Well, at long last, i'm done with this classic. I didn't like it as much as i thought i would at first nor did i dislike it as much as i feared i woul...moreWell, at long last, i'm done with this classic. I didn't like it as much as i thought i would at first nor did i dislike it as much as i feared i would midway through.
I love Melville's sentences and many of the speeches. There are probably 20 quotes that i wish i'd underlined when i first read them, but i'll never find them again without rereading.
I couldn't bear the endless non-fiction sections about whaling. There's very little story here and not a lot of character because the two feed off each other in my opinion.
I recommend this only to people who are intrigued by 19th-century whaling or who want to count themselves among those who made it from cover to cover. I'm not all that proud of the latter and don't consider myself among the former.(less)
(for starters, a shoutout: hey, riverside guys, remember quim? it's in this book)
Unsolicited Advice (esp. if yer a lit snob like me) Overall: read Ulys...more(for starters, a shoutout: hey, riverside guys, remember quim? it's in this book)
Unsolicited Advice (esp. if yer a lit snob like me) Overall: read Ulysses. If you were ever tempted to read it but decided not to: maybe my reasons to read it will help change/justify your decision. If you're gonna read it: don't be ashamed to look things up but it's also a good experience to read it unaided and then re-read it with assistance (mostly, i read it with assistance along the way, but i foolishly went solo through what ended up being some of the hardest episodes). If you wanna attempt a College Experience: first read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man & The Odyssey; then with slow, careful, deep attention take it in (letter-by-letter, if you have the time) with at least Ulysses Annotated and a good dictionary at-hand. I recommend listening to the recorded book also. And it wouldn't hurt to read crit-lite glosses such as How to Read Ulysses and Why, James Joyce's Ulysses, or CliffsNotes.
WHY DO I THINK ANYONE SHOULD BOTHER READING THE MOST DIFFICULT NOVEL EVER WRITTEN? Short Answers The writing, the style, the variety, the range, the depth, the prose, the poetry, the drama, and the words the words the wonderful Noahwebster's ark of words! Such a brilliantly thorough examination of everneverirrelevant concepts such as The Soul, The Self, and Love deserves at least 3 weeks of your attention.
For Long Answers (i.e., me tryin ta sound all smart & shit), go past "Randumb Stuff" and my list of favorite quotes.
Randumb Stuff 1) a cynic's potential minireview = an elaborate way of teaching us what metempsychosis means or a wordmachine to infect people with the viral phrases "agenbite of inwit" and "Agendath Netaim"
2) Lines 1914-1917 of episode 15 (Circe) appear to have been left out. Up to that point, only multiples of 10 appear in the margin as line numbers. 5 lines from the top of p.406, 1910 is in the margin, but 3 lines later there's 1913 and the very next line is 1918. The Gutenberg Project's online version, based on the pre-1923 print editions, doesn't have any text other than what's in my "corrected text" (aka, Gabler edition). Can you tell me what happened? Is this a question for the publisher?
THIS kind of presumably pyrrhic quest is the downside of reading such a difficult book with so many intentional strangeangenesses. The answer's probably as uninteresting as the following ohsohelpful note from Dandy Don Gifford about names for which he found no real OR fictional equivalent: "2.18 (24:21). Armstrong-- Apart from the context, the significance of this name is not known. (There was no Armstrong family resident in Vico Road, Dalkey, in 1904.)" (Twinsisternotes = the only downside of Ulysses Annotated, which i strongly recommend.)
3) A sci-fi aside spawned from Marcel Proust's concept of artistic creation: What if all the greatest artists are evil geniuses who not only realized but perfected this method of getting their Selfs inside our Selfs? Are they spreading some kind of soul virus that benefits them? to our detriment? Or, less paranoiacally, what if great art is a way for Them to live again or to live a little longer or to experience multiple simultaneous Selfs?!
4) I really wanted to be able to finish my "essay" (The Long Answers) with the following sentence, but it don't quite follow all what preceded it: Greatness, like pornography, is hard to define, but i like to think that i, too, know it when i see it ... and my testimony is that the book involved in this case is truly Great.
5) about the style — with such strong parallels to other giants of Western Literature—Homer's Odyssey being the strongest & most obvious followed by Hamlet and then JudeoChristian Moses (also Elijah)—it should be unsurprising that the form in which words appear on the page is not limited to the orderly paragraphs of a traditional novel, that it frequently morphs into poetry, stage drama, and just about every kind of writing conceivable
6) Who am i, Odysseus? — I worked seasonally at a B Dalton c.1988-90—where, incidentally, thanks to my pre-Harry Potter Harry Potterglasses (i was going for a Werner Heisenberg&endash;James Joyce look) i earned the nickname "Books"—while attending Wayne St. for a B.A. in English lit. Though i lusted for this Gabler edition of Ulysses (frequently moving on/off our shelves), i couldn't muster the courage to read it. In 1992 i dropped out of the grad program at Binghamton after barely getting by for 1 semester. I guess you could say that i left literature & its study & this book for about 20 years of roaming the wine-dark sea of adulthood responsibility meek practicality. I finally washed ashore and found Penelope (aka Ulysses) waiting for me, faithful, unchanged. I can't believe i wasted all those years not getting to know her sooner.
7) learning how to read again — i felt like i was learning how to read all over again and i know i didn't read it as carefully as i should've; for instance, while listening to the recorded versionand reading the glosses by Stuart and Hunter, i'm noticing lots of my oversights and misunderstandings. I try not to feel too bad, though, because no reader ever spends as much time reading as the author spent writing. Joyce spent years and years writing this masterpiece of difficulty. Why should i expect to get it in its entirety in 3 weeks? I might have more resources available to me than Joyce, but i doubt i'm even half as smart or knowledgeable.
8) Women, wadayathink of Molly's episode? Does it sound like a woman's thoughts?
Quotes (Gabler edition episode#.firstline#) a) What has she in the bag? A misbirth with a trailing navelcord, hushed in ruddy wool. The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. (3.36) b) Under the upswelling tide he saw the writhing weeds lift languidly and sway reluctant arms, hising up their petticoats, in whispering water swaying and upturning coy silver fronds. Day by day: night by night: lifted, flooded and let fall. Lord, they are weary; and, whispered to, they sigh. Saint Ambrose heard it, sigh of leaves and waves, waiting, awaiting the fullness of their times, diebus ac noctibus iniurias patiens ingemiscit. To no end gathered; vainly then released, forthflowing, wending back: loom of the moon. Weary too in sight of lovers, lascivious men, a naked woman shining in her courts, she draws a toil of waters. (3.461) c) —It must have fell down, she said. (4.326; the simple past tense has been cuckolding the past participle for at least 100 years!) d) If we were all suddenly somebody else. (6.836; not the most original thought ever? i still dig the thoughts it conjures up) e) Whether these be sins or virtues old Nobodaddy will tell us at doomsday leet. (9.787) f) Intellectual stimulation, as such, was, he felt, from time to time a firstrate tonic for the mind. (16.1221; chuckle) g) (my favorite) What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden? The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit. (17.1036) (he dared to rewrite Dante and still so fucking sickeningly perfect) h) What special affinities appeared to him to exist between the moon and woman? Her antiquity in preceding and surviving successive tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her ptency over effluent and refluent waters: her power to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency: the tranquil inscrutability of her visage: the terribility of her isolated dominant implacable resplendent propinquity: her omens of tempest and of calm: the stimulation of her light, her motion and her presence: the admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence: her splendour, when visible: her attraction, when invisible. (17.1157) j) episode 18 taken whole exemplifies literary virtuosity
Long(winding) Answers (i.e., me tryin ta sound all smart & shit)
I think Ulysses is primarily about Love and Souls Selfs. What does the Profane Trinity Stephen-Bloom-Molly feel about their own Souls & the souls of others? What does it mean to them to be who they are right now? Who is Bloom as a father? husband? Jew? citizen? What about Stephen's son-ness? writerliness? lovelessness? friendlessness? lessfamilyness? How and why does Molly love herself? her husband? her daughter? her son? her lovers?
When you are IN LOVE it seems as if something is acting on you, but when you become the actor and do the loving it's because you've moved your Self outside of yourself. Stephen hasn't grown up enough for this yet, but Molly & Bloom both show the capacity for the other and hint strongly that they could love Stephen as a son.
As if the preceding blather doesn't indict me as being more annoyingsnootyaloof Stephen than loving lovable beleaguered Bloom, the following creamy dreaminess directly connects me to Stephen by similarity of thought. Stephen frequently thinks of himself (a la Proust's Marcel) as a "now me" or a "then me." (I wish i could remember the exact word in the exact sentence that prompted the following thoughts while listening to the recorded book!) Even though every atom of every molecule of every cell in my body is different than the ones i was born with, i don't feel like a different Me in the physical sense at all. And i feel just as much unity of Self with the child who threw a fit about not being dextrous enough to unfasten the safety pin on hismy unwanted but necessary diaper as i do with the guy who wasn't mentally dextrous enough to unlock the secrets to myhis graduate school success and, therefore, ihe havehas served 20 years in corporate mental servitude. So if the soul really is the form of forms, as reiterated throughout Ulysses, then maybe DNA is the body's soul. Still, what is the form of the form of forms? i.e., what allows the Selfsoul to retain Selfhood while also allowing change (just as DNA allows your body to remain mostly the same—hairskineye color, location of moles, etc.)?
And what allows causes changes in the Selfsoul? I think Marcel Proust would say it's Time, and that might be right but i have a theory about Joyce that he big-doubleyoo Was a roman catholic even though he didn't want to big-bee Be. This is relevant in that it implies others help make modify our Soulselfs. So we might be indivisible but we're not just a bunch of unconnected individuals despite usually being unable to connect at the fundamentalist level.
Switching gears, i think that anyone who can appreciate great writing can appreciate this book. The structure of each episode and of all episodes relative to each other (and to The Odyssey) is worth your while. The myriad prose styles show Joyce's genius. I was awestruck; i hope you will be, too.
There's so much style on the surface that you can almost ignore the substance. Choosing the perfect word; playing with sounds, words, sentences, paragraphing, typography, spelling; the way one style melds into another, the formal arrangement of all the themes ... i'm not qualified to explain the really deep stuff, but i have no doubt that Joyce put so much effort into perfecting the words on the page that you could easily enjoy the surfaces.
In that way it reminds me of Toad the Wet Sprocket's acoustically beautiful but thematically ugly song, "Hold Her Down." The first-layer of subject beneath the style is pedestrian: Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom unintentionally avoid each other (while joycekismet insists on bringing them together) while wandering around Dublin pretty aimlessly for the long waking hours of 16 June 1904.
Stephen is a mopey intellectual ("moody brooder") officiously and literally mourning his mother's death. He's also the sensitive artistic type and he often expresses his gloom as ironic self-conscious distance. He's emotionally estranged from his father and physically distanced from his sisters. He has no true friends: they're pests, leeches. And he's an outcast in his own country though clings to being Irish as a crucial identity because now Ireland is his only motherland. He bemoans his poorness and his job as boys' history instructor. Worst of all(?) he hasn't realized his dream of celebrated writerdom & has failed himself by doing nothing to make that dream remotely possible. The dude's head is stuck up inside his head; while he's in there ruminating, cogitating, philosophizing, composing, and riffing, he sees he's at home, sadly. CONCLUSION: you don't wanna party wit Steve-o unless he's payin fer drinks!
I identified with Stephen when i read Portrait in college, so i approach him with compassion & sympathy. Plus, keep in mind that even though you'll require many days to read the book, it's only one day in his life, so realistically you can't expect a sea change in his character (not least of which cuz he's so hydrophobic that he doesn't bathe but once a month). I'd have a hard time getting up the energy to try talking anyone out of disliking Stephen but it's hard not to love Leopold Bloom.
Bloom's personality contrasts with Stephen's in lots of surface ways but they share unwarranted outcast status (many similarities & dissimilarities are delineated in episode 17). Bloom loves to eat (organs), loves smells, sights, sounds; he's a man of the senses. Except for that little used sense, touch, which naturally has zero impact on his marriage. Sarcasm aside and switching gears, Bloom has cast himself out of his own home because he knows his inconstant wife is hookin up wit HughBlazes Boylan at 4. The job and Paddy Dignam's funeral excuse his perambulations but don't account for the whole day's wanderings. He's a non-practising Jew, another outsider identity since Dublin don't take kindly to "his kind." Nevertheless Bloom likes people and wants to fit in—except he doesn't like drinking to excess or gambling or frequenting the red light district or speaking plainly. He's cautious, thoughtful. He likes to think he thinks scientifically. He thinks about money. And he likes to think about women: the nextdoor maid whacking the laundry; his wife's sexual history; his teenage daughter's pubescence; even female statue's backsides (holes? no holes?. He also has a strong paternal instinct toward his daughter, his son who died after only 11 days, and Stephen (Bloom WANTS to be a father to a son).
And then there's Molly Bloom, Poldy's wife, whom we meet for a little while in episode 3, but it's not until episode 18 (best of all, to me) that she becomes a star. Told entirely in internal monologue (i.e., stream of consciousness), it brings everything together again from within the mind of a female character. The one "little" thing finally divulged about her marriage will change your perception of the relationship & characters. Still it's just a single day in the life of a bunch of ordinary people.
Joyce takes "the ordinary" and creates Myth and Wonder and Delight and Fantasticality. Joyce's writing, simply put ... turns me on (in the Bernard Pivot Inside the Actor's Studio sense) turns Me on (i.e., the big-em Me, usually dormant, is reanimated activated, i feel my Self again) turns me in (makes me think) ... This sort of recursiveness is the kind of intellectual pleasure i derived from the necessity of diving into sounds words meanings etymologies. The unknowns' archaisms' neverseenbefores' roots echo reVerberate enhance the usage purpose sentence. (senseless?)
You might not be able to like Ulysses if you don't like Style. Some will claim Joyce abandoned substance for style allmost of the time, but my personally unprecedented connection with Bloom and Molly tells me that Joyce at least provides the substance of character. Joyce makes a real man (Bloom) AND a real young man (Stephen) AND a real woman (Molly) as well as making a World ... with words, which just might summarize every novelist's goals.
The minor character Gerty Macdowell thinks that painting a landscape would be "easier than to make a man" (13.627). Marcel Proust's alterego, Marcel, paints it another way: artistic creation is an act of translation, of converting the Self, presumably into something understandable to others. If so, then the greatest works of literary art are those that Vulcanmindmeld the writer's consciousness with the reader's. I think this is what i've always meant when i've said i fell in love with the author while reading. When in love you feel one with the beloved & vice versa is assumed. Your body is not literally consumed by love but your Self IS—i.e., your Self is litera(ri)lly consumed AND your Self continues to big-ee Exist (i.e., It big-eye Is). This same union, with the author ideas mind Self, occurs when i read a Great book: it feels like love, like a con(sumptio)nection of souls.
Probably the most frequent and most defensible criticism of Ulysses is that it resists comprehension. Readers don't connect with it, feel repulsion, or effect the repulsion personally, e.g., by dropping it in the toilet accidentally on purpose. (I'd be unsurprised if most readers either abandon reading it completely forever OR read to the end tacitly promising themselves "i'll read it more than once.") The strongest critics say that it advocates nihilism or that it epitomizes nihilistic literature.
I contend that there's sufficient meaning for simple enjoyment simply in the lives of the characters and the love i feel for them because of their love for each other and for life itself. They steadfastly affirm life despite having nothing to which they can point and say, "THAT is what makes it all meaningful." I don't claim to understand Ulysses or life, but i completely understand this firmly unfounded affirmation. Thus i join many admirers who enjoy the search for its Joyce's our my meaning.(less)
Feb 6, 2010 I will give this book a real review, but just know for now that it's easily a Top Shelfer. The Don and Sancho endure so many humiliations...moreFeb 6, 2010 I will give this book a real review, but just know for now that it's easily a Top Shelfer. The Don and Sancho endure so many humiliations and abuses that it was difficult to stomach (bilingual pun intended) the second book and even more difficult not to mutter, "Jesus, Cervantes! give these guys a friggin break!" They are easily 2 of the greatest literary characters i've ever had the privilege to care about.
May 26, 2010 I'm ~25% done reading In Search of Lost Time. Plus i've already listened to the entirety of Swann's Way. So—clever monkey that i am—what do i do? I begin listening to an unabridged version of Don Quixote also.
It seems crazy to try to listen to one gigantic book while reading another, but after not even one disc i'm once again excited to have The Don back in my life.
Still, as much as i love him and this book, i briefly stepped outside my own head and saw DQ in a different light. I could imagine a reader hating him, or at least disliking him, and not being willing to read a novel that features him because he is ostensibly a lunatic. After all, Cervantes's persona (i hesitate to say it IS Cervantes himself) in the Introduction calls him a madman. The narrator of the novel also calls him a madman, and pokes fun at him for his mania, and expects us to laugh at him. After stating it plainly, the narrator proceeds to show us that DQ is out of his mind.
So why should we—presumably sane people—read a book about a guy who is off his rocker from reading too many books about knights errant? Did 17th century Spaniards really need 500pp of examples (the first installment) to convince them that such books are bad for the mind? Were they so addlepated that they needed a second 500pp compendium of examples? No, of course they didn't. And neither do we. Besides, that's not what the book's about.
Nevertheless, i fear for some folks that they might give up quickly. If you're at all prone to value Results more highly than Intentions when determining the morality of a person's actions, then i think you're likely to be disappointed with The Don. This is your opportunity for a mindblowing paradigm shift, though, and i highly recommend attempting to make the leap.
*I* think DQ's one of the greatest characters of all time because he pursues his dreams 100%. He doesn't sell-out, compromise, procrastinate, minimize, or rationalize his dreams. Nor does he acquiesce to the dulling effect of boring old Reality. As such, his intentions are pure and his life is noble, praiseworthy, and an example to follow.
(Plus, DQ's purity so flagrantly flaunts everything that i think i know about and have experienced in Life, that i cannot help but laugh...cuz it beats the hell outa cryin.)(less)