Matt's Reviews > Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce
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M 50x66
's review
Jan 14, 2008

it was ok

as a bloke with an english degree, i guess i'm supposed to extol all thing joycian and gladly turn myself self over to the church of joye. after all, that's what english grads do, right? we revel in our snobbery and gloat about having read 'gravity's rainbow' and 'ulysses' start to finish.

well, i may be in the minority when i say i didn't care for this book at all. i get that it's a complex book with innumerable references to greek mythology, heavy allegories, dense poetry wacky structures, and to some serves as a sort of mental masturbation. however, i think it's also pretty unreadable. maybe i'm old-fashioned, but i think books should be accessible and readable. it's something john steinbeck understood all too well. he most definitely wrote for the masses and the 'every man,' and it shows in his work. i prefer books that use simple language to expound on profound truths, not necessarily a book that requires me to constanty refer to other sources to help me understand what i've just read. this, of course, is just my opinion and should be taken as nothing more.

i'm hesitant to say that anyone who gives this book 'five stars' does so because 'ulysses' carries such a cachet amongt the academic elite and intelligentsia, but i think most of them probably do. sure, that's unfair, but i'm really kind of wondering how anyone ever finished it. it's a bit of bore, linguistical acrobatics or not.

if you do decide to read it, definitely get a copy with judge john m. woolsey's treatise on lifting the ban on 'ulysses.' it's a remarkable piece of writing and display's the judges thoughtfulness, eloquence, and fair-mindedness. it's the standard by which all judicial opinions should be judged [no pun intended!].

maybe you'll read 'ulysses,' maybe you won't. if you do and you don't care for it, that's ok. being a great reader doesn't mean you two the critical line.
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01/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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message 1: by Joe (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joe Mossa
man do i agree with you. i think i gave it 2 stars cause so many 'snobs' gave it 5 . is it worth the effort ? what is joyce saying ? it seemed to me as if he was simply making fun of everything and everybody. george carlin does that and we don t think he s a great thinker. the same people who give ULYSSES 5 stars give ATLAS SHRUGGED 1 or 2. i don t agree with all that ayn says by far and i know there s too much repetition there but it is clearly and beautifully written. joe

message 2: by Joe (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joe Mossa
well put..

Matt well put, indeed.

message 4: by julia (new)

julia I've tried to read this book ten times and I can't get past the fifth page.

I am a lover of complexity but Joyce's crap is just jerking-off with words. when I want beautifully written, complicated, interesting and mind-blowing, I read Nabokov.

Lostinanovel I love that you put out a contrary opinion, although I disagree. You are right that Steinbeck is much more accessible and his writing exquisite. I won't argue a comparison. However, I think Ulysses stands on its own as a great book.

I didn't read the book in a classroom and I didn't have any notes or guides or reference materials. I did get very lost at times and did have to have great patience. I am sure that I missed a lot of what JJ was saying but what I did get was the best character portrayal that I have ever read and perhaps the most realistic portrayel of loving relationship. JJ ripped open Bloom's mind for a day and we peered in. Sure, its confusing, we didn't know him yesterday and you know what, people are confusing. I love that Bloom is portrayed as perverted (not to be a prude, but if BDSM fantasies including hurled feces aren't perverted, what is? not that there's anything wrong with that...), overly senstive, he is feminized and cuckolded. But in the end, he is a hero. Despite infidelities and a huge range of emotions, his love for his wife makes me cry in part because I have never seen love so accurately portrayed.

My copy did have that judge's opinion and you are right on. He was such an obviosuly skilled writer himself that you know he must have enjoyed it. He was the perfect judge for that case. My favorite line: "In respect of the recurrent emergence of the theme of sex in the minds of his characters, it must always be remembered that his locale was Celtic and his season Spring."

Aaron Uh-oh. I've read Gravity's Rainbow and Ulysses and I tend to rave about them to my friends. Like, alot. Damn. If only there was a snobbery rehab...

However, you did a well-put review. Yes, I will admit that I think Ulysses is one of the greatest books ever written. However, it was audacious of you to say otherwise. I respect that.

Also, I have absolutely no trouble seeing why people don't like it. I admit there were parts that were near unreadable, and some that were...err, not exactly Janet and John (the ending soliloquy is so beautiful, yet so...confounding).

All in all, though I disagree, I like your review.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

If the entirety of your case against the book is that it's too hard, maybe you should keep your opinion to yourself and admit that your degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

There are worse things than being a snob. Anti-snobbery is a form of snobbery in itself. The first step in broadening your mind is admitting that you don't know everything. Perhaps the people who act like they know more than you aren't pretending. Maybe they actually know more than you. How will you ever know?

message 8: by Shakirah (new)

Shakirah Thanks for the review..I was just wondering whether it is well worth the read...
Now i better get back to my shopaholic series ;)

message 9: by Azimah (new)

Azimah  Othman Read this book a long while age. I suppose being familiar with some of the background of the story helped. So I found it certainly readable. However the ending is somewhat disappointing.

message 10: by Stuart (new) - added it

Stuart As someone with a degree in English, I would not expect you to like every book presented as a classic; every person's experience of a book is based upon their subjective experience, at least to some extent. What I would expect of you is at least some measure of grammatical sensibility; capitalising the letter I and the first letter of a sentence are among the simplest rules of grammar, and neglect of these principles detracts from your argument.

message 11: by Mary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mary I'm working on an English degree, and I agree. I find it pretentious and, although I wouldn't call it "unreadable," I will say that the plot is not worth the time and effort it takes to pick through the dense, overly complex language. While I appreciate what it did for the genre as well as the literary community as a whole, I did not enjoy it.

I found myself constantly referring to The Bloomsday Book by Harry Blamires. I agree with you, Matt, that having to break away from the story in order to look up various references does detract from the overall experience.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

you can't reach the grapes so you call them sour, you fox

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I think that it is fantastically good. IMHO if you are reading it for English lit cred and not for pure enjoyment of the genius of the language you are bound for a failure. It is difficult and challenging, of course, but so are most things valuable. Don't feel bad, but don't blame the work either. Its reputation stands unblemished and awaits your next attempt.

message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael Cress YES. I'm an ENGL major too, and mostly I hate everything that we're supposed to love...especially Joyce.

message 15: by Jonna (new) - rated it 1 star

Jonna As far as I'm concerned, Hell will be a library authored by James Joyce. (I was an English major, too, and my dislike of this dreck earned me the scorn of one particular professor.)

message 16: by Leah (new) - rated it 1 star

Leah I entirely agree. I appreciate that yes, it is a literary masterpiece from the modernism era, but it is not an enjoyable book. Reading to me is something to enjoy, lose yourself in and to also finish the book feeling inspired. The style of Ulysses, especially 'Penelope' rejects, in my opinion, any chance of fully immersing yourself in the book. It appears unnecessarily difficult, with nothing of interest. I find it the most dull book I have ever had the misfortune of attempting to read and study.

message 17: by Sosen (new)

Sosen Good review.

I just finished part one, which is only like 40 pages, and I don't see how I can continue. I feel like this book is to blame for so many things that are wrong with literature!

message 18: by Razmatus (new) - added it

Razmatus while I like being challenged, I already know I wont try THIS challenge... as I said in some comment around here, Tolkien, Martin and Erikson are quite challenging reads as much as it might not seem so to some scholars... e.g. Erikson is quite a challenge but doesnt require you to read tons of books just to understand at least a little bit of his stuff, it is damn challenging by itself, in its own... and still you can delve deeper into it if you want to

Andrew Swatley To the fella complaining about the capitalization...e.e.cummings sez, "hi there."

message 20: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Curcione I tried reading this book but couldn't. With three degrees, I don't think I'm thick or slow of thought, but maybe I am.

message 21: by Jo (new) - rated it 1 star

Jo I studied this piece of crap. Do not understand the appeal by academics.

message 22: by Jo (new) - rated it 1 star

Jo I studied this piece of crap. Do not understand the appeal by academics.

message 23: by Jo (new) - rated it 1 star

Jo I studied this piece of crap. Do not understand the appeal by academics.

Zippy I wonder if Stuart saw the irony in calling out your grammar mistakes in a review of Ulysses.

message 25: by Elvis (new)

Elvis Gregory-sayce Do I read it ?

Zippy Elvis wrote: "Do I read it ?"
Matt's review summed up my opinion pretty well, except that I don't "prefer books that use simple language." I agree with Matt's assessment that Ulysses is a 100-year-old literary joke. That being said, most of the other members of my group who finished did find value in it. If you find yourself needing to waste twenty hours of your life in a very unpleasant way, read on. If you do decide to read it, don't do it alone. Join a group. Also, there are recorded versions on the web, and I found it really helped to listen while reading during some of the more difficult passages.

One more thing: Ulysses was not banned because it's titillating. It's about as titillating as Beavis and Butthead.

Jason I think it would be more accessible if we were reading it in 1916 instead of 201_. The allusions are too dated for us.

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