chapbook: on women & sex

The Charming Soubrette

the charming soubrette

Marie Kendall, charming soubrette, is the ideal woman. She is perky, silent and ready to serve.

The female body during copulation should be passive, but not obtuse. Ulysses

The runner-up is Gertie McDowell – vain, provocative, foolish, scheming and a complete figment of Bloom’s imagination.

The women in Ulysses are, at first, one-dimensional objects/projections of men’s desires. But, of course, there’s more to it. Joyce seems acutely aware of the complex nature of our real or imagined cohabitation.


Bella/o, the mistress, can conjure Bloom into a pig since, “Brothels aren’t just sailor’s dreams but all men’s.” Circe

At the back of all men’s mind is a rented room. Walcott’s Odyssey

The face of everywoman is strangely projected unto the whores of Nighttown.

Fear not them that sell the body but have not power to buy the soul. She buys dear and sells cheap. Ulysses

So women are whores and men are pigs, but women live in Nighttown and men pay to visit.

Presenting… The Magnificent… Molleeeee Blooooom!

jennifer steyn as molly bloom

In the most brilliant piece of stream of consciousness ever, we meet the compelling Molly Bloom. She is primal, petty, cunning, weak, vain, ignorant, foul-mouthed and Bloom’s perfect counterpart.

She is Cleopatra-esque on her barge of a bed, but flesh-and-blood tits-and-tongue real. She has orgasms and farts, menstruates¬† and likes big cocks, she katyperried Hester and likes giving head to a clean dick. She wants to be fucked up against a wall by a¬† ‘wild stranger,’ or better yet to be a man so she can devour women. She is jealous of her daughter’s affection for Leopold. She grieves her dead son. She rules her man.

Ever the, and I say it in the most loving way possible, twisted character, Bloom is happy under his “petticoat government,” being dominated by his less intelligent and less morally intact wife, even literally kissing her ass. He wishes himself the charming soubrette.

Molly and Leopold aid and abet each others idiosyncrasies and cohabit inexplicably well. They are aware of each others infidelity, yet in a mutually tender and gratifying moment she suckles him and allows him to use her ‘thick and sweet’ breast milk in his tea. In both mock and sincere adoration, she wishes to write her own chapbook on “The Works of Master Poldy,”and has nothing but fond memories of when she said ‘yes’ to him.

Though she is flawed, there is no self-loathing, of her or her kind. She thinks women would do a better job ruling the world because “they know when to stop,” unlike men who drink/talk/bet/fuck to oblivion.

theyre all mad to get in there where they came out of

I begin to suspect that Joyce loves women, or at least Molly, in the best way possible – warts and all. Molly is the antithesis of the charming soubrette and she is uncompromisingly and unpatronizingly presented to us as screwed-up as she is, just like the male characters in Ulysses.