On The Dublin Helix by Sebastian D. G. Knowles
T.S. Eliot said, “Hell is the place where nothing connects.” Sebastian D. G. Knowles, author of the book The Dublin Helix: The Life of Language in Joyce’s Ulysses, would agree. He has written a book that uses the flux and flow of language to trace intimate connections with Joyce’s text. Some of his connections sound extreme and absurd, but if you believe as he does, it’s those kind of connections that make up the surprising intricacy of Ulysses. Knowles finds pieces of errata (mistakes in printing, coincidental book jackets, algebraic equations) in Ulysses that hadn’t been developed before, then uses the small-scale work of past critics of one individual language event in Ulysses to open up the rest of novel to the puzzling eye. In the foreword to the book, Zack Bowen says that Knowles “repeatedly weaves [the errata’s] strands together to substantiate startling new and different interpretations which when pieced together into one tapestry indicate finally how Joyce’s authorial mind really works.” He also impresses that what Knowles has done with this book is more intense than any language study of Ulysses before. Though Knowles picks only individual events and loops them through the novel, the reader can pick up his technique, apply it to their own readings and see Ulysses as a language game. If you love playing with words, if your hell is the place where nothing connects, Knowles will pull you into his game of wit, words, and the world of Ulysses.