Ok, I did it. I braved Joyce. I came, I saw and heard and was amused and confused and refused to rate Ulysses yet. I’ll be back later after I do the course I just bought on it. I’ll save the quoting for when I can intelligently review it, assuming that is ever possible. I might have to make one year a year of reading Ulysses to really do it justice.
Here is how Goodreads summarizes the book in its synopsis:
“In the past, Ulysses has been labeled dirty, blasphemous, and even unreadable. None of these adjectives, however, do the slightest justice to the novel. To this day it remains the modernist masterpiece, in which the author takes both Celtic lyricism and vulgarity to splendid extremes. It is funny, sorrowful, and even (in a close-focus sort of way) suspenseful. And despite the exegetical industry that has sprung up in the last 75 years, Ulysses is also a compulsively readable book.
William Blake saw the universe in a grain of sand. Joyce saw it in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904, a day distinguished by its utter normality. Two characters, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, go about their separate business, crossing paths with a gallery of indelible Dubliners. We watch them teach, eat, stroll the streets, argue, and (in Bloom’s case) masturbate. And thanks to the book’s stream-of-consciousness technique–which suggests no mere stream but an impossibly deep, swift-running river–we’re privy to their thoughts, emotions, and memories. The result? Almost every variety of human experience is crammed into the accordian folds of a single day, which makes Ulysses not just an experimental work but the very last word in realism.”
Here is what I said on Goodreads from just reading it like it was a normal book:
I’m holding off rating this one for now. I am proud to have finished it (combination of Kindle and Audio, sometimes at the same time), but I really feel like I only got about 20 percent of what was going on (and that actually might be optimistic). Based on quotes I’ve seen from Joyce himself, I don’t think I’m meant to understand half of what he was doing with a simple read and without multiple degrees in literature and history, but I also felt like at some level, it would be good to approach it on a level playing field with every other novel I’ve ever read. What I can say is that there were times I was confused or bored or annoyed, but there were other times I was giggling and enjoying the ride. I have also invested in a Great Courses lecture series on the book by a Dartmouth professor and have committed to giving this another go with guidance from an expert, since I think I will enjoy it a lot that way. This one could end up with anything from 3 to 5 stars, but I’m betting on the high end.
Updating the scorecard:
Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 14
Asia/Mideast: 4 (Israel, China, Afghanistan, Japan)
Africa: 1 (Madagascar)
Europe: 4 (England/UK, Ireland, Monaco, Poland)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 3 (US, Cuba, Haiti)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
Extra: 1 (Scotland)
Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 4 (CA, MS, NY, RI)
1001 Books (goal 52): 10
A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 10
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini, Ishiguro, Joyce