Rachel Smalter Hall's Reviews > Ulysses

Ulysses by James Joyce
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Jul 27, 07

bookshelves: irish, shivers, fiction
Read in June, 2004, read count: 2

I once submitted myself to the queer torture of reading Ulysses twice in one year.

I don't know what to say about Joyce that hasn't already been said before. I love Ulysses for being Ulysses -- filthy, ribald, beautiful, hilarious, all the things people have pointed out before. I love the mysterious man in the Macintosh, and Plumtree's Potted Meat, and Venus' mesial groove.

The activist in me gets really excited about the feisty Sylvia Beach who published Ulysses all on her own from a little unknown bookshop in Paris, and the ensuing obscenity trials that were fought and eventually won, permitting Ulysses to be printed and distributed in the Puritanical US of A. Intellectual freedom -- hip hip hooray!

Most of all I love that this book makes me think of Stuart McDougal, teaching our seminar on (not-really) British authors in his tweed suit in the Minnesota mornings. It makes me think about how Ezra Pound was really cantankerous and crazy, and about Pound's dictatorial relationship with T.S. Eliot, and about Tiresias drinking blood in the Underworld. It makes me think about the River-Merchant's wife's heart breaking when she sees pairs of butterflies, and about H.D.'s Helen being trapped in her body. And it makes me think about taking study breaks to watch 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 5 months while eating York Peppermint Patties and drinking Chai.

I suppose it makes me think about all of these things, not because it was about any of them, but because reading Ulysses is a little like being in a long-term committed relationship, and it makes you think, by association, of all the things you experienced while you were in that relationship. And how hard it is to disentangle oneself once it's all done -- but why would you want to, really?
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