STREETS OF FLOWERS
"No, I'm sure it isn't," Lloyd says. "And I don't have to have read 'Araby' to know James Joyce this ain't."
Lloyd is faltering. Dr. Robson's comment leaves open the possibility that she will laud Stephen's poem. She often hinted one way in a kind of feint, then went another. Stephen's most urgent concern is to appear indifferent. Lynn is listening, perhaps gauging class opinion before speaking.
"I read it and reread it," declares Braless Josie Nipples, scowling at Dr. Robson. Josie, a theater major, has been engaged for months in an obscure battle with Dr. Robson. "And the attitude of the narrator I found profoundly offensive." For emphasis, she tugs down her shirt, outlining the inspiration for her nickname in a startling display.
"I wouldn't mind the flowery passages," the Aesthete says, "if they - " he fights off the distraction of Josie's chest - "if they succeeded as poetry,"
"Nothing, I think, is worse than prose that tries to be poetry," Sam says, his voice picking up animosity from the Aesthete.
"It would be interesting to discuss why you believe that," Dr. Robson says. "But let's continue, shall we?"
"Yeah," the Aesthete says, taking Dr. Robson's comment as a cue to continue, though Stephen is certain it had been intended to change the subject. "Like, who cares what the names of these streets are?"
He and Sam giggle like children. Stephen counts the Tie, the Philistine, Braless Josie, and even expected ally Lloyd joining in. Lynn is silent. Dr. Robson smiles, but it is impossible to guess why.
"I sort of liked it," the Toad says. "I saw the protagonist as a Christ figure, a martyr crucified by his wanting this beautiful woman so much."
"So our protagonist is a Christ figure," Dr. Robson says without expression, storing the idea away among the Christ comparisons she has collected in the crusty years of her academic life.
"But none of this comes across," the Aesthete says, to ensure the comments stay negative, supported by the hasty nods of his cohort, Sam. "None of that is here." He slaps the mimeograph as if it personally offends him.
Stephen sneaks a look at Lynn. Has she read it? The comments do not bother him as much as the terrifying conclusion to which they build: are all my perceptions about writing wrong?