What impresses me most about this infamous novel is that it's actually quite obscene. Every student of literature knows that upon publication this boo...moreWhat impresses me most about this infamous novel is that it's actually quite obscene. Every student of literature knows that upon publication this book was derided as pornography. I suppose my view of society at that time is quite prejudiced, however, for I always assumed that the censorious critics of that time were just illiterate Puritans overreacting to the word "bloody" and a sentence-long description of a bare ankle. I was truly shocked to discover fisting, castration dreams, S&M fantasies, and frank descriptions of veiny stallion-like cocks squirting huge loads of come. This probably is one of the most obscene books I've ever read. Kudos, Mr. Joyce.
I once read an article saying something along the lines of, "If you get too bogged down in the Proteus chapter, just skip it. The Bloom stuff is much better." The Proteus chapter was actually my favorite part, but then I suppose I'm the kind of reader Joyce was writing for, one who digs the metaphysical stuff and gets all the Shakespeare and Biblical and Greek references. The Bloom stuff, which had a much more digestible vocabulary, was much less interesting to me. And throughout much of the book, I found myself wondering why it needed to be written in such ostentatious styles (emphasis on the plural). Do we really need a chapter that stylistically charts the progression of English literature from medieval times to the present day? Can't you just write the damned story? Ulysses is a bunch of experiments. You can imagine Joyce at the pub after five pints being dared, "I bet you can't write a story all in the style of a catechism!" and him slamming his glass on the table and demanding that the money be shown. I actually liked the catechism chapter, for the most part, and where he succeeds he does succeed most admirably. The problem is that he doesn't succeed a lot of the time, and so you're piecing together a literary puzzle full of historical and geographical minutiae and not really caring a bit about what's happening with the story or the characters. I'm honestly quite surprised that the Modern Library Association considers this the greatest novel of the twentieth century. It's clever and it's stimulating and it does have many scenes of great genius, but I've never been moved or inspired by the beauty of a crossword puzzle. (less)