Do I have things to say about this book? Indeed, I do. I think I could have raised it to four stars if I'd had a better translation. I'm not sure it cDo I have things to say about this book? Indeed, I do. I think I could have raised it to four stars if I'd had a better translation. I'm not sure it could ever be a 5 unless I read it in Spanish and caught all the intertextuality, but if that, however unlikely, were ever to happen I'm convinced this would be a brilliant, brilliant read.
I’m not gonna attempt to give you my intellectual response to this awe-inspiring work, but perhaps I could, tentatively, attempt to give voice to my eI’m not gonna attempt to give you my intellectual response to this awe-inspiring work, but perhaps I could, tentatively, attempt to give voice to my emotional response.
I expected to hate this book, I truly did. From what I’d heard of it, I thought it arrogant, foolish and a waste of everyone’s time. What’s the point of a work that’s so much about style? That steals and mimics? To the point where everything drowns in quantity and complexity, and all you can do is wave goodbye to the men, women and children and save yourself.
For the first 200-300 pages I didn’t find much to dispel me of my notion that this was not worth my time, but then, almost suddenly, I did. Although I’m not entirely sure what I found.
I’ll admit it right now: I’m not a good critical reader, I’m just not. I sit there, pencil poised over paper, I read and then I stare at the page and think “I should annotate something”, but I can never figure out what it is I’m supposed to be observing. So I had a summary and analysis of every chapter in front of me while I read it, because then I’d know what was remarkable, what to look out for, what to circle in neat pencil strokes.
I don’t remember a lot of that, to be honest. I can’t offer any views on form or style or anything interesting at all. Except maybe this: whenever I think of this book now, I’m filled with tenderness. I can’t think of any other explanation than that reading Ulysses is a complete submersion in a world so like our own and yet a world suspended in time, a day that runs endlessly parallel to ours, but always separate, other. I dived in and I lost myself, and when I emerged, victorious, at the other end, I had spent so long in the water, I could still recall the perfect stillness of the silence.
It might be more accurate to describe reading it as walking a long, long hallway, with hundreds and hundreds of doors. Some are wide open, some are closed, some are ajar. You can take the time and open and search every door and every room, or you can open only some, or, like me, you can walk the hallway and glance into those that are ajar, only trying a few others, curious to get to the end.
And then there it was, the end, with a mind blowing last chapter.
Closing the book I was relieved and satisfied. I knew I’d rushed it, but the understanding I’d created of the story left me fulfilled nonetheless. I was surprised, however, that I felt very little sympathy towards any of the characters, they were unique and bland in their own way, memorable, but in a detached way. James Joyce goes out of his way to make them human, to give voice to every little, dirty human behaviour we want to keep hidden. He puts fucking everything on display, and he does it in such a way it can’t be ignored, but has to be pondered. However much one might want to hate this book (and I really wanted to), one really can’t ignore that it’s a masterpiece.
In the end I instead felt sympathetic towards James Joyce and Ulysses as a whole. I still don’t care much for the characters on their own, but I care for them greatly as they relate to Ulysses, the whole, each other and the “master map” of interconnectivity. I care for them, not as wholesome individuals, but as tools, as means to a stylistic end. They enable the massive scope of this work, you can break and reshape them in words and fragments, in parodies and jokes, in language, and still they emerge recognisable through it all, Ariadne’s thread.
My emotional response to this book has been something utterly different than what I expected. Ulysses is so many things, and I have them in my mind, but I, feeble, human, real, am not Joyce and not made of language; and I just don’t have the words.
I spent a day in Dublin, where not only the people, but the places become things, symbols, onto themselves. Where everything, every word, opened a door to somewhere new or old, and I was changed. I swallowed language and went from scepticism, to begrudging respect, to admiration, to a tenderness you might mistake for love (and maybe it is). I wash ashore, I open the last door and walk away. Someday I’ll come back and I’ll bring my intellectual pen, but this time I only managed to drag my heart and half my brain through the hallway of Ulysses. It’ll have to do. ...more
As I sat reading them I was so excited to have kids of my own one day, so I could read these to them. But then I realizThese books are the best thing.
As I sat reading them I was so excited to have kids of my own one day, so I could read these to them. But then I realized they're pretty spoilery, and would I rather have my kids enjoy these when they're kids OR watch their faces as it is revealed that Darth Vader is Luke's father?
Thank god I have many years to figure out the answer. ...more