I’d like to let Josh have the opening comment here: “This one’s a bit of an oddball. We’re going for a Rorschach test look.” This strikes me as particularly apt for a couple of reasons (click here if you need a quick refresher on the Rorschach). We haven’t really seen a mosaic of panels like this before, although a similar effect was used in Telemachus here. The purpose in both cases is to show the connections among objects and memory, and I think in Calypso especially it’s used to great effect to capture Bloom’s free association from memory to memory and object to object: his stream of consciousness. Memory is deeply connected to objects, and they are sensuous, haunted and haunting — mournful, a feeling emphasized I think by the use of the black silhouettes against the gray clouds. And, each memory sparks another memory, conjuring another object and recollected sense experience: all five senses are represented in this series of panels and Bloom’s thoughts. So the objects themselves are not necessarily the focus of Joyce’s text, but Rob’s drawing out of something solid from Bloom’s melting into air is a very evocative choice.
This is where we get some explicit evidence of Bloom’s Jewish background, too, which plays a significant role in his sense of exile and nostalgia here. The Hebrew letter, the last tile alluding to the holiday of Sukkoth: these are part of Bloom’s heritage and his deep memory even though he has left it behind.
The haunted and haunting quality of the page gets at Bloom’s nostalgia, a feeling that comes up again and again in his experience of his marriage and family life. Here he is nostalgic for the early days of his life with Molly, when he lived in the Jewish neighborhood of Dublin; he was part of a community that connected him to those origins that are now making him feel so bereft, so much like an exile. With blue as the dominant color scheme, we have moved out of the warm Dublin summer morning and into the chilled darkness of Bloom’s oncoming emotional desolation. Going back to Telemachus again, this is the moment where that solitary cloud floated across the sky, creating an instant of overcast. Same time of day, same cloud, same sky, seen from two different parts of the city and two different perspectives (check out Mike Barsanti on this idea, known as parallax, here).