Photograph from E. J. Bellocq’s Storyville series documenting the New Orleans red light district circa 1912.

Extract from “Circe,” the episode from Ulysses in which Leopold Bloom appears to hallucinate in a brothel:

VIRAG: Number two on the other hand, she of the cherry rouge and coiffeuse white, whose hair owes not a little to our tribal elixir of gopherwood, is in walking costume and tightly staysed by her sit, I should opine. Backbone in front, so to say. Correct me but I always understood that the act so performed by skittish humans with glimpses of lingerie appealed to you in virtue of its exhibitionististicicity. In a word. Hippogriff. Am I right?

BLOOM: She is rather lean.

VIRAG: (Not unpleasantly) Absolutely! Well observed and those pannier pockets of the skirt and slightly pegtop effect are devised to suggest bunchiness of hip. A new purchase at some monster sale for which a gull has been mulcted. Meretricious finery to deceive the eye. Observe the attention to details of dustspecks. Never put on you tomorrow what you can wear today. Parallax! (With a nervous twitch of his head) Did you hear my brain go snap? Pollysyllabax!

BLOOM: (An elbow resting in a hand, a forefinger against his cheek) She seems sad.

VIRAG: (Cynically, his weasel teeth bared yellow, draws down his left eye with a finger and barks hoarsely) Hoax! Beware of the flapper and bogus mournful. Lily of the alley. All possess bachelor’s button discovered by Rualdus Colombus. Tumble her. Columble her. Chameleon…

Notes

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