There are reasons I’m forcing myself to read this, just as I had with Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Admittedly, I go a few pages at a time with days in between pages. It’s tough reading and not particularly engrossing as far as character or story, but there are some wondrous passages hidden within the lazy ease of a young writer with too much free time and not enough ambition who seeks out the inner forces beneath the grimy crust of his friends.
Still in the concert scene, the narrator is moved by the experience–both the music and the intermission–to closely observe the audience with a heightened awareness that appears to draw forth his creative nature making things not as they may be:
My thoughts are spreading. The music is slipping away from me, now that the drums have ceased. People everywhere are composed to order. Under the exit light is a Werther sunk in despair; he is leaning on his two elbows,his eyes are glazed. Near the door, huddled in a big cape, stands a Spaniard with a sombrero in his hand. He looks as if he were posing for the "Balzac" of Rodin. From the neck up he suggests Buffalo Bill. In the gallery opposite me, in the front row, sits a woman with her legs spread wide apart; she looks as though she had lockjaw, with her neck thrown back and dislocated. The woman with the red hat who is dozing over the rail–marvelous if she were to have a hemorrhage! If suddenly she spilled a bucketful on those stiff shirts below. Imagine these bloody no-accounts going home from the concert with blood on their dickies! (p. 77)
Fired up by the Spanish number, does he truly see a man with a cape and sombrero? We get this image, but we are then told he reminds the narrator of Balzac and Buffalo Bill. What we’re getting here is the excitement of spirit riled up by live perfomance. I get that way at a Willie concert. The narrator’s imagination carries the present into possible scenarios (I go there too, watching Willie). They are extremes, so in this episode, he has been sufficiently excited to project his thoughts onto the real members of the audience (I tend to shut out the audience, the stage crew, the other band members…).
This isn’t just an invitation to trip along with the narrator. It tells us as much about him as about what he is thinking.