1. ”Ulysses and the Moral Right to Pleasure.” Dan Chiasson celebrates Bloomsday.
“The book is dirtier than people imagine or remember. If you know it only by reputation, you know, probably, that a guy jerks off on the beach, while, at home, his wife entertains her lover (the hilariously, humiliatingly named Blazes Boylan) in a bed whose brass quoits have been ’loosed’ by her infinite trysts. But sex, a pleasure more intense than others but not fundamentally distinct from them, is everything in Ulysses. There has never been a novel more sympathetic to every weird thing people do to make themselves happy, from preparing a mutton kidney to eating a gorgonzola sandwich, to singing aloud ’Love’s Old Sweet Song,’ to ’worshiping at that altar where the back changes name,’ one of many, many descriptions of backsides and things people do to other people while on all fours. You could watch porn for weeks and see the same repertoire of actions, the identical durations, the same outcomes, over and over; once in a while somebody mixes in a gourd or dresses as a nun, but the basic template is fixed. In Joyce, cheering on your wife as she fucks her boyfriend is a fantasy, a source of pleasure. (Joyce wanted Nora to cheat on him, so that he could feel for himself what a cuckold feels.) The pleasure Bloom takes in Molly’s backside, especially in its messes and smells, finds, in Joyce (like so many pleasures of its kind) an exact linguistic embodiment: ’I do indeed explore the plump mellow yellow smellow melons of her rump.’ Language is, of course, the real pleasure, the fundamental bawdiness.”