Ulysses: Final Post

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Finally finished! It was a tough ride. There were sections I loved and others I really struggled with. Joyce is undeniably talented, the chapter where he walks the reader through the entire history of the English language proves that. But his style isn’t my favorite and I frequently felt lost in his ramblings. I’m glad I read it and I’m also glad it’s done! Once again, please check out Adam's awesome episode break down here. 

The supplemental material in my book explains some of the background on the censorship of the book and includes a letter from Joyce to his Random House publisher. It also includes the monumental 1933 decision to stop people from banning the book in America. The ruling changed the way censorship was approached in our country.

I absolutely loved some of the comments from Judge M. Woolsey, the man who made the decision. To me, his summary of the book captures so many of my feelings perfectly.
“Ulysses is not an easy book to read or to understand. But there has been much written about it, and in order properly to approach the consideration of it it is advisable to read a number of other books which have now become it’s satellites. The study of Ulysses is, therefore, a heavy task. The reputation of Ulysses in the literary world, however, warranted my taking such time as was necessary to enable me to satisfy myself as to the intent with which the book was written.

It is brilliant and dull, intelligible and obscure by turns. In many places it seems to me to be disgusting, but although it contains, as I have mentioned above, many words usually considered dirty, I have not found anything that I consider to be dirt for dirt’s sake.

Joyce has attempted — it seems to me, with astonishing success — to show how the screen of consciousness with its ever-shifting kaleidoscopic impressions carries, as it were on a plastic palimpsest, not only what is in the focus of each man’s observation of the actual things about him, but also in a penumbral zone residua of past impressions, some recent and some drawn up by association from the domain of the subconscious. He shows how each of these impressions affects the life and behavior of the character which he is describing.”

The very final episode of the book is a crazy onslaught of thoughts from Bloom’s wife Molly’s point of view. She flits from thing to the next with no real pattern. She is just thinking, so her thoughts are unfiltered. It’s oddly refreshing even if it’s hard to follow. How many of us have had the same thing happen as we randomly think about our day? I could immediately relate.

Joyce’s honesty his characters really struck me in the final few chapters. He writes about Bloom’s flaws and fetishes in detail, something that just wasn’t done before. Yet by the close of the book you feel a bit hopeful about his marriage. There was something powerful about that. No matter how gross or strange Bloom was, he might have found his equal in his wife Molly.

BOTTOM LINE: Reading Ulysses was an experience. I struggled with it. I was blown away by the lovely language at times and at others I was completely weirded out. I can’t really compare it to anything else and that alone makes it a unique book. I am so glad I read it and I also don’t think I will ever read it again!

“Still you learn something. See ourselves as others see us.”

“Life, love, voyage round your own little world.”

Ulysses Readlong: Part 2

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

So I've officially made it halfway through the book and it hasn't killed me yet! I won't pretend that I've understood everything that has happened in Joyce's epic novel, but I will say Adam aka Roof Beam Reader, has provided notes and thoughts on each section and they are invaluable! Here are the notes on episodes #7-12.

This section of the book has quite a bit more in the way of crass humor and I'm not shocked that it was so frequently banned in the past. It also gives us a deeper view into our characters, both how they see themselves and how others see them. I'm also both impressed and often overwhelmed by how many different styles Joyce uses in his writing. Sometimes his parodying something, sometimes it fits a new narrator's point of view, etc. But it always keeps the reader on their toes. 

For me, I like to read an entire episode, then go back and read a summary and some notes. I like to let the language flow over me first before I bring someone else's opinions into the mix. I'm looking forward to the second half, but I'm also already a bit exhausted by Joyce!
Once again, I am positive that if I wasn't combining the audio version (seen above) and print, than I would be losing this fight. Being able to hear the story and following the random bits of French, Latin, and songs has helped so much. If you're thinking of reading it, I would highly recommend trying this! 

"Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves". 

Ulysses Readlong: Part 1

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I went into this readalong thinking it was going to be a complete slog and I would hate it. But honestly, I wanted to know why was considered a classic. I love Ireland and this is one of the most famous pieces of literature from the country. I think I built it up as being so difficult and horrible in my mind that the reality isn’t that scary. So far (don’t hit me) I’m actually liking most of it.

I can’t say enough about the importance of pairing the audio version with the print. I love doing it that way. Instead of fighting through every single line, I hear a lyrical Irish voice reading the conversations to me. It brings them alive. When one person rambles on about some idea, it feels like I’m listening to a long-winded friend. Then I go back to the print version and find passages that I loved. I look at the layout of each chapter because the styles are unique. 

After I finish a chapter, I’ve been reading this guide which provides very short little summaries of what happened. Also, the incredible Adam at Roof Beam Reader is posting his in-depth thoughts about each chapter on his blog. Here’s the link. They are wonderfully detailed and make connections I never would have caught. I love that he highlights the parallels with Greek mythology as well.

Combination of all these elements is really working for me. I’m not a huge fan of every single chapter and of course it is a strange book with a lot of meandering and stream of consciousness thought, but I was expecting that. I wasn’t expecting the beautiful language or profound reflections of life and death. I particularly love the references and discussions of Shakespeare’s work in chapter 9.

I think approaching the book with an open mind and an understanding that it was not going to be an easy read has really helped me enjoy it. I am NOT a Joyce scholar and I’m not reading it with the goal of understanding every single reference made. Instead, I relaxing into the novel and hoping to not become completely overwhelmed by it.
“I hear the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and one livid final flame. What’s left of us then?”

“Here also over these craven hearts his shadow lies and on the scoffer’s heart and lips and on mine. It lies upon their eager faces who offered him a coin of the tribute.”