Ulysses by James Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What I've discovered about myself from reading Ulysses:
1. I am good for only one "major" read in a year. I had set out wanting to read this and Proust this year. Alas, I was only able to make it through Ulysses.
2. It's okay to have another along to help you out the first time through. In this case, it was Blamire's The New Bloomsday Book.
3. I realize that Joyce was, indeed, a literary genius. I can see why some writers would quit writing after reading Ulysses, as he is a master of the written word. His flitting from voice to voice and style to style without losing the narrative is proof enough. That said, there are moments of tedium, some of them many pages long, that rival and exceed even the great Moby Dick for sheer boredom. When he's on, he's on, when he's off, he's drop-dead boring . . . and no academic pretense that you want to learn something about whaling (which you really don't, let's face it) will save you this time.
4. I realize that Joyce plays domestic angst in an excruciatingly understated way. He creates excellent tension by what he does not say, as much as by what he does say.
5. The funeral/underworld scene is an astounding piece of work. I felt sadness, pity, annoyance, and laughed aloud, all at once. Such a mixing bowl of emotions in that section. My innards are all tumbled around after that, like I don't know which way is, emotionally speaking, up.
6. Anyone who coins the acronym "K.M.R.I.A" deserves a statue. Or did he coin the term? Either way, he inspired The Pogues to use it in a song, which deserves a statue in its own way.
7. Jest on. Know thyself. may be all you need to know about Joyce and the notion of fiction as autobiography.
8. I love the "sirens" section, with its sing-song rich voice, which feels like it was written in the shadow of Finnegan's Wake. It's one of my favorite places to be a brain.
9. I need to read all of Finnegan's Wake.
10. "-Tis a custom more honored in the breach than in the observance." may be the most clever pun I've ever heard. Ever.
11. I love the sections where Joyce is seemingly channeling Lovecraft, then Dunsany, then Wavy Gravy.
12. The sentence: "The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit." may be one of my favorite sentences of all time.
13. Good golly, Miss Molly!
14. I am lost and found somewhere betwixt Dedalus and Bloom, yet unbounded by one, the other, or both, inside their circle, outside their confines, them, yet me. Joyce's words, Dedalus' and Bloom's actions, my brain, my past, my hopes, my frustrations, my feelings.
15. Yes. Yes.
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