for this weekend, then, is to re-read the chapter and see whether it makes more sense to simply cut the hell out of it, so that we can complete Circe this year, or to divide it into two or three pieces, which will have to be read at different times.

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