March 1, 2016

What Would Leopold Bloom Do? Volume 6


Leopold Bloom Advice

Complex and confusing, filled with words you don’t know and people you don’t understand, life is even more difficult to navigate than Ulysses. But luckily, we have Ulysses to help us!

Why shouldn’t we be able to apply our reading efforts to our living efforts? Expansive, generous, humanist, funny, and, of course, difficult, Ulysses can provide answers to the questions kicked up like so much dust as we traverse our day.

Ask your questions, pose your problems, present your challenges, and Josh Cook, author of An Exaggerated Murder and resident Joyce expert, will dispense advice drawn from Joyce’s masterpiece. Just like Ulysses the advice will be serious, silly, and, of course, dirty as required, but always thoughtful and honest. You can send your inquiries to Josh at [email protected]!

Here’s our next question.

How do I keep the binding of my paperback Gabler’s intact…already burned through 2? —Brokeback Book in Boulder

There are a number of strange gaps in Ulysses and one of them is the relative absence of physical books. As rich as the text is in literary references, the only books we actually specifically see are the one Molly has in the morning when she asks Leopold what “metempsychosis” means, the erotica he buys for her later in the day, the law books Mr. Breen has tucked under his arm, and the French Primer Dilly bought that she shows to Stephen. Obviously, there are books at the book cart, and we do spend some time in a library, but that is entirely in a discussion and Stephen wasn’t even there to pick up books, but to steal slips of paper for his own writing.

This absence is especially odd when you consider just how physical Ulysses is and how much of that physicality connects to bigger ideas about what life is, what it means, what it contains, and how to live it. Ulysses is so powerful and was so controversial, in part, because it included more of the body in a book than the reading public was used to. You’d think a bookish bodily book would be filled with books and bodies. Ulysses is adept at highlighting its own borders, so we are shown the absence of books when Dilly says the family had to pawn some of Stephen’s. This gap is perhaps most explicitly frustrating because Ulysses was written to be re-read. You’d think somewhere there might be a few tips or descriptions of repaired spines to guide us since the text demands we batter the object.

But isn’t there something beautiful about a battered book? As vital as intact bindings are to actually, you know, holding a book and reading it, aren’t broken bindings a story? And isn’t a stack of broken and falling apart copies of the same book a personal story about a long and rewarding relationship? Isn’t there something instantly intriguing when you creep on someone’s bookshelf and see a row of repeats?

You could, of course, pay a book binder to have the book re-bound. That will be the most permanent solution, but also, the most expensive. (Most likely far more expensive than just buying a new copy.) You could also re-bind it yourself. There are instructions online and any library supply store will have what you need. (I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a few other books that could stand some TLC). When the binding on my Gabler started going, I just used some red packing tape that was lying around and it both works great and preserves that battered look described above. Duct tape would do similar work I imagine. I also now read from the more comfortable-in-the-hand Oxford World’s Classics edition and rather annotating directly on the page, use a small sheaf of notepaper as my bookmark and annotate on that so I don’t have to flatten the book out to record my thoughts and questions. Obviously, that doesn’t leave quite the same trace as annotating on the page does, but it does make sure the body of my book will stay together longer.




Josh Cook is a bookseller at Porter Square Books. His first novel, An Exaggerated Murder, was published by Melville House in March 2015.